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Written Answers. - Needs of the Disabled.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 355. Mr. Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  the measures which exist to ensure that the needs of disabled people are taken into account when legislation is being formulated by the Government; the way in which such needs are incorporated into Government policy and actions of State and semi-State agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24644/02]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The national anti-poverty strategy, NAPS, was revised in February 2002 and includes specific new targets in respect of a range of groups vulnerable to poverty, including people with disabilities. In addressing the specific needs of people with disabilities, one of the overall objectives of the revised NAPS is “to increase the participation of people with disabilities in work and in society generally and to support people with a disability, and their families, to lead full and independent lives”. An increased participation by students with disabilities at third-level, to 1.35% by 2003 and 1.8% by 2006, and improved access to planned respite care for carers of disabled people by 2003, are two aims of the strategy.

A key objective emanating from the NAPS, which is overseen by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, is to develop appropriate baseline data to assist in the establishment of targets and the development of future appropriate measures to address social exclusion for people with disabilities. More generally, the social partnership process provides a means for Government to ensure that the concerns of many and varied interests are taken into account when legislation is being formulated.

Preparatory work within my Department to transpose a number of EU directives relating to employment equality into national legislation, is at present being undertaken in consultation with the social partners, including the community platform of which the Forum for People with Disabilities is a participant organisation. A consultation process on future proposals for disability legislation, in particular the Disability Bill, 2001, is also being undertaken. The expert consultation team has met with key stakeholders, including the Disability Legislation Consultation Group, DLCG, which is a representative group of disability organisations brought together by the NDA to facilitate the process of dialogue within the sector and with the consultation team. [1121] Another key initiative in this context is the policy of mainstreaming services for people with disabilities, which took effect in June 2000. As a result of mainstreaming, each Department and State agency is obliged to take account of the needs of people with disabilities in their planning and delivery of services.

The National Disability Authority, NDA, was established, in conjunction with the introduction of mainstreaming, to assist public and other bodies to take appropriate account of the needs of people with disabilities in regard to access to services and appropriate standards in service provision, and the removal of barriers to equal participation. During 2002, the NDA published guidelines to support accessible public services. These include Ask Me – The NDA Guidelines on Consultation, NDA Web Accessibility Guidelines and Buildings for Everyone.

The Deputy will also wish to note that the Equality Employment Act, 1998, and Equal Status Act, 2000, prohibit direct and indirect discrimination in the workplace and in the area of service provision on nine grounds, including the ground of disability. The term “services” is defined broadly to include access to public places, banking and insurance services, entertainment, travel, transport, professional services, education, disposal of premises and provision of accommodation and private registered clubs. As a result of the equality legislation, the Equality Authority and Office of the Director of Equality Investigations – ODEI, the equality tribunal – have been established as independent statutory agencies to provide a means of redress in individual cases of discrimination as well as promoting awareness of equality issues among employers, service providers and the public generally.

Question No. 356 withdrawn.

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