New rights for disabled people

CCB

 

Posted in: Analysis/Comment, Employees, Speaking Out

New rights for disabled people

August 01, 1998

NEW COMMISSION

A new Disability Rights Commission to help disabled people secure their rights is among proposals in a government white paper published on July 21. Based on recommendations made by the Disability Rights Task Force, the Commission will provide information and assistance to employers and have power to support legal action where necessary. It is planned that the Commission will take over from the National Disability Council during the year 2000. Contact DfEE on 0171 925 5555

FURTHER RIGHTS

On June 9, Alan Howarth MP, the former minister for equal opportunities, announced the timetable for the full implementation of part III of the Disability Discrimination Act, giving disabled people further rights of access to goods and services. From October 1999, service providers must take reasonable steps to change practices, policies or procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service. From 2004, physical features preventing disabled people from using a service must be addressed.

The National Disability Council, which had recommended making the changes sooner, is now consulting widely on a draft code of practice to help implementation. Contact DfEE on 0171 925 5555 or NDC on 0171 273 5636 (minicom 0171 273 5579)

SMALL BUSINESS COULD BENEFIT

The National Disability Council says small and medium sized businesses can gain positive commercial benefits from making their products and services accessible to people with a disability. Releasing its third annual report on July 29, the NDC gave details of its survey of 1,500 businesses: half have made no changes to comply with rights of access introduced in 1995, even though 85% are aware of having disabled customers. NDC chairman, David Grayson, calls for a sustained and substantial education and communication campaign to raise awareness.

During June, the NDC appointed six new members, five of them women, including Susan Scott-Parker of the Employers’ Forum on Disability. Contact NDC on 0171 273 5636 (minicom 0171 273 5579)

WORK DIFFICULTIES

Companies are failing to employ people with a disability, despite widespread adoption of equal opportunities polices; nearly two thirds (65%) of job applicants with a disability interviewed for research on behalf of the charity, Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities, obtained work not in the private but in the public or voluntary sector, which together represent less than a quarter of the employment market. Funded by Select Appointments and published on July 2 as Failing Equality, four in ten in the survey felt discriminated against in their search for work. The report says too many employers presume additional costs, despite only 4% of working-age people with disabilities requiring additional aids. Contact John Nurthen, Select Appointments, on 01727 842999 (www.selectgroup.com)

NEW DEAL

Centrica was one of ten organisations named on July 16 to receive funding from the government’s New Deal for the company’s scheme to provide work, new job skills and training for disabled people who are long term unemployed. The project, which will provide 50 jobs in British Gas offices in Greater Manchester, is also providing opportunities for carers. It was developed in partnership with the Employers Forum on Disability, the Carers National Association and the North West Disability Service. First recruits will join the pilot in August. Contact Jo Bayliss, Centrica, on 01753 758000

Comment

For too long, the needs of people with a disability have been the poor relation of companies’ social responsibility concerns. The role of women in the workforce is seen as a mainstream business issue, while awareness is high about the disadvantage experienced by many black communities. Yet the numbers of customers and employees (current and potential) with a disability are huge; nearly 12 million people are affected by the provisions of Disability Discrimination Act.

Too few companies have gone beyond drawing up a theoretical policy, to take practical action addressing the serious business issues at stake. Fewer still are supporting high profile community projects which demonstrate their commitment and advance best practice. Those which have – like IBM developing the new technologies to help physically disabled people or Centrica supporting an advisory service for smaller firms – are the exceptions proving the rule.

Albeit slower than many hoped, the legal noose is now tightening. Future stages of the previous government’s legislation are being phased in and the National Disability Council phased out for the new government’s Commission with enforcement powers. Within a few years, companies will be held to account for their record on countering discrimination. It is not too late to get ahead and avoid a narrow `compliance culture’.

Community affairs managers should act now. This need not mean whole new programmes. Rather, existing activities, such as those in education, for small businesses and in the local community, must explicitly address the needs of people with a disability, with demonstrable performance targets added.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 41 – August, 1998

COMMENT:

For too long, the needs of people with a disability have been the poor relation of companies’ social responsibility concerns.

For too long, the needs of people with a disability have been the poor relation of companies’ social responsibility concerns. The role of women in the workforce is seen as a mainstream business issue, while awareness is high about the disadvantage experienced by many black communities. Yet the numbers of customers and employees (current and potential) with a disability are huge; nearly 12 million people are affected by the provisions of Disability Discrimination Act.

Too few companies have gone beyond drawing up a theoretical policy, to take practical action addressing the serious business issues at stake. Fewer still are supporting high profile community projects which demonstrate their commitment and advance best practice. Those which have – like IBM developing the new technologies to help physically disabled people or Centrica supporting an advisory service for smaller firms – are the exceptions proving the rule.

Albeit slower than many hoped, the legal noose is now tightening. Future stages of the previous government’s legislation are being phased in and the National Disability Council phased out for the new government’s Commission with enforcement powers. Within a few years, companies will be held to account for their record on countering discrimination. It is not too late to get ahead and avoid a narrow `compliance culture’.

Community affairs managers should act now. This need not mean whole new programmes. Rather, existing activities, such as those in education, for small businesses and in the local community, must explicitly address the needs of people with a disability, with demonstrable performance targets added.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 41 – August, 1998

COMMENTS