Strategies for Change

Disability Equality

Why is the Equality Legislation Important

The law can be a useful tool to advance equality for all – see Guide to the Law in Relation to Disability.pdf for more information. However, in recent years  we have seen a drop in disabled people using the law to ensure there rights are being met whether at work; at home; or in accessing public and private services.

Hence our Government have given a commitment to examine the introduction of a disadvantaged socio-economic status ground and to evaluate its equality legislation generally. This will present another opportunity for them to act as European leaders in promoting equality and combating discrimination.

Discrimination involves treating a person less favourably than somebody else in a similar situation, because of one of the following 9 grounds; Gender; Civil status; Family status; Sexual orientation; Religion; Age; Disability; Race; or a Member of the Traveller Community.

It is worth noting that sometimes, discrimination can happen based on a number of different grounds, at the same time. For example, you could be a disabled person that is a member of the travelling community and refused entry into a restaurant, you could be a disabled woman who is experiencing sexual harassment at work, the list could go on and on.

Discrimination can be separated into a number of different types.
  1. Direct discrimination: when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of who they are
  2. Indirect discrimination: when someone does something, decides something or has a rule that affects some people worse than others
  3. Discrimination by association; when a person is treated less favourably because they are associated with or connected to another person who comes under the 9 grounds.
Other important things to know about discrimination include:
  • Being Victimised; this happens when a person is treating someone unfairly because they have complained or spoken up about something
  • Being Harassed; means picking on someone or upsetting them.
    This includes things like telling jokes about a person’s religion or belief and making them feel ashamed or stupid
  • Being Sexual Harassed; is any form of unwanted verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
  • Reasonable Accommodation can be defined as some modification to tasks or the structure of a job or the workplace at nominal cost which allows a qualified disabled employee to fully do their job and enjoy equal employment opportunities.

Reasonable Accommodation can vary from something as simple as rearranging office furniture, to providing Assistive Technology or providing for changes to a person’s working hours – see Disability in the University and I have an issue with a service for additional information.

Advice from Eilis
  • Equality Legislation needs to be used to give it strength
  • Disabled people need to be supported to bring claims
  • Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission – provides information about equality legislation and can support people to take cases
  • Legal Aid Board – state resource to provide assistance in relation for e.g. poverty or family issues – does not provide legal aid regarding discrimination claims
  • FLAC – provides information and advice, can get support in relation to employment law, can help disabled peoples groups/organisations in relation to issues that they may need legal advice or support with, see legal casework examples below that FLAC have supported in the past –
  • Need a dedicated specific Disability Rights Centre to support disabled people to use the equality legislation that we have – this is an equality issue – needs to be addressed immediately – the SFC activists would like to address this issue – would be an amazing resource – badly needed – essential – dismantle the systemic discrimination and oppression – highlight disabled peoples issues, educate law professionals in relation to disability equality, highlight barriers that disabled people face
  • FLAC will come knocking at ILMI’s door shortly in supporting them to review the legal aid service regarding disability inequality and discrimination
  • Our Irish Constitution needs to include Disability Equality Rights – needs Disability Activists To Campaign
  • EU law is a better source of protection than our Irish equality legislation – employers for example have to take appropriate measures, where needed in a particular case, to enable a disabled person to have access to, participate in, or advance in employment, or to undergo training, unless such measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer.

Disproportionate burden = a serious financial burden, also looks at size of company etc…

There was a unanimous agreement that the definition of disability in our Equality Legislation is very broad – includes all types of impairment conditions – total medical model of disability – very controversial – conditions include:

Depression, reactive depression, stress, anxiety and depression, severe generalized anxiety disorder, alcoholism, claustrophobia agoraphobia, schizophrenia, anorexia, phobia. Epilepsy, wheelchair user, Amputated leg, scarring on the face, facial disfigurement, back injury, maxillary osteoma, ulcerative colitis, Whip lash injury, serious neck injuries, visual impairment, high myopia and bilateral amblyopia, hearing aid user, profound deafness, diabetes, cerebral palsy, Fredericks’ ataxia, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, vertigo, osteoarthritis, autoimmune disease of the liver, HIV status, paraplegia, intellectual disability, fibromyalgia, ADHD, dyslexia, Down’ syndrome, low BMI, a number of digits missing from limbs, broken toe.

SFC Activists want to change this definition to the Social Model of Disability  – “Collective Barriers”
  1. Huge issue – Accessible toilets in pubs – building control regulators do not want to know
  2. SOMETHING YOU CAN DO – make an objection when pubs are reviewing there licence’s if they are not accessible, this review happens every year.
  3. UNCRPD needs to guide future changes to Disability Equality Law – making it Constitutional.
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