15/02/2006

New legislation to improve rights of people with disabilities

People living with disabilities in Northern Ireland are to benefit from a new legislation, which will improve their civil rights.

Equality Minister, Jeff Rooker, today announced the Disability Discrimination Order 2006, which will increase the scope of legislation to include more people with disabilities.

The new legislation will also protect people with cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis even if they are not yet showing signs of their illness.

The new laws will also provide extra protection for disabled people in other areas such as private clubs, when renting premises and applying to discriminatory job advertisements. All public transport is also to become more accessible to people with disabilities with all trains, buses and coaches to be fully accessible by 2022.

The Order will also introduce provisions that will enable lifting of the transport exemption from Part III of DDA 1995 (access to goods, facilities and services) for land-based public transport, vehicle hire, breakdown services and leisure and tourism transport services.

Equality Minister, Jeff Rooker today said: "This marks major progress in disability legislation and ensures that more disabled people than ever before will be protected from discrimination under the law, including those with HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis. People with mental ill health will no longer have to prove their condition is "clinically well-recognised" and that disabled people living in rented premises will find it easier to have their homes adapted to meet their needs. It also means that people with disabilities will enjoy modes of transport which will become increasingly accessible."

The Order also extends current legislation bringing the functions of public authorities within the scope of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), imposing a duty to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people and encourage their participation in public life.

The extension of the Act in this way will impose further duties on the public sector not to discriminate against disabled people across the whole range of its public activities.

The Minister concluded by saying that he was confident that the legislation will enhance and reinforce the measures already in place to help ensure that disabled people have the opportunity to participate in the workplace, in society and in the economy.

Disabled people now have a place in a truly comprehensive legislative framework that will help to eliminate barriers and ensure protection is extended to those most in need of support.

(EF/SP)

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