A disabled charity worker fears new disability legislation could fall by the wayside because government will run out of time to enact it before the next election.
Keith Fitton, himself a wheelchair user, is service delivery manager for the Leonard Cheshire charity based in Onchan which helps disabled people in the island.
He said a new Equality Act, scheduled for completion in 2016 could well be sidelined by that year’s general election.
On a positive note, he said the proposed Equality Act was an improvement on the Disability Discrimination Act of 2006 (which was never brought into force).
‘Compared to its UK equivalent, our DDA was a watered down version and failed to cover areas like employment and education,’ he said.
‘That’s one reason why I thought the new Equality Act was a good idea. But if it goes through to a new government I can’t imagine it will be high on the agenda of a new Chief Minister.’
In fact, he said businesses had often worried needlessly about the DDA, imagining they would have to invest huge sums of money to comply, when simple measures were often sufficient: ‘I know of a shop in the Wirral where they thought it would cost thousands to build a wheelchair ramp when they simply had to install a door bell at wheelchair height. He gained a lot of new customers who had not been able to shop there before. The requirement is simply to make ‘‘reasonable provision’’,’ Mr Fitton said.
Recently (Independent July 10) the island’s Deaf Champion Gareth Foulkes was left stranded at the Sea Terminal in Douglas after his assistance dog was refused entry to a taxi. Mr Foulkes said legislation would have prevented this. Douglas West MHK Chris Thomas and Douglas South MHK Kate Beecroft will ask questions in Tynwald today (Tuesday) on the progress of disability legislation. A new equality bill goes to public consultation shortly.