Action on Equality for Disabled People

Winchester City Council is kicking-off the development of its Disability Equality Scheme by holding two Involvement Events next week, and would welcome members of the public along.

The first event will be at the Guildhall in Winchester on Thursday 1 March and the next at Wickham Community Centre on Friday 2 March. Both will run from 10am to 1pm.

The Scheme will set out what the Council is going to do to tackle the barriers that make it difficult for disabled people to enjoy the same opportunities as non-disabled people.

Various local groups have been invited to take part, including those supporting people with physical and sensory impairments, mental health problems, learning disabilities and long-term illnesses. The events will also involve other organisations in the Winchester District Local Strategic Partnership.

Leader of Winchester City Council, George Beckett, said: "With around 1 in 5 of the adult population of Winchester District and a significant number of children covered by the Disability Discrimination Act, it is vital that the Council is sensitive to the needs of disabled people.
"This Equality Scheme will help us improve our policies and services and to encourage and support disabled people in playing a full role in public life. We really want people to tell us about their problems and help us find solutions."

Council Chief Executive Simon Eden added: "We are fully committed to promoting equality for disabled people. We will be working closely with our partners to do this and decide how we can create a more inclusive and cohesive community."

The Involvement Events are open to disabled people and those with an interest in disability issues. Places are limited so if you are interested please contact Rebecca Gosling on (01962) 848 131.

Background notes

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

In 2006 it was amended to place a duty on all public bodies to promote disability equality. This affects all public bodies - from local councils to government departments, from universities to hospitals.

The Disability Equality Duty will require the public sector to actively promote disability equality, and is similar to the duty to promote race equality under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act.

A key part of this duty is the requirement to produce a Disability Equality Scheme these key bodies must:
- Involve disabled people in producing the scheme and developing the action plan.
- Identify how they will gather and analyse evidence to inform their actions and track progress.
- Set out how they will assess the impact of their existing and proposed activities on disabled people.
- Produce an action plan for the next three years.
- Report on their progress every year and review and make appropriate revisions to this scheme at least every three years.

Winchester city Council, in common with the other public bodies in Hampshire, has adopted the "social model" of disability. This asserts that it is society that "disables" people who have impairments, because the way society generally works prevents disabled people from taking part in many or most of the activities in which people without impairments can participate.

It follows that if disabled people are to be able to join in mainstream society, the way society is organised must be changed. Removing the barriers which exclude (disable) people who have impairments can bring about this change.

Disability is the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a society which takes little or no account of people who have impairments and thus excludes them from mainstream activity.

Impairments are characteristics, features or attributes of individuals which are long term and may or may not be the result of disease, injury or congenital condition.

Impairments include:
Physical impairments - such as the loss of or damage to a limb, difficulty walking, limited dexterity, etc.
Visual impairments - such as actual blindness or, more commonly, limited vision.
Deafness - which may be present at birth or develop latter through accident, illness or ageing.
Hearing difficult ties - which includes being "hard of hearing" and conditions such as tinnitus.
Learning disabilities - which may be innate or acquired through accident or illness.
Mental illnesses - which range from depression, through behavioural conditions such as Asperger's Syndrome, to personality disorders.
Some physical illnesses such as Alzheimer's Disease, Cancer, Heart Disease and AIDS are also regarded as impairments under the Disability Discrimination Act.