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Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.

Disability action plans - examples


What you need to know

Disability Action PlansGood practice examples for Public Authorities

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (“DDA”) Section 49A requires designated public authorities to have due regard to the need, to promote positive attitudes towards disabled persons, and to encourage participation by disabled persons in public life. This duty is supported by an obligation to have a disability action plan, showing how a public authority proposes to fulfill the disability duties in relation to their functions.

The following examples highlight good practice work undertaken by public authorities, in respect of the disability duties, with a view to informing and encouraging other authorities to take similar action.

Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE)

NI Housing Executive
Having identified that 30% of their service users have a disability, the NIHE established a Disability Forum in conjunction with Disability Action. Tony Steed, Equality Unit Manager at the NIHE explains how the Forum assists them to implement their disability duties and promote good practice:
  • Disability Action were engaged when the disability duties were first introduced to assist the NIHE to increase positive attitudes towards disabled people and encourage participation by disabled people in public life 
  • One of the recommendations suggested enhancing the consultation and participation process which led to the establishment of the Forum. The Forum developed a rolling strategic plan targeting key areas of housing service with a view to advising, informing, and ultimately improving outcomes for service users with disabilities
  • The Disability Forum is funded by the NIHE and is comprised of 12 to 15 members providing user representation across the range of disability areas
  • The Forum’s main focus is to provide a consultative forum through which the NIHE can decide how best to consider the particular needs of disabled people in their various roles
  • The NIHE is of the view that the Forum, by providing an opportunity for the sharing of ideas between the NIHE and disabled people, has contributed to disability considerations being given a more central role in their housing policy work.


Northern Ireland Assembly

NI Assembly
Maria Bannon, Equality Manager, explains the work of the Northern Ireland Assembly in relation to their provision of training on the disability duties:
  • The Assembly’s disability training has focused on increasing staff awareness of disability issues including the disability duties
  • The aim of this training has been to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people. In particular, the Assembly has focused training on ‘Front Line’ staff as they are the most likely to engage directly with the public
  • The training has focused specifically on the area of autism which is a priority consideration for the Assembly
  • To consolidate the Assembly’s work in relation to autism, the Assembly appointed a number of autism champions whose role is to promote equality for people with autism within the wider context of the Assembly.  These champions have assisted service users with autism to gain an understanding of the Assembly’s work and play a positive role in publicising the Assembly’s commitment to equality of opportunity for disabled people.


Department of Trade and Industry (DETI)

Within DETI there is a focused outreach plan, which aims to raise awareness of public appointments amongst disability groups, explains Catherine Synnott, Public Appointments Liaison Officer at DETI:
  • DETI is responsible for making non-executive board appointments to four Non-Departmental Public Bodies; (a) Invest Northern Ireland, (b) Tourism Northern Ireland, (c) Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and (d) Consumer Council for Northern Ireland
  • DETI's procedures for making appointments are designed to comply with the Commissioner for Public Appointments, Northern Ireland (CPANI) Code of Practice (pdf). Consequently, DETI has an important role in encouraging participation by disabled people in public life
  • DETI representatives sit on the Public Appointment Forum, a liaison group of officials from all 12 government departments tasked with developing best practice in public appointments across the Northern Ireland Civil Service. The Public Appointment Forum is currently working on ways to implement the 26 recommendations made by the CPANI in his January 2014 report on Under Representation and Lack of Diversity in Public Appointments in NI (pdf)
  • DETI has shared a number of initiatives with the Public Appointment Forum including; promoting documentation relating to all competitions in accessible formats, proactively informing applicants of their right to a reasonable adjustment, using welcoming statements in respect of disabled people, issuing advance notification of forthcoming competitions to disability groups and automatically emailing application packs to disability groups on the same date as the public advertisement appears
  • In direct response to the CPANI report, DETI has; run a trial for a Guaranteed Interview Scheme for disabled applicants, offered a choice of criteria for applicants in order to widen the pool and used ‘prompt questions’ within the application form to guide applicants on the types of evidence required;
  • The impact of these various measures is being monitored and will be evaluated and disseminated as the results become clearer.


Queens University Belfast (QUB)

Paul Browne
Paul Browne, Equality Manager, at QUB outlines their Inclusive Employment Scheme, which includes positive action in employment for people with disabilities:
  • The aim of the Scheme is to provide disabled people with the opportunity to build up confidence, gain new work related skills and enhance their employment record to increase their job opportunities. The Scheme was developed in conjunction with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Department for Education and Learning and derived from the University’s commitment to disabled people, as set out in their Disability Action Plan
  • Funding for 50% of the salary costs was secured from the human resource budget and after a series of meetings and presentations, 12 schools and directorates from across the University agreed to pay the balance of the costs, thus securing full funding for the initiative
  • The individuals on placement were identified by a number of disability umbrella organisations thus gaining support from key stakeholder groups. The Programme was launched by the Minister for Employment and Learning, Dr. Stephen Farry in May 2014
  • The positions offered paid employment lasting 11 months and were spread across the entire university. Feedback has been very positive and the scheme, in a modified format, was repeated for a second year in September/October 2015.

The Business Services Organisation (BSO)

Business Services Organisation
The BSO outlines how e-training provision is helping some health and social care organisations promote their equality duties. Sandra Rafferty, Equality Business Partner at BSO explains that:
  • The e-training programme assists health and social care organisations to train all of their staff on disability issues
  • One of the aims of the e-training is to promote a more positive attitude towards disabled people
  • Disabled people were actively involved in the development of the disability section of the training programme
  • In addition, the training relates to the personal experiences of disabled people, in accessing health and social care services and employment
  • The training identifies negative assumptions that are commonly held about disabled people and challenges staff in a practical and evidence-based way
  • The training also explains health and social care organisations’ commitment to an inclusive workplace and looks at how specific services can be delivered to meet the needs of disabled customers
  • The training is regularly evaluated to ensure that it meets its core aims and objectives.

Matthew McDermott
BSO provides equality advice and support to the Office of Research Ethics Committees Northern Ireland (ORECNI). Matthew McDermott, Equality Manager from BSO explains the role of positive action measures and equality monitoring systems in developing a strategy to address the underrepresentation of disabled people on ethics committees:
  • A monitoring exercise conducted in 2009 indicated that there were no members of the ethics committees that self-identified as having a disability. This information strengthened ORECNI’s commitment to introduce an Action Plan designed to encourage greater participation by disabled people on these committees
  • The Plan included a commitment for ORECNI to actively encourage applications for membership from disabled people by informing representative groups of advertisements for ethics committee posts, and by sharing information on the work of these committees with these groups
  • The monitoring system, which was quantitative in nature, played an important part in identifying the problem of too few disabled people on ethics committees but was also essential in assessing the effectiveness of the action plan measures
  • Following an equality monitoring exercise, an analysis of the data demonstrated that the positive action measures taken had been successful as there has been a 5% increase in members of ethics committees with a self-declared disability
  • Dr Siobhan McGrath, Head of ORECNI commented, ‘I am pleased that this targeted approach has increased the representation of persons with a disability as members on the health and social care research ethics committees. It is important that participants in medical and social care research reflect the general population, including people with a disability.’

The Department of Education (DE)

Dept of Education
The Department of Education (DE) set up a Special Education and Inclusion Review Team to review the Department’s provision of special education needs and inclusion. As part of that the Team adopted a Consultation Strategy to ensure its compliance with the Sections 49A and 49B duties during their review. The strategy included the following actions:
  • The Team engaged with some experts in the field, such as the Equality Commission, during the initiation phase of the review and in advance of its formal consultation phase. This allowed the disability and other equality issues to be considered at the earliest stage of the policy development process
  • The Team employed a range of consultation methodologies, including individual meetings, public meetings and the establishment of advisory groups. Additional consultation tools were adopted as required during the consultation process; including road shows, which were advertised in the local press and liaison with reference groups. These were designed to explain complex areas of policy in a manner which everyone would understand
  • DE extended the formal consultation period twice in order to take on board the views of consultees and the consultation process developed organically to facilitate consultees’ opinions 
  • The engagement with key stakeholders, including the Education Committee, resulted in amended policy proposals, creating confidence amongst consultees that the Department had listened to their views. DE also produced a comprehensive analysis outlining the extent to which they had taken on board the views of consultees.

South West College

Tom Brady
Tom Bradley, Equality Officer at the South West College explains how the College works with disabled students as part of its commitment to the disability duties and its good relations duty:
  • To show its commitment to the disability duties and its Section 75 good relations duty, the College supported the development of a good relations team. The team consists of nine members with learning difficulties and other disabilities who are enrolled on a variety of courses in the College
  • During recent years the South West College has been providing staff and students with workshops highlighting equality legislation and the importance of inclusiveness and good relations. There has been a particular focus on the disability and section 75 duties and the group has sought to combine the two in its training and wider work
  • The work done by members of the team is part of the College's commitment to embedding diversity in College life and encouraging a culture of inclusiveness. The group interacts with students and staff with a view to changing perceptions about disabled people and what they can achieve
  • The South West College finds that this work is changing attitudes towards disabled students and disabled people more widely.  Stereotypical assumptions are being replaced by an understanding that disabled people can make a similar contribution to those without disabilities to the overall work of the college and how it is perceived in the wider community.
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