When exercising their functions public authorities must have due regard to:
- promote positive attitudes towards disabled people, and
- encourage participation by disabled people in public life.
This helps eliminate ignorance and prejudice towards disabled people. Whilst many people have positive attitudes towards disabled people, some express pity, fear, lack of respect and/or contempt. Negative attitudes can result in disabled people being rejected, avoided or subjected to physical or verbal attacks, jokes, bullying or other harassment. It can also result in their being rejected for jobs. Such behaviour can have a serious and long term impact on the lives of disabled people.
These duties apply to all public authorities subject to Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (see designated authorities)
Promoting positive attitudes can include taking steps to portray disabled people in a positive role, as well as taking steps to eliminate ignorance and prejudice towards disabled people.
Encouraging disabled people’s participation in public life can include taking measures to involve disabled people in public policy decision making, as well as encouraging their participation in political life (e.g. as members of consultative forums, as elected representatives or as voters).
The duties can make a substantial and tangible difference to the lives of a large number of disabled people in Northern Ireland. Public authorities can also benefit from implementing the disability duties.
The duties apply to all disabled people. When implementing the duties, the full diversity of disabled people should be considered, (in terms of type of impairment as well as other dimensions e.g. race, age, gender etc). The fact that a disabled person may have multiple disabilities should also be taken into account.
Although both the disability duties and the existing disability duty under Section 75 are mainstreaming duties, there are differences.
Yes, an equality scheme shows how a public authority proposes to fulfil its duties under Section 75, which relates to the promotion of equality of opportunity and the promotion of good relations. In contrast, a disability action plan has a much narrower focus relating to the need to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people and encourage the participation of disabled people in public life.
There are also differences as regards the way in which the disability duties and the duties under Section 75 are enforced. If a public authority fails to submit a disability action plan to the Equality Commission, the Commission must report that failure to the Assembly. An individual can also make a complaint against a public authority arising out of its alleged failure to comply with an equality scheme, or the Equality Commission can carry out an investigation if it believes that a public authority may have failed to comply with its scheme.
- mainstream the duties
- prepare a disability action plan and submit it to the Equality Commission
- report annually on the implementation of their plans
- review their plans every 5 years.
We recommend that public authorities consult on their action plans, allowing a period of at least 2 months for the consultation period. The consultation should be inclusive, targeted and use appropriate methods.
Public authorities should also put in place the following important mechanisms for successful compliance with the duties:
- focusing on effective change
- partnership working
- procurement; and
- provision of disability equality generally.
For further information download our guide for public authorities: