Government Action on Disability Policy
A Global Survey
Part II - Government Replies as Country Profiles
Download 'Government Reports on the UN Standard Rules' as a PDF file (440 KB)
© Dimitris Michailakis 1997
Transmitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (12 March 1996)
Compare with the following Country Report(s): ILSMH, WBU
The officially recognized disability policy in the United Kingdom is expressed in law, in guidelines adopted by the Government, in policy adopted by political parties and in policy adopted by NGOs. The disability policy equally emphasizes: prevention, rehabilitation, individual support, accessibility measures, and anti-discrimination law.
The following measures have been taken conveying the message of full participation: Introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act including a leaflet (a brief guide to the Act) in Braille, audio-cassette, signed video, and in cassette for people with learning disabilities.
The rights of persons with disabilities are protected by a combination of special and general legislation. The judicial mechanism adopted to protect the rights of disabled people is due process (legal remedy through courts), other non-judicial mechanisms for the same purpose including: a Governmental body (administrative), independent expert bodies and special arbitration/conciliation body.
The general legislation applies to all categories of disabled persons with respect to: education, employment, the right to marriage, the right to parenthood/family, political rights, access to court-of-law, right to privacy, property rights. The following benefits are guaranteed by law to disabled people: health and medical care, financial security.
The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 was enacted after the adoption of the Standard Rules.
Legislation and other forms of regulations concerning the build environment establish standards requiring that public places and the outdoor environment are made accessible. National authority and local Governments review the operation of accessibility standards. The following measures have been promoted by the Government in order to facilitate accessibility in the build environment: levelling off pavements, marking parking areas, installing automatic doors, lifts, accessible toilets, ensuring access to public places, improving accessibility in housing, providing financial support for the costs of adapting private buildings to the needs of disabled persons, installing special lighting and using contrast colours for visually impaired, providing specially adapted motor vehicles, providing audible and tactile signs at pedestrian crossing points, as well as tactile surfaces to provide warning and guidance to visually impaired people, and support for low floor buses. There are special transport arrangements such as mobility buses, taxi card schemes, concession fares, railcards which provide a discount on regular fares, low floor with access for wheelchairs buses, being introduced throughout the country, light rapid transit systems being fully accessible. The Disability Discrimination Act empowers the Government to set access standards for new public transport vehicles - buses, taxis and rail vehicles. Special transport arrangements are available for the following purposes: medical treatment, education, work, recreational purpose. When planning to build accessible environments the most difficult obstacles are: attitudinal factors and economic/budgetary factors. There is a disability awareness component incorporated in the training of planners, architects and construction engineers.
Sign language for deaf people has no officially recognized status. It is not used as the first language in education of deaf people, and is not recognized as the main means of communication between deaf persons and others. There are Government measures for encouraging media and other forms of public information to make their services accessible for persons with disabilities. Such measures are included in the Disability Discrimination Act, in the Citizen's Charts, and in the Central Office of Information. The following services are provided in order to facilitate information and communication between persons with disabilities and other persons: literature in Braille/tape, news magazines on tape/Braille, sign language interpretation for major events, and easy readers for persons with disabilities.
Organizations of persons with disabilities
The British Council of Disabled People is the national umbrella organization. There are legal provisions mandating the representatives of persons with disabilities to participate in policy-making and to work with Governmental institutions. Organizations are always consulted when laws with a disability aspect are being prepared. This occurs at the national, regional and local level. Financial and organizational/logistic support is provided to national representative organizations. Persons with disabilities participate to a very limited extent in Government, legislature, judiciary, political parties and to a great extent in NGOs. The organizations have the role to: advocate rights and improved services, mobilize persons with disabilities, identify needs and priorities, participate in planning, implementation and evaluation of services and measures, contribute to public awareness, public services, and promote/organize income generating activities.
Co-ordination of work
Several authorities act as national co-ordinating committees: The National Disability Council, reporting to the Department of Social Security, the United Kingdom Forum, reporting to the Department of Health, the NACEPD, reporting to the Department of Education and Employment, and the DPTAC reporting to the Department of Transport. The co-ordinating committees include representatives from organizations of persons with disabilities, other NGOs, the private sector, and disabled persons, their parents/guardians also being represented. The Government expects the committee to participate in policy development and to perform other tasks such as publication of practical guidance i.e. Codes of Practice. The establishment of the co-ordinating committees has had the following effects: improved co-ordination of measures/programmes, improved legislation, improved integration of responsibility, a better dialogue in the disability field, more accurate planning, more effective use of resources, and improved promotion of public awareness. However, the Government adds that an accurate assessment is premature.
The adoption of the Standard Rules has led to a rethinking of the approach to disability policy.