Joint Committee on the Draft Disability Discrimination Bill Written Evidence




Author : Andy Rickell, Director, British Council of Disabled People (BCODP)


BCODP believes the draft Bill is too weak, in particular because :-

1.  The definition of "disability" in the original Act is not based on the Social Model of Disability;

2.  The Bill continues to allow discrimination against disabled people in many areas of life;

3.  Disabled People's human rights are not protected;

4.  The ability of disabled people to enforce their own rights continues to remain very limited.

Main evidence

1.  BCODP is the one UK national organisation which is entirely run and controlled by disabled people and whose voting membership is entirely made up of organisations run and controlled by disabled people. Our over 120 member groups have about 300,000 disabled members. We are the national voice of the disabled people's movement and led the campaign for anti-discrimination legislation in the eighties and nineties.

2.  BCODP regards the current Disability Discrimination Act 1995 as so seriously flawed a piece of law that it should be repealed and replaced by legislation which offers comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for disabled people. It is particularly weak in the areas of :-

  • the definition of "disability" and hence who is covered - the definition is not based on the Social Model of Disability;

  • its limited scope;

  • the weak and inaccessible means of legal redress for disabled people;

  • the Act's low precedence.

3.  Our comments on the draft Disability Bill should therefore be viewed in the light of the above. In general we support the measures insofar as they extend the scope of anti-discrimination law. However we have problems with the following issues :-

4.  The proposed specific extension to the meaning of "disability" is a further proof that the general definition is unhelpful and excludes many disabled people who clearly suffer discrimination. The current definition requires proof of a minimum level of impairment, whereas this law should be about tackling discrimination (based on the Social Model) arising from any impairment associated with the individual. One suggestion is therefore that the definition of "disability" should be changed to remove any requirement as regards extent of impairment, and by doing so it will also automatically cover the specific impairments mentioned in this Bill.

5.  The right to free movement should be a basic right. The accessibility of all transport vehicles and associated services should cease to be exempt from the Part 3 provisions forthwith, apart from the accessibility of existing transport vehicles for which definite and early end-dates should be given (no longer than 10 years).

6.  The proposed justifications for discrimination based on "reasonable" assumptions about disabled people and health and safety issues and consent grounds will prolong and embed discrimination. On health and safety, it should be a balance between the rights of the disabled person to equality and the rights of others to health and safety, not a complete derogation. On consent, allowing a reasonable assumption of inability to consent is unfair, because current discriminatory attitudes in society include negative assumptions about the competence of all disabled people. Instead the law should state what would be acceptable as regards enabling the consent of a disabled person (which requires the least effort on the disabled person's behalf).

7.  Prison issues - Disabled prisoners should have their rights met in a dignified manner, which may have implications for the accommodation provided as well as reasonable adjustments in other areas.

8.  Letting of premises - The landlord should be obliged to normally give consent to adjustments to premises and the cost of such adjustments should be borne by the taxpayer in order to improve the housing stock. A register should be kept of all such adjusted premises for the purpose of re-letting adjusted premises to future tenants for whom the adjustments enable accessibility. Extra costs borne by a landlord or manager in respect of a tenant/occupier's impairment in excess of reasonable adjustment costs should be spread over all rental/service charges and not specifically chargeable to the tenant on whose account they arise. A definite end-date should be given for the removal of the small dwellings exemption.

9.  Disabled councillors - This proposal should be extended to include all elected or appointed public offices eg Parliament, NDPBs, magistrates, school governors etc. in order to enable the full and fair participation of disabled people in public and civic life.

10.  To show what disabled people really want to see in new legislation, the national disabled people's movement (including the UK Disabled People's Parliament) have produced the Disabled People's Rights and Freedoms "Bill". The full text of this can be obtained from our website -

11.  Particular proposals contained within this "Bill" which go beyond existing legislation and which have not been already mentioned above include :-

  • Indirect discrimination is covered throughout

  • All goods and services provision is included without exception

  • All employment is included without exception, including voluntary work

  • All forms of educational provision is included, and segregated provision is automatically discriminatory

  • All qualifications, exam bodies and standard setting agencies are included

  • All public physical environments, built and natural, are to be accessible

  • All health care is included

  • All housing is included, including new private housing

  • The right to communicate is fully supported by whatever means is appropriate

  • Basic rights are specifically emphasised in disabled people's terms including those of life, freedom of movement (including an end to institutionalised forms of provision for disabled people), social and political participation including self-organisation, independent living, sexuality, choice and control over our own lives, bringing up our own children, privacy and freedom from media intrusion, to express an opinion and to be heard, independent advocacy (including legal representation), and freedom from disablist humour and behaviour

  • That the taxpayer has a responsibility to meet the costs of "reasonable adjustments" to the extent that they are judged "unreasonable" on cost grounds

  • A disabled person should have access to affordable and appropriate legal representation to assert or defend their rights under anti-discrimination legislation, and that the remedy should match the discrimination suffered

  • An end to pre-birth actions which discriminate on the grounds of disability or impairment.

12.  Finally, we want to see the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 fully implemented. The outstanding sections, particularly 1, 2, 3, 4(b) and 8(except(1)) are a necessary part of improving disabled people's rights.

13.  We have seen the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL)'s written submission, and support its comments around the right to independent living.

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