In October 2006, the Disability Discrimination Act for the Isle of Man received royal assent after it was approved by the branches of Tynwald. It was supposed to demand minimum levels of disabled access to buildings and prevent discrimination against disabled people in the supply of goods and services.
It’s the end of October 2012 and still the Manx Government fails to give a timetable for its implementation.
Throughout all this the government, under different chief ministers, has claimed to be committed to its implementation.
In July 2009, Health Minister Eddie Teare was criticised that, three years down the line from royal assent, little progress had been made on implementing the rules.
Mr Teare, who of course is now Treasury Minister, told Tynwald at that time that consultants would be brought in to draft detailed regulations.
‘This is a significant undertaking and it has been agreed that this is a piece of work best undertaken by consultants who can bring experience from other jurisdictions,’ he said. ‘Without this, it is likely that the implementation process could take much longer and be less effective.’
So did we see the whole process expedited more effectively and more quickly?
In May 2011, the then chief minister Tony Brown said: ‘The Disability Discrimination Act 2006 is recognised as an important piece of legislation, however before the act is brought into effect a programme of assessment, education and improvements must take place.
‘It is worth noting that in the UK after such legislation was put in place , it was some seven years before it was implemented.’
Of course, the UK brought the legislation in in 1995.
Mr Brown pledged: ‘The Council of Ministers is committed to bring the legislation into effect and has instructed the Department of Social Care to seek expert advice to assess the potential costs and issues that need to be addressed, based on the experience of other countries. This assessment will enable government to consider the best way to implement the legislation.’
He declined to set a timetable for progress on the act..
In November 2011, it was announced the Department of Social Care would consult public, private and third sector parties about the implementation of the act.
It had already commissioned a UK consultancy to consider what action was required.
Social Care Minister Chris Robertshaw said: ‘I am committed to implementing the Disability Discrimination Act in order to promote the interests of all people with a disability in our community. It is vital that the Act’s implementation is undertaken in such a manner that achieves its intent as approved by Tynwald.
‘At the same time, it is also vital that it is implemented in a manner and timescale that is achievable for local private, public and third sector organisations and does not cause unnecessary economic harm.’
It was noticeable, again, that no specific timetable was given. At the same time, the Manx Foundation for the Physically Disabled, described the Isle of Man as a ‘disabling environment’ and pointed out that the money of someone in a wheelchair was of equal value to the money of someone not in a wheelchair.
In the House of Keys this week (October, 2012), Chief Minister Allan Bell said he could not give a timetable for the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act 2006. While it was the aim to improve government buildings, there was no deadline to implement the law.
Mr Bell said there was ‘no reneging on promises’. (Credit where it’s due, it was in response to questions from Liberal Vannin members.)
‘Progress has been made towards the implementation of this bill,’ he told MHKs.
‘It is just physically impractical to bring everything in on a certain day. We have to phase the approach and implementation of the bill.’
Certainly, no one can accuse the Manx Government of rushing things.
If this is what the Manx Government believes to be a definition of ‘committed’, one would hate to see what happens when things are put on the backburner.
Just to point out again, the UK brought in a Disability Discrimination Act in 1995. People like George Waft MLC started campaigning at that time for the Isle of Man to sort itself out.
In 2010, the UK actually replaced the DDA with the Equality Act. That is how far behind the Isle of Man is.
It is a matter of shame for successive administrations that we are so far behind and yet claim to be a civilised and modern society.
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Click here to see a copy of the Disability Discrimination Act