Governments have tried to help disabled people. Yet often across Europe, laws are not binding, and don’t go far enough. Despite the European Convention on Human Rights and disability legislation across the Continent, discrimination still exists. As with most issues, progress will likely come about step by step as we build on what’s gone before. So here are some ideas for a new disability discrimination act, which would get us even closer to a more tolerant society.
Give the Law Some Teeth
Because many disability rights laws aren’t binding, disabled people are left having to take civil cases against people once they’ve been discriminated against. Of course, that depends on disabled people having the money to take wrongdoers to court. As disabled people are often kept out of jobs, they may not have the money to do so, and state support for disabled people isn’t guaranteed everywhere. What’s needed is to make anti-disability discrimination a criminal offence, which the state would prosecute on behalf of disabled people, with appropriate sentences.
Political parties love to talk about cutting red tape. They don’t like to talk about why that red tape is in place, and what social problems it’s there to stop. Without regulations, housing developers just create houses at the lowest possible cost. That means buildings with walls too weak to support stairlifts, or doorframes too narrow for wheelchairs. Yet people grow old with their houses. As they age, they may find that they can’t live in their own homes anymore, which pushes them into care, and that can massively reduce someone’s standard of living. Developers are rich enough to ensure accessible housing is built in proportion to the number of disabled people in a country. There are also a few simple design tweaks that could prevent people being forced out of their homes as they age which would reduce the spiralling costs of care.
While big businesses have deep pockets, things are different for small companies. They may not have the money to make their sites accessible, and they are more likely to take up old, inaccessible business units. What’s needed is a fund for them to alter their properties. Small alterations could make a huge difference, as big porch steps are replaced with ramps and toilets are made accessible.
Technology is rapidly changing society, and that change is faster than our laws. So while legislation might address how accessible shops or workplaces are, it doesn’t address how accessible web pages are, even though websites may also be shops or workplaces. As a result, disabled people are digitally excluded from society. However web designers are creative, technically competent people who can meet the challenge of making websites accessible for all. Any new disability discrimination act should ensure minimum standards for website accessibility.
The disability movement’s slogan is ‘Nothing about us, without us’. If you have a view, it’s important to share it, or other people will decide things for you. Without your understanding of disability discrimination, they’re likely to get it wrong. So let us know how we can support your rights via our contact form, and subscribe to the blog for more interesting articles.