The main topic of interest in 1995 for members of the Law Society Group for Solicitors with Disabilities, as for any person with a disability, is likely to be the progress of the new Disability Bill through Parliament.
Heralded as ” the greatest advance for disabled people in the history of this country” by the Minister for Disabled People when he introduced the bill in November 1994, the bill nevertheless falls short of the comprehensive civil rights legislation demanded by the disabled. The depth of our feeling on the issue can be gauged by the unprecedented scenes of anger which erupted last year when the Government blocked the Civil Rights Bill.
The new bill does redress some of the inequality of opp-ortunity that presently exists for many people with disabilities – but it needs to go further. This is likely to form the focus of the Law Society's work on the bill during the coming year.
Solicitors should pay heed to the provisions of the bill which will require providers of goods and services to make their businesses more accessible to disabled people.
I hope solicitors will take the lead in showing their colleagues in other fields that making these things more accessible to disabled people should not be perceived as creating unnecessary financial burdens but instead represent opportunities.
Those solicitors who are likely to benefit most from the changes the bill will bring once it is enacted are the ones who regard the changes as pro – rather than anti -business and have got in first in marketing legal services to the disabled community.