APPLYING THE LAW SHOULD BE A TWO WAY STREET

First of all, a very happy new year to you all. Hopefully it will be a good year for you and if you have recently been through difficult times, I hope that the new year will be easier and more supportive to you.

I keep revisiting this subject but it is one that should be constantly brought forward as it is clear that organisations for whom this applies to still do not consider themselves to be within the law. Since the inception of the disability Discrimination act (1995) and its subsequent evolvement into the Equality Act (2010), we have had a legal right to have information sent to us within an accessible format. However, again and again, we seeing examples of organisations ignore this and continue to make information harder to access by demonstrating contempt towards their legal obligations.

Pressure groups have tried and continue to push for a greater application of the law, but this, at present, seems to have had little affect. One of the limited areas of potential success has been with the national health service, who have signed up to an accessible information standard which means hospitals and gp’s must provide information to patients by July 2016 in an accessible form. Why, however, does it need this when the standard is already there in the law of the land? Yes, large and small organisations must buy into it, but the laws has been set already; it just appears that its application has been badly understood.

A few years ago, I was going through a legal process where I needed specific documents in an accessible format (May I add this was not me in trouble but just going through a process that many other people go through). the local courts however, would not provide this, siting the fact that they didn’t know what the alternative format was saying and that I needed to have another person read the documents to me to ensure that I understood them. Crazy, insulting and completely divoid of reality and sensitivity, but hey ho, is it surprising that the ignoring of our legal rights is not challenged more when the justice system has its own prejudices?

The area of welfare rights is another place where inaccessible information and processes is far too common. For years, many people have been battling to get forms, correspondences and vital application/appeal information in their chosen formats. for many years, this has been a huge struggle and one that has often been met with refusal and disappointment. Hopefully, through greater awareness raising and campaigning, this will change, but again, the provision of what is seen as highly personal information cannot be personalised and made available to those who it affects.

It must be remembered that if the boot was on the other foot and we couldn’t provide information to these organsiations in a clear format, they would penalise and sanction us, but its clear that they feel that this is just a one way process, when the law most certainly states otherwise.

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