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The Disability Equality Duty

Since December 2006, there has been a legal duty on all public sector organisations to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people.

Public sector organisations and 'Disability Equality Schemes'

Public sector organisations include:

  • hospitals
  • schools and colleges
  • National Health Service (NHS) trusts
  • police forces
  • central and local government

The Disability Equality Duty (DED) covers everything public sector organisations do, including policy making and services that are delivered to the public.

People who work in the public sector have to consider the impact of their work on disabled people, and take action to tackle disability inequality. This should mean that disabled people have better employment opportunities and do not come across discrimination when using a service, for example. It should also help promote positive attitudes towards disabled people in everyday life.

Since the Disability Equality Duty was introduced on 4 December 2006, some public authorities have had to publish a 'Disability Equality Scheme'. The scheme must include:

  • a statement of how disabled people have been involved in developing the scheme
  • an action plan that includes practical ways in which improvements will be made
  • information about the arrangements in place for gathering information about how the public sector organisation has done in meeting its targets on disability equality

A year after the publication of the scheme, an annual report needs to be produced. It should contain a summary of the steps the organisation has taken to fulfil the duty, the results of the information-gathering exercise, and how the information has been used.

The Disability Equality Duty also requires certain Secretaries of State and Scottish and Welsh Ministers to publish a progress report for their policy sector. The first reports were published on 28 November in Scotland, and on 1 December 2008 in England and Wales.

The reports identify progress towards disability equality made by each department, and where there are still improvements to be made. They also show how departments and public bodies will work strategically to make these improvements.

You can find the reports on the website of the Office for Disability Issues.

Finding out more about the Disability Equality Duty

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has responsibility for enforcing the Disability Equality Duty. It can take legal action against public sector organisations that have not done as they are required.

You can find information about the Equality and Human Rights commission's approach to enforcement, and the impact the duty is having, on its website. There is also a dedicated website which contains guidance documents in various formats.

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