Britain’s equality watchdog has condemned failures to implement rights for people with disabilities as society’s “badge of shame”.
Progress in promoting improvements by governments, businesses and the wider community has stalled, said the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in a blistering attack on attitudes and practices that led to many people still being treated as “second-class citizens”.
Disabled tenants who could otherwise live independently were unable to do so because landlords refused to make common areas, such as halls and stairways, accessible.
People with disabilities faced a “disgraceful lack of space” at sporting and concert venues. They also needed more political representation, the commission said.
David Isaac, the EHRC chair, said: “It is a badge of shame for our society that thousands of disabled people are still not being treated as equal citizens and the everyday rights non-disabled people take for granted, such as being able to access transport, housing, restaurants, theatres and sporting events, are still being denied.”
“Successive governments have failed to implement rights for disabled people in full, and now is the time to move this forward. Implementing the remaining provisions of the Equality Act relating to areas such as transport and reasonable adjustments to common areas of rented houses would help put an end to this discrimination, increasing disabled people’s independence and ability to participate in society.”
Isaac’s remarks came as the EHRC responded to serious criticisms of the government made in a report in March from a House of Lords select committee on the impact of the 2010 legislation.
Failures were not all down to government, he said. “While there has been some improvement for physical access there is still a long way to go. Sporting stadia and concert venues need to do much more and raise their game,” said Isaac.
“It is disgraceful that only 1% of space at sporting venues is available for disabled fans. We will be holding these venues to account if changes are not made.”
The EHRC is preparing to report on Britain’s progress on such issues to the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities within the next year.
It also announced an inquiry into housing for disabled people along with reports on the impact of welfare changes and the pay gaps faced by disabled people.
The commission is awaiting a supreme court decision on a test case regarding the rights of wheelchair users on buses and also recently criticised airlines for their treatment of disabled customers.
The Leonard Cheshire Disability charity said “a seismic shift in people’s attitude” was needed. “Disability is not about other people – it’s about all of us having access to work, rest and play,” said Patrick Olszowski, the head of policy and campaigns.
“Disabled people face a myriad of challenges, but a key one is the ability to safely get around. We have heard from disabled people, specifically wheelchair users and blind people, about taxi drivers refusing to pick them up or being overcharged for their journey.”
The government said it was preparing to introduce measures that would help ensure wheelchair users were provided with the help they needed to use taxis and private hire vehicles.
Implementing the duty to improve help for disabled people in the common areas of rented homes was under review.
A spokesperson said: “We’re determined to ensure disabled people live free from discrimination – that’s why, as we have outlined in our response to the Lords, we are investing more than £115m to support disabled people into work and looking at how to make public services more accessible.”
A plan to make transport more accessible for all was being developed and a new sport strategy would help improve inclusion for disabled people, the spokesperson said.
“But we know there is more to be done, which is why we’re committed to halving the disability employment gap, as well as continuing to work with disabled people and wider society to understand how we can achieve true equality.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010