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Press release: for release Tuesday 5th March 2002

Loophole in Disability Discrimination Act challenged

Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities hopes that a new amendment being tabled in the House of Lords, will correct a damaging loophole in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The loophole, created by changes made to the DDA by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, means that disabled people will only be protected by the DDA when they use student services if they are a student at that time. This means that disabled people who are not students but who really need to access these services, could be discriminated against. For example, disabled graduates could be discriminated against when they use the careers service at their former university, yet this service could significantly affect their chances of finding a job.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth (President of Skill) will be putting forward an amendment to the Disability Discrimination (Amendment) Bill which is being debated in the House of Lords on Tuesday 5 March 2002 to remove this loophole. The amendment is supported by the RNIB, the RNID, RADAR, Scope, Mind and Mencap.

Sophie Corlett, Policy Director at Skill said, "Clearly in some cases disabled people who are not students may benefit from adjustments that are put in place for students. For example, a lift would benefit all wheelchair users. But other types of support are personal to the individual, for example, someone who needs sign language interpretation for a careers interview needs that adjustment made for them personally. The amendment being introduced by Baroness Darcy de Knayth would ensure that all disabled people were protected against discrimination in student services."

The amendment being tabled by Baroness Darcy de Knayth could also eliminate the potential for other serious discriminatory situations to occur. For example, under the legislation as it currently stands, disabled friends and relatives visiting a student will no longer be protected against discrimination if they go to a college canteen. Similarly, disabled parents will lose the right to reasonable adjustments to enable them to attend parents evenings or school fetes because 'access to school facilities' are associated services covered only with respect to disabled pupils/students.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth said. "I've been a long term supporter of Skill and welcome the opportunity to remove this damaging loophole."

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For more information and to arrange interviews with Sophie Corlett, Policy Director at Skill , contact Liz Victor, Tel: 0207 450 0643, Email:
[email protected].

Notes for Editors

1 - Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities
gives information and advice to thousands of disabled students every year on how to maximise their experiences in education (higher and further), volunteering, training, and employment. The Skill information service is open from Monday to Thursday, 1:30pm to 4:30pm, on 0800 328 5050 (voice) or 0800 068 2422 (text). Extensive information is publicly available on Skill's website: Skill also advises government policy makers and disseminates good practice through publications, conferences and professional networks. Skill is a registered charity with offices in London, Belfast and Edinburgh.

2 - When the Government introduced the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 it amended Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to remove the exemption of education. It also amended Part 3 to provide that no services covered by the new Part 4 (Education) could also come under the goods and services provisions of Part 3.

3 - The Disability Discrimination (Amendment) Bill was introduced by Lord Ashley of Stoke (formerly Jack Ashley MP) into the House of Lords. The Bill improves disability rights on a number of fronts including expanding the definition of disability to cover HIV and cancer, removing the small employer exemption, removing the transport exemption and removing the police, fire service and army exemption. The Bill had its Second Reading on 23 January and received widespread support.

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