Disability Discrimination and the Law
Disability discrimination, or the second-class treatment of individuals living with physical, mental and/or emotional disabilities, is both inappropriate and in many situations illegal in the United Kingdom. A variety of UK legislation outlaws discrimination due to disability, and international disability rights are now protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. When discrimination due to disability does occur there is also a variety of ways that individuals can help to fight it – and hopefully erase it from our society.
Disability Discrimination and UK LawA variety of legislation makes discrimination against individuals with disabilities illegal in the United Kingdom.
Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1995The foremost legislation protecting the rights of citizens with disabilities is the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1995 which has since been amended and extended, including in 2005. The DDA prohibits discrimination in the areas of employment, education, access to goods, facilities and services and the buying or renting of land or property. The DDA also requires public bodies to promote equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities and sets minimum standards for public transport so that disabled individuals can have equal access.
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 amends and extends the DDA, and the Mental Health Act of 1983 protects the rights of individuals with learning disabilities and/or mental health concerns.
International Disability RightsIn March of 2007 the United Kingdom was one of the first countries in the world to sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international treaty that protects the international rights of individuals with disabilities. The United Kingdom also worked extensively to draft this document, and the Convention itself is now recognised as the one international document to contain worldwide standards for the rights of individuals with disabilities.
The United Kingdom is now working to ratify this Convention, and updates on worldwide signatures and ratification can be viewed at the Convention’s Enable website. When 20 countries have ratified the Convention, it will come into force and become legally binding for all of the countries which have ratified it. This in turn will help those countries now legally bound by the Convention to gently pressure other countries who have not ratified it to improve their records regarding the protection of the rights of individuals living with disabilities.
Fighting Discrimination Due to DisabilityDiscrimination against individuals living with disabilities is currently being fought at a variety of levels across UK society. At the governmental level such discrimination is being fought with legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act of 2005 and the push towards the ratification of the United Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. On the organisational level, groups such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission work to ensure equal opportunities for all.
On a more personal level, every time an individual reconsiders a stereotype, speaks out against discrimination based on disabilities, gets to know a disabled member of their community, ceases to make jokes or pointed references to disabilities, tells others that such jokes and references are unacceptable and does all that (s)he can to learn from the talents of each individual, regardless of ability, then discrimination is also being fought and will hopefully become a thing of the past. To learn more about promoting disability awareness read our article here.