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  Think of someone with a disability

THINK OF SOMEONE WITH A DISABILITY...   What do you feel? Pity...

guilt... fear? These are widespread feelings. And they are useless. Forget them! Disabled people don’t want them.

They don’t do any good. So what do people with disabilities want? There are lots of ways of finding out. For instance asking them is a good start... Just because something about you doesn’t work properly doesn’t mean that you should be labelled by it.

Some people have impairments. They experience disability. That is, they are prevented from playing a full and equal part in the community because of the barriers society places in their way. They aren’t just physical but also financial, legal and social. Imagine talking to a friend in town, having a drink and minding your own business. And a woman comes up to you, says a few words and drops some money into your coke can.

Well, that’s just one of the joys of using a wheelchair to get around... Or did you know that bars and restaurants can refuse admission to the disabled just because they don’t like the way they look? Bizarre, isn’t it? There are not only the surly waitresses or trains with narrow doors. There are buildings without ramps, pavements with high kerbs, shops with unreachable counters and taxi drivers who will not take guide dogs.     DEFINING DISABILITY   The term “disability” covers a wide range of different functional limitations, which may be physical intellectual or sensory in nature or be linked to a medical condition or mental illness but is also used to refer to the complete or partial loss, by the person affected, of their ability to participate in the life of the community on equal terms with the rest of the population.

It therefore refers to the result of the interaction between the social situation, the expectations of the community and the abilities of the individual. Much of the hostility to anti-discrimination legislation is motivated by an individualistic and medical view of disability. This view seeks to explain the disadvantages experienced by disabled people as simple consequences of their individual physical and functional limitations. According to this definition, discrimination is rare and where it does occur, can be justified. In contrast, disabled people argue that they face discrimination which cannot be justified and that the problems they face are overwhelmingly socially created. They define disability in a different way: the term disability itself represents a complex system of social restrictions imposed on people with impairments by a highly discriminatory society.

To be a disabled person in modern Britain means to be discriminated against. Many people who have physical impairments do not define themselves as disabled, and are not regarded as such by society, because their impairment does not lead to social exclusion. Some impairments – such as short sightedness – can be easily corrected, while others – such as colour blindness – do not prevent people from participating in most areas of society on generally equal terms. All people have different physical and mental capacities which make them more or less suited to achieving different tasks or playing different roles in life, but such differences need not lead to discrimination. All people in all societies are dependent on others and this inter-dependence, of itself, does not prevent each person realising their full potential as an individual and, in doing so, making a contribution to the whole of society. Disability by definition, therefore, is not just a functional limitation but arises from the discrimination that disabled people face.

    THE DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT   ã What the Act does The Disability Discrimination Act brings in new laws and measures aimed at ending the discrimination which many disabled people face. The Act gives disabled people new rights in the areas of: h employment h getting goods and services h buying or renting land or property. The Act requires schools, colleges and universities to provide information for disabled people. It also allows the Government to set minimum standards so that disabled people can use public transport more easily. In addition, the Act sets up the National Disability Council and the Northern Ireland Disability Council to advise the Government on discrimination against disabled people.   ã Who is affected by the Act? Disabled people The Act gives new rights to people who have or have had a disability which makes it difficult for them to carry out normal day to day activities.

The disability could be physical, sensory, or mental. It must also be substantial and have a long-term effect >(that means the disability must last or be expected to last for 12 months). Conditions which have a slight effect on day to day activities, but are expected to become substantial are covered. Severe disfigurement is also classed as a disability. Employers and service providers Employers and people who provide goods and services to the public will have to take reasonable measures to make sure that they are not discriminating against disabled people. Some people will have to take measures both as an employer and as someone who provides goods and services to the public.

Landlords and others who are responsible for letting or selling property People who sell or let property will have to ensure that they do not unreasonably discriminate against disabled people.   ã The new rights for disabled people hWhat employers will have to do It will be against the law for an employer to treat a disabled person less favourably than someone else because of their disability, unless there is good reason. This applies to all employment matters (including recruitment, training, promotion and dismissal). In order to help a disabled person to do the job, employers will have to look at what changes they could make to the workplace or to the way the work is done, and make any changes which are reasonable. Employers will be able to take into account how much the changes would cost and how much they would help, when considering what is reasonable. h Employers who are exempt The employment part of the Act does not apply to employers who employ fewer than 20 people.

However, they will be encouraged to follow good practice guidelines. It also does not apply to operational staff employed in the armed forced, the police, the prison services, the fire services, or to anyone employed on board ships, hovercrafts or aeroplanes. h Changes Goods, facilities, services and property The Act will affect anyone who provides goods, facilities or services to members of the public whether paid or for free. This could range from buying bread in a supermarket, using the facilities in a launderette, or borrowing a book from a public library. Private clubs are not included. Providing the same standard of service to everyone It will be against the law to offer a disabled person a service which is not as good as the service being offered to other people.

For example, it will be against the law for a restaurant owner to insist that a person with a facial disfigurement sits out of the sight of the other customers. Õ Exceptions If the health or safety of the disabled person or other people would be in danger, it would not be against the law to refuse to provide the service to a disabled person or to provide it on different terms. Other exceptions would arise if the customer was not capable of understanding the terms of contact, or if providing the service or the same standard of service would deny service to other customers. Making changes in the way goods, facilities and services are provided It will be unlawful for someone to run a service, or provide goods or facilities, in a way which makes it impossible or unreasonable difficult for a disabled person to use the service for good. For example, a restaurant which does not allow animals will not be able to refuse admission to a disabled person with a guide dog. People will have to provide equipment or other helpful items which will make it easier for disabled people to use their service, if it is reasonable to do so.

For instance, an induction loop might make it easier for people who use hearing aids, or a hand rail for people who find walking up stairs difficult. People will have to remove physical obstructions (for example, widening entrance doors) or provide other ways of letting disabled people use their services, if it is reasonable to do so. h The Northern Disability Council and The Northern Ireland Disability Council They will be independent bodies which will advise the Government on ending discrimination against disabled people; on how well the Act is working; and on whether any changes need to be made. They will also give advice on how to put the new rights about goods and services into place by preparing codes of practice. They will publish an annual report.   ã What the Act means by disability Disability is defined as: A physical or mental impairment1 which has a substantial2 and long-term3 adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities4.

1) impairment The definition covers physical and mental impairments. These include: a) physical impairments affecting the senses, such as sight and hearing b) mental impairments including learning disabilities and mental illness (if it is recognised by a respected body of medical opinion) 2) substantial For an effect to be substantial, it must be more than minor. The following are examples that are likely to be considered substantial: Õ inability to see moving traffic clearly enough to cross a street safely Õ inability to turn taps or knobs Õ inability to remember and relay a simple message correctly 3) long-term These are effects that: ... have lasted at least 12 months / .

.. are likely to last at least 12 months / ... are likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected.

Long-time effects include those which are likely to recur. 4) day-to-day activities Day-to-day activities are normal activities carried out by most people on a regular basis, and must involve one of the following broad categories: Õ mobility – moving from place to place Õ manual dexterity – use of hands Õ physical co-ordination Õ continence Õ the ability to lift, carry or move ordinary objects Õ speech, hearing or eyesight Õ memory, or ability to concentrate, learn or understand Õ being able to recognise physical danger     WHAT IS MEANT BY UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATION   Discrimination occurs when a disabled person is treated less favourably than someone else and: Õ the treatment is given for a reason relating to the person’s disability and that reason does not apply to the other person, and Õ this treatment cannot be justified. Employers must not discriminate against a disabled person in: Õ recruitment and retention of employees Õ promotion and transfers Õ training and development Õ the dismissal process.   ã When less favourable treatment is justified Employers can only justify less favourable treatment towards a disabled person if: Õ such treatment is relevant to the circumstances of the individual case Õ the reason for the treatment is a substantial one. A minor or trivial reason would not count as substantial. Example: An employer could not justify refusing to promote an employee who uses a wheelchair, solely because that person’s new work station would not be wheelchair accessible, if by easily rearranging the furniture the work station could be made accessible.

Example: An employer requires a typist with a particular typing speed, and someone with arthritis in their hands applies for the job, but their typing speed is too slow. The employer must consider whether any reasonable adjustment could be made. If no, the employer would be justified in not employing that person.     DISABILITY ETIQUETTE   People with disabilities, and those who work on their behalf, are increasingly concerned that negative images of disability – and incorrect assumptions about disabled people – can hamper their progress towards equal opportunities at work. Employers committed to good practice in the recruitment and career development of disabled people need to be aware that most of the barriers which the latter face are created by the negative attitudes and misconceptions held by society. These barriers are reinforced by small details of language and behaviour which may seem insignificant but which can reaffirm inaccurate assumptions and cause unnecessary offence.

By recognising this, and by understanding the feelings of disabled people themselves, employers can do much to ensure that their disabled employees can compete and flourish on equal terms in the workplace.   ãTerminology The British Council of Organisations of Disabled People (BCODP) recommends “disabled people”, but as there are many others who prefer “people with disabilities” it is best to ask individuals how they wish to be described. The word “disabled” should not be used as a collective noun i.e. “the disabled”. It implies a homogenous group separate from the rest of society.

We are all individuals: “the disabled” do not constitute a group apart. Never use “the handicapped”!   ã Common courtesies Offer assistance to a disabled person if you feel like it, but wait until your offer is accepted before you help. Do not assume you know the best way of helping – listen to any instruction you are given. Treat adults in a manner befitting adults. For example, call a person by their first name only when extending that familiarity to others present. Do not use gestures more suitable for children, such as patting a wheelchair user on the head.

Do not lean on a person’s wheelchair. The chair is part of the body space of the person who uses it. Make appropriate physical contact with disabled people according to the situation, as you would with any one else. For example, give a handshake or put an arm around the shoulders. Talk directly to a disabled person rather than through a companion. Relax and make eye contact.

Do not be embarrassed about using common expressions such as “See you later” or “I’ll be running along then” which may relate to a person’s impairment. When planning an event, ask advice from disabled people and advertise accessibility. If access and facilities are not clearly described, disabled people may not risk coming because of previous difficulties. Do not make assumptions about the existence or absence of disabilities. Some people have hidden disabilities such as diabetes, or mental health difficulties.   ã Language It is important to gain a general understanding of words and phrases which may give offence to people with disabilities.

There are no hard and fast rules. Employers should try to keep in touch with disabled people and respect their preferences which may change over time. A few things to remember when talking to a disabled person: Many disabled people find the word “handicapped” offensive, as it carries connotations of “cap in hand”. Instead say “person with a disability” or “disabled person”. Medical “labels” are undesirable and often misleading as no two people are alike. Medical labels say little about people as individuals and tend to reinforce stereotypes of disabled people as “patients”, powerless and wholly dependent on the medical profession.

It is dehumanising to refer to a person in terms of condition. Therefore, do not talk about “a spastic” or “an epileptic”. Instead say “he/she has cerebral palsy” or refer to “a person with epilepsy”.   ã Words to be avoided Do not use any words or phrases which invite pity, or reinforce impressions of frailty or dependence. Õ Do not say: “victim of ..

. crippled by ... suffering from ..

. afflicted by ...” Do say: “person who has ..

. person with ... person who experienced ..

.” Õ Do not say: “invalid”. This equates disability with illness, and can be construed as “not valid”. Remember that a wheelchair represents freedom to its user. Õ Do not say: “wheelchair bound” or describe someone as “confined” to a wheelchair. Õ Do say: “wheelchair user” or “person who uses a wheelchair”.

Remember that there are many degrees of deafness, and different methods of communicating such as lip-reading or signing. It is important to be accurate about a person’s degree of deafness and method of communication. For example, some people will have no useful hearing, others will have some degree of useful hearing. Many of these people will have the capacity, with or without a hearing aid, to communicate through speech, listening or lip-reading. Õ Do not say: “he/she is deaf and dumb”. Õ Do say: “he/she is deaf – partially deaf – deafened – hard of hearing”

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