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Disability Discrimination Acts

Volume 458: debated on Monday 12 March 2007

3. What assessment he has made of progress by private companies in meeting their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Acts 1995 and 2005. (126362)

We published research on 1 March which shows that organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors are responding very positively to their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Acts.

I have seen that research and note that it finds that many employers still take a narrow view of disability, focusing mainly on sensory and physical impairments. What is my hon. Friend’s Department doing to ensure that all employers take on board their full obligations under the Disability Discrimination Acts to tackle all forms of discrimination against all forms of disability?

I thank my hon. Friend for drawing the House’s attention to that part of the research, which clearly indicates that there is still a very narrow focus. Some 10.5 million people in Britain are covered by the Disability Discrimination Acts, and not all of them—indeed, a minority—have sensory or mobility impairments. We need to broaden the scope and the impression and view of disability, and we are doing that by engaging with employers and the media and ensuring that people understand that there is a whole spectrum of disability, and not just people who have sensory or motor impairment. Later this year, we will start to roll out a campaign aimed specifically at employers to ensure that that message gets across.

What role does my hon. Friend envisage for local authorities in raising awareness and providing advice to small businesses on their obligations under the Acts? Does she agree that communities can make co-ordinated progress only if local authorities and her Department work with the voluntary sector, including organisations such as the disability information and advice line in my constituency, which my hon. Friend recently visited?

I take this opportunity to thank my hon. Friend for arranging that visit, which clearly showed that where good local voluntary organisations work in partnership with other public authorities, they can enhance the message that is conveyed to the wider community. My hon. Friend is perfectly correct: we need to ensure that we use the leverage that local authorities, in particular, can bring to a local community, not just in the dissemination of information, which is crucial, but in how they conduct their own business in delivering services and employing disabled people. The disability equality duty was placed on public authorities to ensure that they do just that.