I have answered the following questions in relation to Further Education (FE) Colleges in the UK.
Has the introduction of standards, guidelines and legislation led to a significant improvement in accessibility?
The three main legislation’s that effect accessibility in FE colleges in the UK are the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) (1995), the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) (2001) and the Disability Equality Duty (DED) (2006).The DED requires FE and HE institutions to have a Disability Equality Scheme (DES) which as been written with involvement by disabled people. In my experience these pieces of legislation are slowly having an effect in a relatively small number of colleges. There are exceptional colleges which are being anticipatory by ensuring accessibility resources such as screen readers are available to all rather than on request, however for the majority accessibility is an issue to be dealt with only when a disabled learner is identified.
What problems are caused by imprecise terms in legislation?
I have had experience of two extreme views arising from the phrase “Required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ if a disabled person would otherwise be placed at a ‘substantial disadvantage”. In one case a network manager refused to allow any multimedia content onto the college network as he felt it would place a disabled student at a “substantial disadvantage”, he would not consider the option of allowing additional transcripts or additional, accessible alternatives. The other example is an individual who felt there was no need to transcribe multimedia content, as this went beyond “reasonable adjustments”
Does the legislation bring any benefits and are they more beneficial for disabled students or teaching institutions?
Although there are allot of problems with the definitions and exact details of these legislation’s, I will be optimistic and say they are beneficial to disabled students, teaching institutions and non disabled students. The legislation gives institutions direction in how they should be making education accessible. The lack ofprecise definitions means this direction is not as clear as it could be, however legislation which instruct institutions to be anticipatory should improve accessibility for all.
Has the UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
The UK has not yet ratified the Convention although the office for Disability Issues website (http://www.officefordisability.gov.uk/working/unfaqsdetails.asp#q6) specifies that that Anne McGuire,Minister for Disabled People, aims to have this completed by the end of 2008. The reason for the delay was given as follows:
“The UK will ratify when we are sure our laws, policies, practices and procedures are compatible with the convention’s obligations either as they stand or as modified (so far as is possible) by any reservations which the UK makes.”
What common factor or factors are identified as hindering progress according to “Moving legislation into action: the examples of India & South Africa “?
A lack of awareness of legislation by disabled people and government departments.
Disabled people are not represented by individuals in Parliament or by policy making bodies
Accessibility issues treated as separate welfare issues and not embedded into all national policies
Do you think that there are specific issues relating to disability and accessibility that are different from those arising with regard to other aspects of equality and human rights, such as racial discrimination?
Although disability and accessibility equality shares attitudinal barriers with other forms of equality, they also face specificphysical barriers and therefore require a wider range of practical resolutions as well as attitudinal.