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TX: 08.04.05 - Disability Discrimination Act

PRESENTER: WINIFRED ROBINSON
Downloaded from www.bbc.co.uk/radio4

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ROBINSON
As the government rushed to push through its outstanding bills before Parliament effectively wound up last night some fell by the wayside. But one which did get through was the new Disability Discrimination Act. It will gradually give a whole raft of new rights to people with disabilities, Carolyn Atkinson has been looking at some of the details, Carolyn.

ATKINSON
Well this bill is basically closing what many people saw as big loopholes in the previous Disability Discrimination Act, that was passed back in 1995 and it's been coming in, in stages, ever since then, the most recent part being last October when service providers had to make their buildings and services accessible.

ROBINSON
So which loopholes then have been closed here?

ATKINSON
Well an ongoing complaint, that has always been the difficulty of using trains, now a deadline of 2020 has been set by which time all carriages, whether new rolling stock or refurbished, has to be accessible. So that's things like toilets, its Braille signage, its screen displays for people with hearing impairments, basically anything to do with using the physical train. Another key change is the protection given to people with HIV, with cancer and multiple sclerosis - they're all progressive conditions. Up till now they've only been protected from discrimination when the symptoms kick in but now they'll be protected from the day of diagnosis, so it should stop these situations arising where, for example, a boss decides they just don't want someone with HIV, cancer or MS working in their office, even though they're doing a very, very good job.

ROBINSON
There are new rules too I understand for landlords and for managers of rented property, what will they mean?
ATKINSON
There are two main changes here. First, if you rent a property then the landlord is now obliged to make sure that he or she deals with your needs appropriately. So, for example, they should think about making contracts available in large print, or they should realise that they may need to take more time explaining something to someone with a learning disability. But what it doesn't do - it doesn't oblige the landlord to do any physical changes. But the second change that is in this act is related to physical alterations - if a disabled tenant wants to adapt their property at their expense then a landlord has to have a very, very good reason to say no.

ROBINSON
And public bodies too I understand have to promote equal rights for disabled people, what will that mean?

ATKINSON
That's taking disabled people into account when decisions are made. So, for example, a council's refuse collection department must offer alternatives to people - say a doorstep pickup for someone with mobility problems instead of expecting them to leave their rubbish on the pavement. And one other area is the academic award bodies, like GCSEs and A Levels, they're now obliged to take into account the needs of disabled people, so somebody with a learning disability could get more time, for example, to do an exam.

ROBINSON
Carolyn Atkinson thank you.

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