DDA preparation a shambles

TUC has issued the following in relation to lack of accessible conference facilities:


Failure to find 2005 National Disabled Conference Venue

In a shocking admission of national failure to address DDA access issues, TUC Disability Conference delegates were given the news that there is no suitable venue in the UK to host the 2005 two day TUC Disability Conference.

Only two months before DDA Access to goods and services becomes fact, the one day Disability Conference held at TUC Congress House on Friday 23 July was advised that the TUC had contacted and reviewed all major conference venues and ‘it is regretted that none of them can currently provide what is needed for this event – a fully accessible venue, with enough suitable bedrooms within the host resort / town.’

Historically recognised conference centres such as Blackpool, Brighton, Bournemouth and Scarborough cannot fulfil the needs of disabled people at such an event until at least 2007.

Major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham Sheffield and York cannot offer the Disabled conference any financial support package which major conferences normally expect.

Stephen Brookes, Chair, NUJ Disabled Members Council and disability Journalist and researcher was appalled by the news.

‘I live in Blackpool, and to find that my home town which has always been in the forefront for national conferences has no suitable venue is just not acceptable.’

While recognising that the news reflected a national failure, Stephen nevertheless was unhappy at the status of his home town.

‘Last year a similar conference was held in Blackpool, in a new hotel, and it failed to address the accessible needs of disabled people. But nationally the truth is that no one has taken the basic needs of DDA95 into consideration, or recognised that they have had 9 years to come to terms with the fact that disabled people have legal rights. It is just not good enough.’

The TUC is undertaking a campaign to challenge the hotel industry and local authorities to provide greater numbers of accessible rooms and facilities for business use by disabled people and organisations.

‘After all’ said Stephen ‘there are 10 million disabled people, and they all spend money at the conferences, so to ignore that is financial suicide anyway.’

end. DDA and DisConf.

Call Stephen Brookes on 01253 594114 for further details.

Stephen Brookes

This is an issue that I’ve greatly anticipated for many years. When I was involved in campaigning for a Disability Bill, back 1993, and the subsequent watered down Bill by the government in response to all those tabled amendments … we were disheartened to learn that it would take 9 years for some of the Act’s provisions to come into force.

At the time I was thinking, this is way too long a time frame, and its not going to happen. The excuse by the then Conservative government; businesses needed time to financially prepare, then time to implement physical changes.

For the past 9 years, this section of the DDA has received very little press, which has rendered the policy reasoning ineffective. The draft Code of Practice was not published until mid-2001.

During 2004, there has been a spur in the press, especially local and publications aimed at businesses, in relation to physical adjustments. It is also being portrayed as a new thing, and very little use to longer term budget planning, strategic decisions, nevermind anything else. The TUC announcement therefore, comes of little surprise.

Iberia and Ebookers

There has been recent publicity about a group of 23 Deaf Mary Hare Grammar School students being told to leave their plane because they did not have a “carer” with them. What exactly is the legal position here?

What happened?
The group of 23 were due to go on holiday to the Canary Islands on Thursday 22 July after completing their A Levels. They got on their Iberia Airlines plane, and were told to leave by staff because they were not allowed to travel without escorts, simply because they were deaf.

Iberia Airlines defended its actions saying that it was only following regulations, although the UK Civil Aviation Authority says it has no such regulation.

ebookers.com (the travel company that the 23 booked their flight with) said: “The group were regrettably mistakenly booked by bookers to exceed airline restrictions on the number of persons with disabilities Iberia are able to carry on any one flight, without carers.”

It would appear therefore that the reason this embarrassing incident occurred is because an unamed aviation regulation states that Deaf individuals are not allowed to fly in groups. If a group of Deaf want to fly, they must have hearing carers (sic) to accompany them. Also, it is apparently the travel agent’s duty to inform the airline if a large group of Deafies are travelling with them.

What’s wrong with this?
A great deal. 23 Deaf individuals were denied their right to fly on an aeroplane simply because they are Deaf. Iberia Airlines have not stated the full authority for this decision, and indeed, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has denied that one exists.

And besides, when did Deaf people need “carers”?!

What is the legal position?
In the UK, disability discrimination is governed by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Unfortunately, it does not extend to transport. The Disability Rights Commission’s website says:

Most services are covered by the DDA. Anyone who provides a service to the public or a section of the public is a service provider. There are a few exceptions: private clubs that have a meaningful selection process for members, transport (but only the transport vehicle, not everything else connected with it such as stations, airports and booking facilities) and education (DRC).

This means that the 23 Deaf students cannot challenge Iberia Airlines under the DDA 1995. There are no other avenues to explore.

The BBC report quoted that a parent of one the teenagers said: “These young people have the courage to travel despite their disability but they have been embarrassed.”

Despite their disability? How patronising is that? This reeks of the usual “Awh, poor deafies, they can’t do anything for themselves. Isn’t it sweet that they’re going off on holiday on their own after working so hard in school?”. And from a parent of a Deaf person too!

This is further evidence of why attitudes towards the Deaf community in the UK needs to change and why grass roots organisations such as the British Deaf Association and the Federation of Deaf People should be fully supported by the Deaf community at large. The FDP and BDA and other Deaf organisations should campaign to remove the transport exemption under the DDA 1995.

Useful links
Contact details for Iberia Airlines if you want to lodge a complaint about their appalling treatment of Deaf people
ebookers.com if you want a lodge a complaint with them for sucking up to Iberia Airlines
DPTAC: Access to air travel: guidance for disabled and less mobile passengers

NB. Quotes in this entry are taken from BBC News

Thanks #1

Stealing an idea from Notes from the (Legal) Underground.

Thanks to the following websites that have linked to us, since our launch:

The Law Society of Scotland
Press Association, Community Newswire
The Lawyer
The Legal Practitioner
College of Law
UK Centre for Legal Education
The Law Teacher
Auckland District Law Society
National Deaf Children’s Society
University of Edinburgh Careers Service
University of Bristol Careers Service
Newcastle University Library
Cardiff University: Careers Service
Anglia Polytechnic University Careers Service
University of Glamorgan Careers Centre
University of Warwick: Careers Centre
University of Manchester: Library
University of Kent: Careers
Canterbury Christ Church University College: Careers
British & Irish Association of Law Librarians
Deaf UK
Deaf Ireland
USA-L News
Royal Association for Deaf People
RNID Discussion Forum
Association of Lipspeakers
PR Web
RSS Xpress
North of the Stupid Line
London Bloggers
Brit Blog
UKBlogs Aggregator
Social Science Information Gateway
Community Newswire
Deaf Academics
Disability Careers Forum

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