The House of Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability investigating the Act’s impact on disabled people has concluded that the Government is failing in its duty of care to disabled people. From taxi drivers refusing to take disabled people, to “disgraceful” accessibility at sports grounds, to pubs and clubs failing to provide disabled toilets, the report, entitled ‘The Equality Act 2010: the impact on disabled people’, says practice in all areas must be improved.
Comment of Baroness Deech, Chairman
“Over the course of our inquiry we have been struck by how disabled people are let down across the whole spectrum of life.
“Access to public buildings remains an unnecessary challenge to disabled people. Public authorities can easily side-step their legal obligations to disabled people, and recent changes in the courts have led to disabled people finding it harder to fight discrimination.
“When it comes to the law requiring reasonable adjustments to prevent discrimination, we found that there are problems in almost every part of society, from disabled toilets in restaurants being used for storage, to schools refusing interpreters for deaf parents, to reasonable adjustments simply not being made.
“In the field of transport alone, we heard of an urgent need to meet disabled people’s requirements – whether it’s training for staff or implementing improvements to trains and buses – and we’re calling for all new rail infrastructure to incorporate step-free access in its design from the outset.
“The Government bears the ultimate responsibility for enabling disabled people to participate in society on equal terms, and we believe it is simply not discharging that responsibility. Not only has the Government dragged its heels in bringing long-standing provisions of the Act into force, such as those requiring taxi drivers to take passengers in wheelchairs, but has in fact repealed some provisions which had protected disabled people. Intended to reduce the regulatory burden on business, the reality has been an increase in the burden on disabled people.
“The Committee would like to see changes right at the top of Government and is calling for the Minister for Disabled People to be given a place on the Cabinet’s Social Justice Committee.
“It’s time to reverse the attitude that disabled people are an afterthought. Many of the changes we suggest are simple and do not require legislation. We hope the Government will implement them quickly.”
Findings in the report include:
The Government should bring into force immediately provisions in the Act obliging taxi drivers to take passengers with wheelchairs. In cases where taxi drivers fail to comply with the Act local authorities should withhold the licences of drivers.
All new rail infrastructure must build into its design step-free access; retrofitting of stock with audio/visual annunciators must be prioritised; training for all rail, bus and coach staff must be made a legal requirement.
These have been described as “disgraceful” by the Minster for Disabled People and new measures are needed. Ministers must report on the progress made on stadia, following the Premier League’s promise to upgrade all their stadia by August 2017.
Housing and public spaces
Many restaurants, pubs and clubs are difficult to access, with many not providing basic facilities such as a disabled toilet. Local authorities should be allowed to refuse to grant or renew these premises’ licences until they make the necessary changes.
The design of new buildings is another area where local authorities could require new buildings to be wheelchair accessible or adaptable, simply by revising their planning policies.
Communications is an area where disabled people are still being failed. We recommend that all Government departments, local authorities and public bodies review how they communicate with disabled people, and that disabled people must be involved in this process.
The law and enforcement
Developments in recent years have made fighting discrimination more difficult for disabled people. New tribunal fees, less access to legal aid, and procedural changes have combined to create barriers to the effective enforcement of disabled people’s rights. Changes are recommended to combat this.