Attitudes Towards the the Good Friday Agreement

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					DISABILITY ACTION PLAN
PROMOTING POSITIVE ATTITUDES
TOWARDS DISABLED PEOPLE AND
ENCOURAGING THE PARTICIPATION
OF DISABLED PEOPLE IN PUBLIC LIFE




                                           June 2007
            Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
                                        Temple Court,
                                      39, North Street
                                               Belfast
                                             BT1 1NA

                                   tel: (028) 9024 3987
                                  fax: (028) 9024 7844
                           textphone: (028) 9024 9066
                          email: information@nihrc.org
                                website: www.nihrc.org
                  DISABILITY ACTION PLAN


                                 CONTENTS


                                                                    Page

1.   Introduction                                                  2

        Purpose of the disability action plan                     2

        Commitment                                                2

        Reporting arrangements                                    3

        Functions                                                 4

        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. Introduction

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
    functions.

    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.

1.2 Commitments

    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.


                                                                            2
   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
            Temple Court
            39, North Street
            Belfast
            BT1 1NA

            Telephone:      028 9024 3987

            Textphone:      028 9024 9066

            Fax:            028 9024 7844

            Email:          don.leeson@nihrc.org

            Website:        www.nihrc.org

   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,
   www.nihrc.org.

   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.




                                                                          3
1.4 Functions

   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
       human rights.

      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
       educational activities.

      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
       effectiveness.

      To do all that it can to ensure the establishment of a Joint
       Committee with the Human Rights Commission in the Republic of
       Ireland.

   In addition, under the same section, the Commission has the
   following powers:

      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.

                                                                          4
       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
        investigations.

    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.




                                                                              5
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
         Rights Commission

        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
         disabilities.

     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.




                                                                             6
   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
   Commission‟s guidance.




                                                                           7
                Measures to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people
                and encourage the participation of disabled people in public life


                                                                                               Performance
                  Measures                                 Timescale
                                                                                            indicators / target
Mainstreaming measures


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




                                                                                                                          8
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
access issues


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
positions

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




                                                                                                                   9
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
those fora


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.




                                                                                                                 10
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




                                                                                                                     11
Signed:

Monica McWilliams    Don Leeson
Chief Commissioner   Head of Corporate Services
                     (and Equality Officer)




Date:                Date:




                                                  12
                                                                                                              ANNEX

                                        CONSULTATION RESPONSES

 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.
                    (Cover letter)

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
                                                                        process.

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)




                                                                                                                    13
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
                                                                       Committee.

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
                    points:

                     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.



                                                                                                                       14
                     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
                      disabled people.

                     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.
                    approach.

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.




                                                                                                                     15
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.




                                                                                                              16
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.




                                                                                                        17
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
         text easier.

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
                                                           disabled people.

Mencap   ….. congratulations on the training of greeting   Thank you.
         staff in sign language.



                                         *** *** ***




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