A new report has called for major changes to make it easier for disabled people to enforce their rights to access goods and services.
The Rights and Reality report by Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) says improving access is a “vital step” towards achieving equality for disabled people, while poor access is a “key contributing factor” to disability poverty.
The report says the “major block” to change is the difficulty disabled people face in enforcing their rights under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and challenging discrimination.
Two in five of those questioned in a survey of nearly 1,100 disabled people had experienced problems accessing goods and services in the last year.
But one in five had never heard of the DDA, while another 51 per cent knew little or nothing about it
The survey also found that more than a quarter of disabled people who had experienced difficulty accessing goods and services had taken action to challenge it, such as a formal complaint or not returning to a shop. But only one per cent had taken legal action.
And less than a tenth of those who took action said the organisation had made any improvements.
Among the report’s recommendations, it calls for a review of the effectiveness of the law and work to raise awareness of disabled people’s legal rights.
It says the government, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and other bodies should examine how to improve support for disabled people to take legal cases.
It also calls for a pilot scheme to test out a new system – possibly a form of arbitration hearings – that would be midway between making a complaint to a service provider and taking them to court.
And the report says that the development of the rules and regulations to accompany the new Equality Act – which will replace the DDA – provides an opportunity to tackle some of the problems.
But it also calls on the government to consider setting up equality tribunals to hear legal cases on accessibility.
Guy Parckar, public policy manager for LCD, said that inaccessible goods and services “can contribute directly to the chances of a disabled person living in poverty through barriers to employment, education and other opportunities”.
He added: “Our report demonstrates that only a tiny minority are tackling the issue through legal action.
“The new Equality Act is a golden opportunity to make sure that the law works better for disabled people.”
14 April 2010