04/07/2003

Call for action to improve and protect rights of disabled

The Equality Commission has called on the Government to improve and protect the rights of disabled people across Northern Ireland.

The Commission made the call as it published its first review of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

Entitled, 'Enabled? A Review of the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland', the report puts forward 34 recommendations including:

  • Extending the protection of the DDA to people presently excluded, for example, people who have just discovered they have cancer, or multiple sclerosis
  • Removing the requirement that someone has had to experience disability for longer than 12 months before the protection of the DDA applies
  • Requiring employers to plan ahead when refurbishing premises or changing work practices, and think about the needs of disabled people
  • Extending protection to include our transport systems
  • Requiring employers and service deliverers to record the numbers of employees and customers with disabilities.
Commenting on the report, Joan Harbison, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission said: "The Disability Discrimination Act was a landmark piece of legislation when it was passed in 1995. However, it was – and remains – limited in comparison with a full civil rights vision for disabled people and has gaps in protection which need to be filled.

"The Equality Commission welcomed the Government’s commitment to making change when it accepted the recommendations made over three years ago by the Disability Rights Task Force.”

Concluding, Mrs Harbison said the Commission was calling on the Government to implement these recommendations, as well as a further 34 proposals for change that are identified as part of their own review of the Act.

"The case for change is compelling and what better time to make the necessary improvement to the rights of disabled people than during 2003 - the European Year of People with Disabilities," she said.

(MB)

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