Your Rights

As you may now be aware there is a significant amount of support available from the health service, social services and financial services from benefits agencies but what happens and who is going to support you when you come across a problem in the community which relates to a discrimination against your child's disability. Yes its not just adults that are discriminated against for their disability and restricted with where they can go and what they can do the whole issue of being accepted in society clearly affects children with disabilities too this is why the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was put in place to support everyone with a disability and to remove the barriers.

The DDA has been around since 1995 although many parts of it have only been enforced (in Law) since 2004, with certain aspects still not fully included in Law. Unfortunately even with the DDA in force there are still far too many non compliant facilities and establishments and unless these are highlighted the problems faced by disabled children and adults alike will not go away. Therefore it is important that those of us in a position to comment and highlight problems do so, if we don’t who will?

I know only too well the day to day challenges faced by parents of disabled children and fully appreciate that we don’t have the time and effort to make an issue about something not immediately related to our children’s health but if significant changes aren’t made now in society our children will still be facing the same problems when they are adults and it is then they who will have to spend the time and effort complaining, so lets get it sorted now and save them the aggravation.

What does the law say?

The DDA covers employment, access to services, education, transport and housing. In September 2002 the law was extended to cover access to education for all disabled people. New employment rights and rights of access became law in October 2004.

These new changes in the law brought real changes in practice for disabled people. But changes in attitude and awareness are just as crucial. Despite the new law, many disabled people find it hard to take part in day-to-day life and do not have the same chances that others take for granted.

I’ll be perfectly honest here to get into the legal logistics of this is a minefield, but quite simply I suggest you take a look at the Equality and Human Rights Commission website and open their page titled The Law.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

An independent body established in April 2000 by Act of Parliament to stop discrimination and promote equality of opportunity for disabled people. If you believe that your child has been discriminated against and the issue cannot be resolved then contact the EHRC helpline. They are always busy but they will answer your questions.

The EHRC are here to help everyone – children and adults alike.

If you feel that your child has received unfavourable treatment or been excluded because of their disability then your first step must be to officially state your concerns in writing to the relevant management body and ask what action they are prepared to take or plans they have for future changes to remove the discriminative issue. If you do not receive a satisfactory answer then contact the EHRC or us if you wish; we know only too well that the process of issuing a claim through Court and getting all the help you need is very difficult.

Our DDA Claim: 

Over the years we have become increasingly frustrated by the lack of access to many facilities, so in February 2005 when Matthew could not access our local planetarium on the first floor of the Southend Museum we decided to take action and issue legal proceedings against Southend Borough Council.

Wheelchair access was only available to the ground floor of the museum via a side entrance hidden by bushes.  A small concrete ramp was in place, but there were no handrails.  The only disabled toilet available for the museum was in the Library next door some 50 meters away.

In August 2005, we approached the DRC for advice and they concluded that they would fully fund the hearing. Funnily enough, when the Council knew that the DRC were fully supporting the case they seem prepared to enter negotiations. 

In November 2006 we won our case. 

The council were instructed to provide the following:

The closing statement made by the Southend Borough council was as follows.

"...the lack of funding was a critical factor in this case and it was not a reasonable step for the council to take..."

You may find this link useful:

  Getting Rights and Justice for Every Disabled Child.