THINKPIECE: We can't afford to sweep aside disability laws

KATE NASH, director, RADAR

RADAR shares the Disability Rights Commission's disappointment and concern that the Government has not laid out a timetable to complete legislation to put in place the wide-ranging improvements recommended by the Disability Rights Task Force in 1999.

Our own recent strategic review and consultation process, New Spirit, has revealed that there are still numerous barriers to the social inclusion of 8.4 million disabled people in the UK. Transport remains one of the major obstacles according to the 450 disability organisations that make up our membership.

Such apparent disregard is significant at a time when the Government is considering scrapping its individual rights commissions (the Disability Rights Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission) in favour of an all-inclusive "uber-commission". Indeed, that the Government is taking a fresh look at issues of diversity and social inclusion in many ways coincides with RADAR's concerted attempt over the past couple of years to take a fresh look at the disabled persons' movement and to help contribute to its re-engineering and rejuvenation.

The Disability Discrimination Act, commendable though it may be, was, after all, a compromise piece of legislation. Since then, it has been disabled people who have maintained the impetus to drive forward further achievements. If the Government is sincere in its commitment to change, it must listen not only to its own watchdog but also to disabled people and their allies.

The Government is understandably concerned at businesses' perception of the potential cost of changes to bring them into line with legislation, but it also demonstrates a lamentable lack of courage and conviction when the costs have already been shown to be negligible.

While I do not share the Government watchdog's level of fury on this matter, backtracking or stalling is not an option. It would be a great shame if Work and Pensions secretary Andrew Smith's initial enthusiasm came to nothing and his department had to admit an inability to face the challenges of a refreshed disability rights movement, with recommendations of the Disability Rights Task Force ending up pushed under the carpet.

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