Survey finds 70% of disabled people unaware of their rights

A new survey, to mark the Equality Act, has found that 20 per cent have never heard of the DDA; a further 51 per cent said they knew little or nothing about it.

Earlier this month, parliament passed the Equality Bill; this will now become the Equality Act, replacing the Disability Discrimination Act. To mark their support for the new act, Leonard Cheshire Disability released a report, “Rights and Reality“. This was based on a survey more than 1,000 disabled people conducted by Ipsos MORI and included 15 in-depth interviews with disabled people.

The report examines disabled people’s experiences of accessing goods and services, and the extent to which disabled people have been able to enforce their rights through the DDA. “Rights and Reality” also makes recommendations as to how the Equality Act can be made to work effectively for disabled people.

It found that:

Forty per cent were able to identify difficulties they had experienced accessing goods and services in the last 12 months; a quarter believe that this discrimination was related to their impairment.

• Public transport appears to need most improvement, with 16% reporting difficulties using this service.

The survey also asked interviewees about their knowledge of the law, finding:

Twenty per cent have never heard of the DDA; a further 51 per cent said they knew little or nothing about it.

Only 28 per cent of people who had experienced difficulties accessing goods and services had taken action to challenge this. Just 12 per cent of these people made formal complaints to the organisations involved, with a mere 1 per cent taking legal action.

Just one of the 15 disabled people interviewed had taken legal action against a service provider. Asked how service providers had responded to the action taken, 47 per cent stated there had either been no outcome yet or the service provider did nothing at all, while nine per cent stated the organisation had made improvements in its provision of services.

• More than three quarters thought service providers would make improvements if concerned about legal action. However, only 42 per cent felt they knew enough about the law to be able to challenge unfair treatment.

• Fifty seven per cent said they didn’t think they would be able to afford legal action if they felt unfairly treated.

The report recommends that awareness must be raised among disabled people of their rights under the law, and that the Government and the EHRC will need to work with service providers to raise awareness of their legal obligations around providing equal access.

It is to be hoped all relevant organisations, government authorities and service providers take note of these findings, and the Equality Act leads to improved equality for disabled people in all areas.

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