2 Disability Discrimination Legislation and Disabled People

2 Disability Discrimination Legislation and Disabled People

2.1 Legislative Background

The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) placed a duty on employers, educators and service providers to make reasonable adjustments to avoid discriminating against disabled people. This included making adjustments to physical features which act as barriers to access for disabled people. Public functions were not covered by this Act.

The Disability Discrimination Act (2005) amended the 1995 Act and extended the principles of Part III, which prohibited discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services and premises, to the delivery of public authority functions. This amendment also brought in new duties for public authorities, including Transport Scotland, to actively promote disability equality.

On 5 April 2011, the Equality Act (2010) introduced a new public sector general equality duty. This general equality duty requires Scottish public authorities to pay "due regard" to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, victimisation and harassment;
  • Advance equality of opportunity;
  • Foster good relations.

These requirements apply across the "protected characteristics" of age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion and belief; sex and sexual orientation and to a limited extent to marriage and civil partnership. This single duty replaced the three previous duties relating to race, disability and gender equality.

The equality duty is in two parts - the general duty in the Equality Act (2010) itself, and specific duties which are placed on some public authorities by Scottish Ministers. Specific duties are intended to assist public authorities in meeting their general duty. In particular, the specific duties set out what public bodies should do to plan, deliver and evaluate actions to eliminate discrimination and promote equality, and to report on the activity.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) came into being on 1 October 2007. It combines the responsibilities and powers of the three previous equality commissions - Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) for promoting racial, disability and gender equality in Britain. The EHRC covers England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland. The Commission in Scotland is there to see its aims are delivered in a way that responds to Scottish needs. The team is based in Edinburgh and Glasgow and works closely with the Scotland Commissioner.

Codes of practice are available from the EHRC to assist public authorities in meeting their duties. The guidance covering planning, buildings and streets is particularly relevant.

2.2 Disabled People

In the 2001 census 20 per cent of the population were reported to have some form of disability. This includes people with sensory and cognitive impairments, as well as people with mobility impairments, including wheelchair users. Disabled people have a wide spectrum of different and sometimes conflicting needs. Inclusive design sets out to give due consideration to all of these needs and the other demands on a project, including cost, to strike the best balance for all users of an environment.

The average age of the population is increasing. As there is a strong correlation between age and disability, it is important that we design for as wide a group as possible to ensure disabled people can play a full part in society.

For most disabled people the private car is the only form of transport that is accessible and this is likely to continue to be the case no matter how accessible public transport becomes. Yet there are barriers created by the management and operation of our roads and parking systems which restrict access for disabled people. A lack of suitable parking facilities and a lack of dropped kerbs on key pedestrian routes are two of the physical constraints to the use of private vehicles for many disabled people.

Research findings from 'Improved Public Transport for Disabled People' (Scottish Executive, 2006) identified the biggest difference between disabled adults and non-disabled adults as being not the way disabled people make a journey or the reasons for their trip, but the fact that disabled people are far less likely to make a trip at all. In light of the reduced number of trips made, disabled adults were less likely to report participating in a wide range of activities compared with non-disabled adults. There has been little or no change in the barriers to travel that disabled people face since earlier research on the subject was published in 1998. No one single "solution" is likely to make a difference to the travel opportunities of disabled people in Scotland.

Many disabled people, although eligible for concessionary travel on buses and trains, cannot actually use such forms of transport largely due to the connecting journey between home and the bus stop or train station. The pedestrian environment has an important part to play in improving access to public transport. This is backed up by the research findings from 'Older People: Their Transport Needs and Requirements' (Department for Transport, 2001).

Older people worry more about safety in the pedestrian environment and, statistically, they are more severely injured, take longer to recover and suffer greater psychological impact from an accident than younger people. However travel is important for this group to access entertainment, to participate in society and generally to be independent.

As people grow older they become more reliant on public transport but evidence suggests many experience difficulties accessing and using buses and trains due to the poor condition of footways, inadequate crossing facilities and a difficulty in boarding and alighting from public transport vehicles.

This Good Practice Guide means to make a difference to the quality of life of a significant proportion of our population.