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Equality Act does not protect the disabled

30th Mar 2016

An investigation into the Equality Act 2010 and the impact it has had on disabled people found that the legislation, which was intended to harmonise all discrimination law across nine protected groups, was not meant to include disability when it was drawn up.

Although the Lords Disability Committee has noted that it is too late to undo this mistake, it said that the government must improve the legislation. Government action, whether through the introduction of tribunal fees or the impact of spending cuts, is also having an adverse effect on disabled people.

The report found that developments in recent years have made fighting discrimination more difficult: New tribunal fees, less access to legal aid, and procedural changes have created barriers to the effective enforcement of disabled people’s rights.

Government inaction is also to blame, such as with its refusal to bring into force provisions on taxis carrying passengers in wheelchairs, even though they have been on the statute book for 20 years, or provisions to make leasehold buildings more accessible for disabled tenants.

Baroness Deech, chair of the committee, said that “Over the course of our inquiry we have been struck by how disabled people are let down across the whole spectrum of life.”

“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,” she continued. “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.”

Baroness Deech also noted that “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of the Act into force, such as those requiring taxi drivers to take passengers in wheelchairs, but has in fact repealed some provisions which had protected disabled people.”

Although the Act was “Intended to reduce the regulatory burden on business, the reality has been an increase in the burden on disabled people,” she stated.