Equality & Access
The new Disability Equality Duty (DED) is a big step forward for disabled people towards fairer treatment and eliminating discrimination. As noted in the section on Deafness, deafness is a registered disability and this new Disability Equality Duty (DED) became effective on December, 2006. The DED is a new duty which requires public sector bodies to actively promote disability equality in the way that those bodies are run and accessed. The Act imposes a general duty on all public authorities such as government departments, local authorities, healthcare, schools, police and fire authorities. This duty must be proactive and not one of retrospectively resolving problems after they have arisen.
The general duty requires these bodies to promote equality of opportunity between disabled people and other people, to eliminate discrimination, and all forms of harassments related to disability. Importantly it requires those bodies to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people, to encourage participation by disabled people in public life and, to take steps to meet disabled people’s needs even if this means treating them more favourably than non-disabled people. Public authorities to not have to treat everyone the same and may, if they wish to, treat disabled people more favourably if this is how they intend to give due regard to people’s disabilities.
There is also a specific duty on public authorities in that they are required to review their policies to monitor progress and gather evidence to demonstrate both to the public and themselves that they are fulfilling their obligations.
Public bodies are required to create a Disability Equality Scheme (DES) which has to set out how that body will fulfil its obligations under the Act. You can help become involved in this by asking your local authority for details of their DES and asking how they respond to the following questions.
Do they provide minicom and/or fax numbers and/or emails when giving a telephone number for public contact?
Are all their public meeting and committee rooms equipped with inductive loops and do they work and have such arrangements being tested lately?
Do they have hearings loops situated all their reception desks and information points and have staff at these locations received deaf awareness training?
Do they organise suitable support when a deaf person wishes to attend their meetings if that support needs to be lipspeakers or speech to text reporting?
The DRC has now been absorbed into the Equality and Human Rights Commission which can be accessed here
A new central souce of expertise, The Office for Disability Issues, has been formed and can be accessed here.