Disability Equality Duty
From 4th December 2006, all public authorities must comply with the Disability Equality Duty. This means they must publish a Disability Equality Scheme (DES).
The Disability Equality Scheme must explain how the organisation plans to combat discrimination and provide fair treatment for disabled employees and disabled users. Disabled people must be involved in writing the DES. The DES must also include an Action Plan that clearly says what the organisation will do, who will be responsible, and when it will be achieved.
In practice, this means that public bodies must start to re-evaluate all their policies and procedures to make sure they are considering the needs of disabled people.
The DES has to be published so the public can see what the organisation is planning to do. The DES must be regularly reviewed and this also has to be published.
The Duty goes much further than insisting that public authorities comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. For instance, public bodies must actively “promote positive attitudes towards disabled people” and “take steps to meet disabled peoples’ needs, even if this requires more favourable treatment”.
What is a public authority?
There is no list of public authorities that the law applies to. The legislation says that the Duty applies to people whose functions are of a “public nature”. Organisations that are definitely included under this definition are:
¤ Local councils;
¤ National Health Service Trusts;
¤ The police;
¤ Government ministers and their departments; and
¤ Schools and colleges funded by Local Education Authorities.
The courts will decide whether an authority meets the criteria of being a “public authority”.
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