British disabled people 'treated like second-class citizens', says human rights watchdog
20 July 2016
The new chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said disability rights in the UK are 'a badge of shame'.
Progress by governments, businesses and wider communities to promote improvements has stalled, said David Isaac, chair of the EHRC. Many disabled people in Britain are still being treated as 'second-class citizens'.
The commission highlighted several areas where disabled people are not treated equally:
- landlords refuse to make properties accessible
- there is a 'disgraceful lack of space' at sporting and concert venues
- disabled people need more political representation
'It is a badge of shame for our society that thousands of disabled people are still not being treated as equal citizens and the everyday rights non-disabled people take for granted, such as being able to access transport, housing, restaurants, theatres and sporting events, are still being denied.
'Successive governments have failed to implement rights for disabled people in full, and now is the time to move this forward. Implementing the remaining provisions of the Equality Act relating to areas such as transport and reasonable adjustments to common areas of rented houses would help put an end to this discrimination, increasing disabled people’s independence and ability to participate in society.'
'What you really want is just to get to work'
A BBC report yesterday featured a member of our own press team, Selina Mills, who has a visual impairment.
She described her frustrations after trying to book a taxi to work:
'You can quote the Equality Act 2010 all you like, but people can still drive away. There's no way of enforcing it.
'You can campaign, you can argue, you can get upset — but actually, what you really want is just to get to work.'
Disability is not about other people
Patrick Olszowski, head of campaigns at Leonard Cheshire, says the government must act now:
'We need a seismic shift in people’s attitudes. Disability is not about other people — it’s about all of us having access to work, rest and play.
'Disabled people face myriad challenges — but a key one is the ability to safely get around.
'We have heard from disabled people, specifically wheelchair users and blind people, about taxi drivers refusing to pick them up or being overcharged for their journey.
'The government must urgently address this by enacting Section 165 of the Equality Act. There is no excuse for keeping disabled people waiting.'
Section 165 of the Equality Act would impose duties on the driver of a taxi for wheelchair users. They would be required to carry the passenger while in the wheelchair (and not to make any additional charge for doing so), or if the person chooses to sit in a passenger seat, to carry the wheelchair.
They would also have a duty to give the passenger 'such mobility assistance as is reasonably required'.
The section has not yet been enacted.
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