Newsletter from the Standards Section of the National Disability Authority

Autumn 2006

Number 3

About this Newsletter

The National Disability Authority (NDA) has an important statutory remit in relation to developing standards and codes of practice, and monitoring the implementation of standards and codes in programmes and services for people with disabilities. We publish this Newsletter on a regular basis in order to inform various stakeholders of the important and varied work that the NDA undertakes in relation to standards.

Accessibility Conference – 22 November 2006, Croke Park

On Wednesday 22 November, the NDA will host a conference on the Accessibility of the Built Environment in Croke Park, to coincide with the ISO TC59/SC16 meeting on the International Standard on accessibility and usability of the built environment.

One of the main barriers to achieving full participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life is the physical environment in which we all live and work. This Conference will focus on recent international and national developments aimed at improving the accessibility of the built and external environment.

Presentations include:

  • International Best Practices in Universal Design – A Global Review by Betty Dion, Canada, Chairperson, International Commission on Technology and Accessibility (ICTA)
  • The development of an International Standard on accessibility and usability of the built environment, by Eduardo Alvarez, Uruguay, Chairperson of ISO TC59/SC16
  • Australian Standards of the Built Environment by Murray Mountain, Australia
  • Danish Standards for Accessibility by Søren Ginnerup, Denmark
  • Presentations on Irish initiatives

Admission is free but advance booking is essential! Please contact Barbara Collopy, bcollopy@nda.ie

Code of Practice – Disability Act 2005

The Disability Act 2005 is a positive action measure, which provides a statutory basis for making public services accessible. The Disability Act 2005 imposes significant new legal obligations on all public organisations in Ireland. These organisations deliver services to millions of people across Ireland on a daily basis and include large public bodies such as FÁS, the Health Service Executive and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, as well as other less well known organisations. In total there are almost 600 public bodies in Ireland.

Sections 26, 27 and 28 of this new legislation place a statutory obligation on public bodies to provide services and information in a manner that is accessible to all - and to ensure that, where practicable and appropriate, the goods and services they purchase or hire are also accessible.

In order to support these organisations in meeting their new statutory obligations the NDA has recently published a Code of Practice on accessible public services. This document sets out the NDA’s understanding of what is required and provides practical advice and examples of specific measures public bodies could take in order to meet their statutory obligations.

What happens if a public body does not comply with this code of practice?

The NDA’s Code of Practice differs from other statutory codes insofar that public bodies that comply with this Code are considered to be in compliance with the Disability Act 2005.

Any person is entitled to make a complaint if a public body fails to make their services and information accessible to people with disabilities. The complaint will have to be made in writing to the head of the public body who will then refer it to an independent inquiry officer within the same public body. The inquiry officer will investigate the complaint and prepare a report with a determination. If the complainant is not satisfied with this determination they can appeal to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman can recommend that the head of the public body further considers the matter, takes measures to remedy, mitigate or alter the adverse effects of the action or gives reasons for taking the action.

What does this mean in practice?

For example, these new statutory obligations will mean that, as far as practicable and appropriate:

  • Public bodies will have to ensure that accessibility is a key criterion to be considered throughout their entire purchasing process. Whether a public body purchases or hires new vehicles, machines, computers, or any other equipment or services, it needs to make sure that they are accessible, as far as it is possible, appropriate and affordable.
  • Public bodies will have to make relevant information accessible in a range of different formats, such as Braille, large print, Plain English or audio.
  • Public bodies will also need to appoint at least one Access Officer to provide assistance or arrange for the provision of assistance when required.
  • Public bodies will have to draw up and publish a policy on how to deal with complaints in relation to any failure on their part, to comply with these sections of the Act.

What will the NDA do next?

In order to support the adoption of the Code, we will be hosting a series of Regional Briefings in the autumn and Workshops early next year.

The NDA Act 1999 provides for a monitoring role for the NDA. The monitoring function of the NDA is ‘to monitor the implementation of standards and codes of practice in programmes and services provided to people with disabilities and to report to the Minister thereon’. It is envisaged that this monitoring system will be rolled out in 2008, following a period of extensive consultation in 2007.

More information

The Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information provided by Public Bodies is available, free of charge, from the NDA, in regular format, large print, Irish, Plain English and Easy to Read editions, Braille, audiotape and CD. The Code of Practice is also available in accessible HTML, on this website.

The Office of the Ombudsman has recently published a guide to the role of the Ombudsman in relation to the Disability Act 2005 – for more information contact: http://www.ombudsman.ie or LoCall 1890 22 30 30.

Access Officer - Survey

One of the key features of the Disability Act 2005 (the Act) is that it obliges public bodies to appoint one or more staff members as ‘Access Officers’. Section 26 (2) of the Act states that the role of the Access Officer is: ‘to provide or arrange for and co-ordinate the provision of assistance and guidance to people with disabilities’. This section of the Act came into operation on 31 December 2005.

The NDA’s Code of Practice on Accessible Services provides a practical interpretation of the requirements of the Act in relation to Access Officers and it offers practical advice on how the requirements can be met. It is important to point out that the Code of Practice emphasizes that each public body needs to consider how many Access Officers may be required. In other words, all of the almost 600 public bodies are required, by law, to appoint an Access Officer, however, some larger, multi-site organisations may need to appoint more than one Access Officer.

The NDA is currently developing a survey for Access Officers to find out what type of support Access Officers may require. We would also like to identify in which areas the NDA can provide further support and guidance. We have circulated this survey to each public body in September 2006.

For more information on this survey contact Dr Anne-Marie Rooney - amrooney@nda.ie or (01) 608 04 00.

Draft National Standards for Disability Services - Update

  • NDA’s Submission on the new Health Bill 2006 is now available on our website: http://www.nda.ie/health
  • Test of the standards in Sheltered Occupational Services in the North West HSE Area is almost complete with the last assessment scheduled to take place in early October.

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