DISABILITY ACTION PLAN
PROMOTING POSITIVE ATTITUDES
TOWARDS DISABLED PEOPLE AND
ENCOURAGING THE PARTICIPATION
OF DISABLED PEOPLE IN PUBLIC LIFE
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
39, North Street
tel: (028) 9024 3987
fax: (028) 9024 7844
textphone: (028) 9024 9066
DISABILITY ACTION PLAN
1. Introduction 2
Purpose of the disability action plan 2
Reporting arrangements 3
Public life positions 5
2. Previous measures 6
3. Action measures 7
Annex – Consultation responses 13
This document will be made available in an alternative format
(such as in large print, in Braille, on audio cassette, easy read
or on computer disk) and/or language – contact details to
discuss your requirements are given on page 3.
It is also available on the Commission‟s website www.nihrc.org.
1.1 Purpose of the disability action plan
Under Section 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA
1995) (as amended by Article 5 of the Disability Discrimination
(Northern Ireland) Order 2006), the Northern Ireland Human Rights
Commission (“the Commission”) is required when carrying out its
functions to have due regard to the need to:
promote positive attitudes towards disabled people; and
encourage participation by disabled people in public life
(‘the disability duties’).
Under Section 49B of the DDA 1995, the Commission is also required
to submit to the Equality Commission a disability action plan
showing how it proposes to fulfil these duties in relation to its
Note: Throughout this document we have used the term „disabled
people‟ to reflect the Commission‟s belief in the social model of
disability (i.e. that it is the barriers that society puts in place,
rather than the nature and severity of any impairment, that
truly dis–able people). However, we appreciate that this
might not be the preferred term of some readers.
The Commission is committed to implementing effectively the
disability duties and this disability action plan. We will allocate all
necessary resources (in terms of people, time and money) in order to
implement this plan effectively, and we will build objectives and
targets relating to the disability duties into our three–year strategic
plans and annual business plans.
We will also put arrangements in place to ensure that the disability
duties are complied with. Responsibility for operationalising and
monitoring this plan lies with the Head of Corporate Services, who
will report progress regularly to the Commission and its Equality
Committee. We will ensure that our staff and Commissioners are
familiar with the plan and will give them all necessary training and
guidance on the disability duties and the implementation of the plan.
The Commission will also consult with disabled people and disability
groups when implementing and reviewing this action plan and other
key issues affecting them.
The person responsible for implementing, reviewing and evaluating
this disability action plan and the point of contact within the
Commission will be:
Don Leeson – Head of Corporate Services
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
39, North Street
Telephone: 028 9024 3987
Textphone: 028 9024 9066
Fax: 028 9024 7844
If you require this plan in an alternative format (such as in large
print, in Braille, on audio cassette, easy read or on computer disk)
and/or in a different language, please contact the above person to
discuss your requirements.
1.3 Reporting arrangements
We confirm our commitment to submitting an annual progress report
on the implementation of this plan to the Equality Commission and
carrying out a five year review of this plan, or plans submitted to the
Equality Commission over the five year review period. A copy of this
plan, our annual progress to the Equality Commission and our five
year review of this plan will be made available on our website,
Progress in implementing the action measures, and achievement of
the associated performance indicators, will also be reported in the
Commission‟s Annual Report and Accounts, which has to be approved
by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and laid before
Parliament, and is distributed widely to stakeholders and published on
the Commission‟s website.
The Commission is a body which was provided for in the Belfast
(Good Friday) Agreement of 1998 and which was formally established
under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 on 1 March 1999. The
Commission is a non–departmental public body, funded by the
Northern Ireland Office, but otherwise independent from Government.
It is accountable, through the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,
to Parliament at Westminster and is subject to oversight by the UK
Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.
Under section 69 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Commission
has the following duties:
To keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness in
Northern Ireland of law and practice relating to the protection of
To advise the Secretary of State and the Executive Committee of
the Northern Ireland Assembly of legislative and other measures
which ought to be taken to protect human rights.
To advise the Northern Ireland Assembly whether a Bill is
compatible with human rights.
To promote understanding and awareness of the importance of
human rights in Northern Ireland by, for example, undertaking
or commissioning or otherwise assisting research and
To provide advice to the Secretary of State on the scope for
defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to
those in the European Convention on Human Rights.
To make to the Secretary of State within two years such
recommendations as it thinks fit for improving the Commission's
To do all that it can to ensure the establishment of a Joint
Committee with the Human Rights Commission in the Republic of
In addition, under the same section, the Commission has the
To give assistance to individuals who apply to it for help in
relation to proceedings involving law or practice concerning the
protection of human rights.
To bring proceedings involving law or practice concerning the
protection of human rights.
To conduct such investigations as it considers necessary or
expedient for the purpose of exercising its other functions.
To publish its advice and the outcome of its research and
The Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 has enhanced
the powers of the Commission, particularly in respect of its powers of
investigation, to allow the Commission access to places of detention
and give it the power to compel the production of documents.
Further details of the objectives of the Commission can be found in its
three–year Strategic Plan and current year‟s Business Plan, and
details of activities carried out to date can be found in its Annual
Reports. These documents are available in hard copy, and in
languages other than English, in Braille, on audio tape or in large
print, from the Commission‟s offices. They are also available from
the Commission‟s website – www.nihrc.org.
1.5 Public life positions
The Commission currently comprises one full–time Chief
Commissioner and nine part–time Commissioners. These are public
appointments made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
At present, the Commission has one visibly disabled Commissioner,
although their appointment is due to end on 30 November 2007.
The Commission is not currently a permanent member of any
representative body, but – from time to time – the Commission is
invited to participate in working groups formed by other public
bodies, such as government departments. The Commission will use
its influence in such fora to raise issues concerning the participation
of disabled people where under–representation is apparent.
2. Previous measures
The Commission has always worked closely with disabled people and
disability groups. Notable examples include:
the ongoing development of its advice to the government in
respect of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, which has – and
will continue to – take fully into account the views of disabled
people. For example, representatives from RNIB and RNID were
represented on the Bill of Rights Language Rights Working
Group; the Commission provided training on the Bill of Rights to
disability organisations; Commissioners and staff met with
disability organisations to take views, including from people with
mental ill health and learning disabilities; and an advertising
campaign on the Bill of Rights included the first signed
advertisement in Northern Ireland.
convening the Human Rights and Equality Sub–Group of the
Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability
lobbying for the removal of barriers to access to mainstream
education for disabled children and students and improvements
to the DDA in respect of schools, colleges and universities
promoting awareness of the new United Nations‟ Convention on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including hosting a
seminar in December 2006, jointly with Disability Action and the
Equality Commission, with a guest speaker from the Irish Human
holding a symposium for leading academics and practitioners to
identify human rights issues in respect of health provision, which
included a session on issues affecting disabled people. This
event will be followed–up with a major international conference
on health and human rights in 2008
working in partnership with Mencap to develop human rights
training for practitioners working with people with learning
The Commission also has long standing relationships with key
stakeholders in the disability sector, including Disability Action, RNID,
the North West Forum of People with Disabilities, Carers Northern
Ireland, and Mencap.
As an employer and service provider, the Commission has invested
substantially in making its services accessible to disabled people.
This has included:
A major refurbishment project, over three years from 2004, to
further improve accessibility of the Commission‟s offices at
Temple Court, North Street, Belfast, in line with best practice
Installation of a textphone (028 9024 9066)
Redesigning the Commission‟s corporate style, which includes
positive images of disabled people, and providing business cards
with a section in Braille
Redesigning the Commission‟s website – www.nihrc.org – so that
it complies with specifications in respect of accessibility
The use of accessible venues only for public events that we hold,
and human rights training courses we deliver, across Northern
Ireland, always ensuring that British and Irish sign language
interpreters are available as requested and checking with
participants for other requirements
Monitoring applications for employment with the Commission,
and attendance at Commission events, by disabled people and
reporting results to the Commission
Making all publications available in other formats
The adoption of a style guide for internal written
communications, which incorporates guidance in respect of font
and point sizes.
This action plan enables the Commission‟s ongoing commitment to
disability rights to be articulated in a single document, makes it
easier for the Commission to account to disabled people and the
disability sector for its work to promote disability equality, and
evaluate the effectiveness of this work.
3. Action measures
The action measures that the Commission intends to take over the
next few years are set out below in respect of its disability duties.
The measures are grouped under headings suggested in the Equality
Measures to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people
and encourage the participation of disabled people in public life
indicators / target
Ensure that, through the Commission‟s The timescale for the submission Advice given to the Secretary of
advice to the Secretary of State for Northern of the Commission‟s advice on a State
Ireland on a Bill of Rights, the requirement Bill of Rights is dependent on the
to promote and protect the human rights of work of Bill of Rights Forum of Level of compliance of the Bill of
disabled people is addressed appropriately in representatives of local political Rights with international
line with international standards parties and civil society, which standards
was established by Government
in December 2006
Develop an „easy read‟ guide to the Human To be published by autumn 2007 Positive feedback on accessibility
Rights Act of the guide
Explore with key stakeholders in the Exploratory discussions Initiation of outreach activity if
disability sector the potential of outreach completed by February 2008 feasible
work to raise awareness of human rights
with greater numbers of disabled people Level of awareness among
disabled people of human rights
Install an SMS text number for the SMS text number installed by Increased level of contacts to the
Commission to further improve accessibility December 2007 Commission
for deaf people, and others
Training and guidance for staff and office holders
Ensure that all Commissioners and staff All Commissioners and staff to High levels of awareness as
have received disability equality training, so receive disability equality assessed through post–training
that they understand disability rights and training by end March 2008 evaluation
Train Corporate Services Team members, Training to be begin by end At least two members of staff
who greet visitors to the Commission, in March 2008 assessed as competent in the
basic sign language use of sign language
Measures relating to the recruitment, selection and participation of disabled people in public life
Make representations to the Northern Representations made by At least one disabled person
Ireland Office to adopt positive action summer 2007 actively involved in the
measures to encourage applications from Commission, and its committees
disabled people when recruiting successors and working groups
for two Commissioners whose terms of office
end on 30 November 2007
In light of the new appointments to the Scoping exercise completed by At least one disabled person
Commission, to review the composition of March 2008 actively involved in the
the Commission, and its committees and Commission, and its committees
working groups, in respect of the and working groups
representation of disabled people, and
consider ways of co–opting disabled people
to address any under representation in
Offer work placements each year to disabled Annually At least one disabled student
students undertakes a work placement in
the Commission each year
Survey Commissioners and staff each year Annually Disabled Commissioners and
to update equality monitoring information, staff and/or requirements for
which provides an opportunity for disabilities reasonable adjustments
to be declared and/or reasonable identified
adjustments to be identified.
Recruitment of disabled employees
Put in place positive action measures to Positive action measures Positive action measures in place
encourage applications from disabled people implemented by December 2007
when recruiting new staff, including a Increase in the number of
statement on all advertisements welcoming disabled people employed by the
applications from disabled people, Commission
guaranteeing interviews to all disabled
people who meet the essential criteria
specified for each vacant post, and using
disability networks to circulate job vacancies
Measures which encourage others to adopt / promote positive attitudes towards disabled people
Promote the effective implementation in Scope further work to promote UK‟s signature and ratification of
Northern Ireland of the UN Convention on the Convention by end 2008; the UN Convention on the Rights
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities participate actively in the UN of Persons with Disabilities
network of National Human
Rights Institutions working on
this issue as opportunities arise
Review opportunities with relevant partners Promotional and arts strategy Positive images of disabled
to promote positive images of disabled developed by March 2008 people used
people, through short films and pod casts on
human rights themes, and in the
development of an arts strategy
Monica McWilliams Don Leeson
Chief Commissioner Head of Corporate Services
(and Equality Officer)
Respondent Comment Commission response
Disability Action Disability Action welcomes the Commission‟s Noted – thank you.
comments on alternative formats being placed
in a prominent position in its communication.
Disability Action It would have been helpful if the Noted – we will consider this for future
documentation had indicated which consultations. However, while targeting can
stakeholders the Commission intends to be helpful, we would not wish to dissuade
target. (Consultation process document) anyone from participating in the consultation
Disability Action We welcome the indication of the Noted – thank you.
Commission‟s acceptance of the social model
of disability. (Page 2, section 1.1. note)
Disability Action Disability Action believes that it is appropriate Agreed – the paragraph has been modified
to build objectives and targets into all areas of accordingly.
the Commission‟s strategic and annual
business plans. We advise that the phrase
“where appropriate” should be removed.
(Page 2, section 1.2 para)
Disability Action We would ask for clarification of who decided The paragraph has been revised to make it
on the “appropriateness” of internal clear that the internal arrangements refer to
arrangements and on what criteria such responsibility for operationalising and
decisions are made. (Page 2, section 1.2, 2nd monitoring the plan being with the Head of
para) Corporate Services, who will report progress
regularly to the Commission and its Equality
Disability Action We believe the section on public life positions, The paragraph has been revised to give an
while factually correct, is stated very baldly. undertaking that the Commission will use its
The Commission should list the representative influence in such fora to raise issues
bodies on which it has a formal seat and those concerning the participation of disabled people
more informal arrangements and make a where under–representation is apparent.
commitment to promote the inclusion of
disabled people in such public life positions.
(Page 5, section 1.5)
Disability Action In relation to the draft Disability Action Plan
Disability Action would make the following
We commend the mainstreaming measures. Noted – thank you.
The timescale for the measures regarding We believe that the timeframe of “by end
disability equality training and the beginning March 2008” is realistic given the resource
of basic sign language should be shortened constraints facing a small organisation such as
to December 2007 and September 2007. ours. However, the phrasing allows for the
training to begin earlier, which we will
endeavour to achieve if space can be found.
We commend the measures to encourage Noted – thank you.
disabled people to apply for Commissioner
posts and to review the composition of the
Commission and its committees and working
groups in relation to the representation of
We believe the measure on the recruitment We do not agree that there is such a
of disabled employees is already a duty requirement in the DDA. Nevertheless, we
under Part 11 of the Disability Discrimination would prefer to retain the action, so that it
Act and advise that it be removed from the provides a mechanism to monitor and report
plan. progress in this important area.
We welcome the final measure and its creative Noted – thank you.
Disability Action We further advise the Commission to include Section 1.2 has been revised to include our
information on how it plans to monitor and intended monitoring and reporting
review/revise the plan and to consider how it arrangements.
presents the strategic outcomes it has
identified in relation to the draft plan.
Individual …..nowhere within the text have you outlined The action plan is in response to a new
on what basis you are using the word requirement under the Disability Discrimination
"disabled". Are you using it in the context of Act. Therefore the definition of “disability” is
the Disability Discrimination Act 1995? If so that used by the DDA. This definition includes
are you including those with mental disabilities physical, mental and sensory impairments.
as well as those with physical disabilities? While the Commission recognises that people
Mental disability is something which is very with mental ill health or learning disabilities
close to my heart and although I agree that face particular barriers in society, and we are
both groups are underrepresented at all levels working extensively in this area, we do not feel
of our community, I do feel that both should that separating out different types of disability
be treated as separate entities. Is this is necessary in our Disability Action Plan. This
something that the Commission would is because all the measures we propose taking
consider? in the plan apply equally to people facing
different types of disability.
Mencap Existing good practice on disability issues Section 2 has been amended to include the
should be highlighted ….. the Malone House Health Symposium and more details about the
event on the Convention and the Disability seminar on the new UN Convention.
input to the Health Symposium. I'm sure you
have much more.
Mencap There is a cultural issue around disabilities A new measure has been included in the action
among your existing staff that all orgs have to plan to cover the collection of updated equality
face. At [organisation name removed] disabled monitoring information from Commissioners
staff were invited to the consultation and were and staff on an annual basis.
critical of the organisation because they did
not make it easier for staff to declare
disabilities. They felt that their promotion
prospects and job enhancement opportunities
would be affected if they declared. You also
have your Commissioners to consider as well.
I'm sure you go out of your way on this one,
but looking for some way for staff to declare a
disability can improve conditions for staff and
improve the corporate product.
Mencap Positive statements at application stage of the The Commission‟s recruitment documentation
application process are important to encourage will include encouragement for disabled people
applicants to talk about reasonable to apply for posts and identify any reasonable
adjustments. adjustments they might require.
Mencap Not sure what you mean by MAKATON which I The reference to Makaton has been replaced
understand as a physically signed language with easy read.
support. There are written symbol equivalents
for words ….. However, experience of people
using publications using the symbols as an
alternative to words is that they are just
confusing. Easy read tends to use written
words with symbols, graphics and photographs
to present whole ideas and make following a
Mencap What about including a line on supporting the Section 2 has been amended to reflect the
training of disabled people in Human Rights? Commission‟s practice of ensuring that venues
for human rights training are accessible and
our work with Mencap to develop human rights
training for practitioners working with people
with learning disabilities. Moreover, we
envisage that the action measure relating to
greater outreach work will encompass human
rights training aimed specifically aimed at
Mencap ….. congratulations on the training of greeting Thank you.
staff in sign language.
*** *** ***