Campaigners have called on the government to back demands for manufactured goods to be covered by new European Union (EU) anti-discrimination laws.
The draft equal treatment directive would extend protection from discrimination on the grounds of disability, age, sexual orientation and religion or belief to the provision of goods and services across the EU.
Currently the UK’s Disability Discrimination Act does not force manufacturers or designers of goods to make reasonable adjustments for different access needs, and neither will the new equality bill.
But campaigners are lobbying the government to push for such a measure to be included in the EU directive.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell and Labour MP Roger Berry – co-chairs of the all-party parliamentary disability group – have written to the government, asking it to back calls for manufactured goods to be included.
But at a meeting of the group this week, Caroline Ellis, joint deputy chief executive of RADAR, said: “We have had a rather unsatisfactory response from Jonathan Shaw (minister for disabled people) saying the government view is regulation is not the way forward. We beg to differ.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Leonard Cheshire Disability are among other organisations to back the inclusion of manufactured goods, according to a new government report that summarises responses to a consultation on the directive.
The report says evidence submitted to the consultation pointed to current access problems such as the lack of DVDs with subtitles, instruction leaflets that were difficult to understand, and inaccessible LCD screens on an increasing number of white goods such as washing machines and microwaves.
In its submission, Disability Law Service said new laws to ensure goods were as accessible as possible would have a “significant impact” on enabling disabled people to “truly participate in society”.
But the government said many respondents had “grave concerns” about the proposal.
It said the CBI, the business lobby organisation, “was just one organisation to argue that not only would the cost be too huge a burden to bear for manufacturers, but that it would also do disproportionate damage to UK competitiveness”.
The government has not published its conclusions about the consultation responses because of the risk of “compromising” EU negotiations.
3 February 2010