Legal proposals 'fail' disabled

LEGAL groups say they are disappointed by proposals put forward in the Government's consultation paper on discrimination against the disabled.

The paper calls for opinions on a range of issues including employment and access to goods and services.

Several professional bodies, including Law Society committees, are preparing responses to the paper which claims “sweeping legislation” would fail to give disabled people “comprehensive civil rights”.

“Even discounting the cost and confusion produced from overly ambitious legislation, there is a risk that it would harm rather than help disabled people,” says the paper.

“Placing a heavy, unacceptable financial burden on industry and business is likely to create resentment which would hinder the wider acceptance of disabled people.”

Society employment law committee chair Janet Gaymer says the committee maintains the views put forward in a 1992 report by its working party on disability, which recommended the introduction of new legislation.

“Where there is obviously a breach of a civil right and, to date, attitudes have not been changed substantially by persuasive methods and a 'volunteerist' approach, the view of the committee was that legislation was necessary to bring about a change in those attitudes,” says Gaymer, a partner at Simmons & Simmons.

“We did not consider that cost, often given as a reason for not bringing in the legislation, was incapable of being controlled.”

John Willis, of the society's Group for Solicitors with Disabilities, says any financial burden brought on by the introduction of legislation is “unproven”.

“The consultation paper is aimed more at limiting costs than enabling disabled people to participate in the life of the community,” he says.