Bruce Lawson’s personal site

UK government’s new “Office for Disability Issues”

Wolfie Smith, fictional trotskyite, in clenched fist salute David Blunkett, the ex-Home Secretary, is to head up a new Office for disability issues at the end of the year.

This new unit will be responsible for driving action and delivery across the whole of Government and linking with the work of the Disability Rights Commission in ensuring equality across society. Crucially it will be working with organisations of and for people with disabilities, businesses and public services in changing attitudes and facilitating inclusion.

Hopefully, as Blunkett is blind and a bit of a hard bastard, it won’t be a crappy touchy-feely “Let’s all hug a cripple” thing that ignores Web Accessibility.

But why leave that to chance? They’re soliciting your views on what they should do – so if you’re a UK citizen (or subject, or whatever the hell we are) why not request that they tighten up Web Accessibility regulations – maybe they should nag the genteel Disability Rights Commission to initiate a prosecution or two, or ban government departments doing business with inaccessible technology vendors? You can just fill in their questionnaire. We pay their salaries, after all. And if you do send a suggestion, why not copy it here, too?

Power to the people!

Hat-tip to the always-useful monthly round up from Isolani.

5 Responses to “ UK government’s new “Office for Disability Issues” ”

Comment by Cheryl

Hi Bruce,
I just filled in the questionnaire asking them to make sure other government departments practice what they preach and have accessible sites. I’d like to see them bring a test prosecution against a large commercial web site, too. A bank or travel bookers – something to get headlines.

Nice blog!

Comment by pixeldiva

I feel a bit like I’ve been flogging a horse wot’s carked it lately, but…

Organisations can’t currently bring prosecutions against other organisations under the DDA. It’s designed for individuals to take action where they feel they have been discriminated against. The DRC et al can support such individuals by providing advocacy support etc, but it has to be the individual who initiates it and keeps it going.

This is exactly how it should be.

The last thing we need is something that would start up an industry around taking organisations to court, even if in the short term, it might mean a few more accessible sites. In the long term I think it would be damaging to the accessibility cause at large.

Yes, it frustrates me beyond belief that there’s no case law and that sites are still in the largely inaccessible state they’re in, but until an individual is prepared to go through all the stress and hassle of a court case and not accept a settlement mid way, it’s the way it’s going to remain – unless they change the terms of the DDA.

Comment by Bruce

Yeah, thanks Pixeldiva. I was talking about the Ryan Air web site with a solicitor friend, who told me (erroneously) that the DRC could bring prosecutions.

I phoned them up, and they explained that they couldn’t bring a prosecution under the DDA for the reason you state, and that they could no longer give legal assistance to an individual who wished to bring about a private case, because they no longer have a casework unit.

Interestingly, the adviser (Valerie) told me that in any case, they wouldn’t be interested in assisting a case of website inaccessibility, as they’ve preferred to concentrate on cases that would set a precedent that would benefit the majority of people with disabilities, not just an individual.

So, although we bang on about web accessibility and think it’s important, the DRC seem to believe that it’s a marginal issue. Yet they sponsored the British Standards Institute’s Publicly Available Specification on web accessibility.

Yet from what Valerie says, the onus, cost, stress and hassle of bringing about a case for discrimination due to web in accessibility is therefore entirely the responsibility of the individual affected, with no assistance from the DRC (“Our goal: a society where all disabled people can participate fully as equal citizens”).

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