Weekly Poll – Disability Commissioner Bill: Scope (Week Beginning 18 July 2022)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 18 July 2022, we asked a question about the scope of the Disability Commissioner Bill.

Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.

Results

Question 1. How supportive are you of the Disability Commissioner having a role in reviewing laws and policies that might impact on disabled people?

  • Fully supportive – 74% (46 respondents)
  • Partly supportive – 15% 9 respondents)
  • Neither supportive nor unsupportive – 3% (2 respondents)
  • Not very supportive – 0% (0 respondents)
  • Not at all supportive – 0% (0 respondents)
  • Unsure – 8% (5 respondents)

Question 2. How supportive are you of encouraging involvement of disabled people and Disabled People’s Organisations in the work of the Disability Commissioner?

  • Fully supportive – 88% (54 respondents)
  • Partly supportive – 7% (4 respondents)
  • Neither supportive nor unsupportive – 3% (2 respondents)
  • Not very supportive – 0% (0 respondent)
  • Not at all supportive – 0% (0 respondents)
  • Unsure – 2% (1 respondent)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Disability Commissioner Bill

A consultation has been launched by Jeremy Balfour MSP on a draft Bill to establish a Disability Commissioner for Scotland. The purpose of the Disability Commissioner is to work independently from the Scottish government as a “voice for the disabled community”, and to monitor the policies that are introduced to support disabled people in Scotland.

Reviewing Laws

In the proposed Bill it is suggested that the Disability Commissioner will be able to review any legislation passing through the Scottish Parliament, with the aim to ensure that disabled people’s needs, and rights are at the heart of any changes to legislation. Almost three quarters of respondents (74%) are ‘fully supportive’ of this proposal.

“The post holder should review all relevant laws and policies need reviewing as they have been produced by none disabled people, by politicians, etc. who “think” they know what disabled people need and politicians who have only given lip service to disabled groups and individual people. How the laws and policies are implemented and acted upon also needs to be seriously reviewed as many organisations (businesses for example) are literally getting away with brazen discrimination!”

“The Commissioner should review all the disability laws as they are all outdated and does not meet todays disabled people’s needs. It should also have enough power to fine companies, organisations and to be able to investigate complaints. At the moment nearly all the laws relating to disability are flouted without any recourse.”

“The pandemic has worsened inequalities for disabled people. Now is the time for real action and I am hopeful that a Commissioner that has the power to review laws and policies that might impact on disabled people will help make a difference.”

Workload

It was recognised by respondents that the policies and laws that impact disabled people are likely to be wide-ranging. As such, some concerns were raised on how manageable this would be for a Commissioner.

“One issue I do see with this is that disability influences every aspect of life and would have an impact on most laws. This could result in an unworkable workload.”

“Whilst I can very much see the benefit of a Commissioner reviewing all relevant laws impacting disabled people, this is a very wide remit and it would therefore have to be appropriately resourced.”

“I fully support the introduction of a Disability Commissioner but we have to consider the workload if reviewing all relevant laws. If this is not manageable then it would completely undermine the purpose of the Commissioner.”

Working with Disabled People

It is proposed that the Disability Commissioner will work with charities, including Disabled People’s Organisations, to ensure that their views are being heard and any issues they are facing are addressed. Respondents strongly supported meaningful engagement with disabled people to ensure that lived experience drives positive change.

“This post must be representative of all disabled people and disabled support groups. This post MUST be a genuinely independent “voice of disabled people” with respect to the Government but MUST only be influenced and moderated by disabled groups and disabled individuals.”

“The lived experiences are absolutely vital – can’t stress this strongly enough!”

“The Commissioner must work with you (DES), Inclusion Scotland, EHRC Scotland, SHRC, LAs and a variety of DPOs.”

“It is imperative that the work of the Disability Commissioner continually and consistently includes the voices of disabled people.”

“The Disability Commissioner could have a steering group that would have representations from all interested groups – seeing as we now have the technology – the internet. There could also be hybrid group meetings.”

“I’m fully supportive of disabled people and Disabled People’s Organisations being involved in the work with the Disability Commissioner. In fact, I would say it was vital as it gives them the chance to give a view of how something will affect disabled people. Maybe disabled organisations could get together to elect people for this role. I do also think that it is important for any disabled organisations or charity to get involved if they have concerns about something that is being done at any point in time. We need to remember that this would be something completely new and as a result this will be a learning curve that we might need to adapt and change in the early stages.”

At Disability Equality Scotland we are the umbrella organisation for Access Panels, which are made up of groups of disabled volunteers, who work together to improve access and inclusion in their local communities. Access Panels are concerned with ‘access’ in the fullest sense, including: roads; employment; education; health; transport; the countryside and leisure and recreation.

Access Panels provide a valuable service in their communities, including:

  • Engaging with local authorities and other public bodies on access matters and independent living
  • Examining and advising on building warrant applications and planning
  • Undertaking site visits

Many take on specific projects, such as:

  • Researching and publishing local access guides for disabled people and tourism
  • Disseminating information on access and independent living
  • Offering advice and guidance to architects and designers

Access Panels can help their communities in many ways including:

  • Creating a better physical environment for all
  • Assisting local authorities, public bodies and designers to meet their statutory obligations
  • Promoting full social inclusion
  • Encouraging people to take ownership of what happens in their own communities
  • Keeping access and independent living issues to the fore

More information about Access Panels can be found at: www.accesspanel.scot

We strongly recommend that a Disability Commissioner engages closely with Disability Equality Scotland members and the Access Panel Network across Scotland.

Conclusion

The majority of respondents supported the proposal for a Disability Commissioner to have a role in reviewing laws and policies that might impact on disabled people. However, there was recognition of the wide remit this will likely cover, so the role of Commissioner would need to be appropriately resourced to meet this commitment. There was overwhelming support for a Disability Commissioner to meaningfully engage with disabled people so that lived experience is at the forefront of influencing positive change.