Disability

Q: What difference has 25 years made?

A: Not a lot if you’re a disabled person.

This week marks 25 years since the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (later included in the Equality Act 2010).  And the result is a raspberry.

Whether it is business, voluntary organisations or even Government Departments, there is little doubt that most weigh up the risk of being challenged under the law and decide compliance just isn’t worth the bother.  All of this contributes to people with long-term health conditions and disabilities getting a much tougher time than others.  Just a few recent examples:

Getting health information and communications in a format that is accessible for me is still hit and miss.  This week I was told that the reason I couldn’t access a report about my own health was because it had to be created using a specific template.  Despite the health sector dealing with every disabled person in the country, they still can’t get it right.  And one of the consequences, as reported by a former national Chief Medical Officer, is that people like me, for whom standard communications are more difficult due to visual or hearing impairment, have far worse health outcomes than other people.  Essentially, because the health sector won’t fulfil its legal responsibilities, I’m likely to die earlier/be sicker.

On another front, I’ve just marked the sixth anniversary of my continuing dispute with DWP: supposedly supporting disabled people to work but, due to arbitrary decisions, maladministration and injustice, they have brought my business to its knees and still no sight of a resolution.    No wonder the number of disabled people out of work is so high – and don’t believe that they are scroungers.  I’ve worked with thousands just desperate to get a job and have a place in the world.

And, talking of discrimination, what’s the difference between a care home and a student hall of residence?  Some clues: the residents in one haven’t been topped up with infected hospital castaways, have some chance of seeing their families for Christmas and aren’t all disabled people.

On a more positive note, and I need to declare an interest having worked with them for many years, our tax men and women are trying to do better.  HMRC has played a key role during the pandemic and has recently published its Customer Charter and principles of the extra help they can give to people with long-term health conditions and disabilities:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hmrc-charter

Please share this link with anyone you know who might need a helping hand with tax or Working Tax Credits.

And, if you want simple, straightforward and practical information  to help more disabled people, please get in touch or visit www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

End of rant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lone voices in the wilderness.

What do you think?

  • Estate agents discriminate against blind seller.
  • Complaint handlers prefer “poor customer service” to admitting breaking equality law.
  • Watchdogs fail to protect us disabled people from illegal discrimination.

I got really depressed a couple of weeks ago:  utterly fed up with constantly being cross and having to complain in the vain effort of trying to get people to do things properly.  Those of us who are madly optimistic might have thought that legislation that has been in place for 20 years about reasonable adjustments and accessible information would have achieved some level of compliance across the public, private and voluntary sectors.  Dream on: even with the Equality Act having been more prescriptive about alternate formats in 2010, there’s still systemic and endemic behaviour that clearly shows that most organisations believe that this legislation is purely optional.  And worse, those watch-dog agencies that are supposed to protect us don’t take any action either.

We are left as lone voices in the wilderness.  So let’s hope that the current House of Lords Select Committee looking at enforcement of the law to protect disabled people has some impact – and kicks the Equality and Human Rights Commission and all the rest in to some sort of action.  After all, we are paying for them.

Meanwhile, I’m struggling to do my bit to fulfil my mother’s wishes.  She died earlier this year and I’m a co-executor of her will – and happen to be blind.  We have been trying to sell her house but the law is completely alien to estate agents.  One (Fox & Sons) simply stopped communicating with me at all after I had asked for accessible Word documentation.  Another (Cubitt and West) clearly had no process of providing me with their terms and conditions in an alternate format – and so they suggested that I should find another estate agent that “would suit me better”.  The house sale forms provided by the Law Society again are only available in an inaccessible format – my solicitor had to read them aloud to me and the same was needed for HMRC’s huge 80 page inaccessible Inheritance Tax forms.  The clear message is that I’m not allowed to have such responsibilities because I’m blind.  It’s no wonder that disabled people have problems getting jobs when so much everyday stuff is stacked against us!

I was trying to be green by recycling a mobile phone to a friend and we got tied up in the nausea of “unlocking”.  It took over 45 minutes on the phone with me repeatedly telling the 3 agent that I couldn’t provide all the information they wanted because I was blind.  She didn’t seem to grasp the concept and simply cut me off when I asked for the supervisor.  Their Executive Team maintained that it had just been “poor customer service” and that I couldn’t have experienced discrimination, harassment and victimisation because they had an “Accessibility Team”, whether or not that extra help had been offered to me!   It’s like being told that you can’t be bleeding because we have got a First Aid kit – even though it’s locked away.  And they absolutely didn’t want to categorise my complaint as a breach of equality law.  Now do I struggle on to complain to OFCOM?  Probably but with no hope of any action as I suspect that they similarly don’t monitor the real cause of “poor customer service”.

Last time I complained to the Financial Conduct Authority about repeated discrimination across the financial services industry, they sent the usual asinine response – similar to that from the Government’s Chief Medical Officer when suggesting that poor communications with us probably contribute to the significantly worse health outcomes of blind and Deaf people.

If those with authority at every level don’t take responsibility for monitoring unlawful action, is there any prospect of us disabled people being able to play our part in life and society?  It is just an endless battle of us “little people” with all those impersonal big organisations that have decided that it is easier and cheaper to take the risk of mistreating us when no-one is going to take any notice or action.

Penny Melville-Brown

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000