The Disability Act 2005 (the Act) is a positive action measure, which provides a statutory basis for making public services accessible. Sections 26, 27 and 28 of the Act place obligations on public bodies to make their services and information accessible to people with disabilities. This Code of Practice has been prepared at the request of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform under section 30 of the Act to guide public bodies to meet those obligations.
It should be noted that, although the Act contains further provisions on accessibility in relation to buildings and heritage sites, these areas do not fall within the scope of this Code of Practice and will be dealt with separately.
The obligations arising under sections 26, 27 and 28 are explained in the Code. The Code does not cover the associated complaints process which will apply under sections 38, 39 and 40. These sections provide that an individual with a disability can make a complaint about any failure by a public body to provide access as required by sections 26, 27 and 28 to an inquiry officer appointed by the body under section 39.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint they can appeal to the Ombudsman as provided under section 40.
The Act is designed to improve access to public services for persons with disabilities. The term disability for the purposes of sections 26, 27 and 28 of the Act is defined in section 2 of the Act, i.e.:
in relation to a person, means a substantial restriction in the capacity of the person to carry on a profession, business or occupation in the State or to participate in social or cultural life in the State by reason of an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual impairment.
The Code is relevant to a service which comes within the definition of services in section 2 of the Act. It covers a wide range of services and facilities provided by public bodies that are available to the public generally or a particular section of the public. This includes:
The Code applies to a wide range of public bodies, diverse in the nature of their work and size. The public bodies covered by the Code are defined in section 2 of the Act to cover:
To ensure services are accessible, it is important to be aware of the obstacles encountered by persons with physical, sensory or intellectual impairments. Their needs will vary and will inform the kind of action that is appropriate and can be delivered where practicable.
Obstacles to accessibility for people with disabilities encompass a broad range of both tangible and intangible elements including, for example:
Information and services can be made accessible when they are provided in a manner that is consistent with the needs of those individuals for whom they are intended.
In general, this can be facilitated by adopting a proactive and consultative approach to information and service design and delivery.