Following on from asking if The  Conservative Party were breaking the law for not streaming their conference live with BSL and subtitles The Equality and Human Rights Act have advised me to deal with this – by complaining to the Internet Watch Foundation.

The Internet Watch Foundation is for reporting: “Child sexual abuse content, criminally obscene adult content and incitement to racial hatred content.”

My complaint is none of the above but Deaf discrimination. Why have I been given this advice?

If I do complain using the Equalities Act 2010 I must do in writing and send it by recorded delivery. How is THAT accessible to BSL users? Why can’t we complain via email or video?). What if I was unable to write a letter and get to the post office to send it? Legislation clearly hasn’t caught up with the digital advances such as email or takes into account disabled people’s access needs.

Since the  Conservative Party conference will be over by the time they get my letter. What is the point of that? Why can’t such complaints be accepted in other formats?

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission also advise that website access is NOT covered under the Equalities Act 2010 yet on their website it clearly says that website provides are covered.  Only in court can a judge can decide whether it is covered or not under the Equalities Act.

Also, even though I’m 60% Deaf in both ears clased as profoundly Deaf, am asthmatic and dyslexic – only a judge can make the decision whether I’m disabled or not. So much for strengthening the legislation.

So what do I do next? Can anyone help?

Below is the response in full from The Equalities and Human Rights Commission email (note how long it is text wise) and the two links they sent me

Model Letter – complaining using the Equalities Act 2010

Government Equalities Office: Equality Act 2010 easy read version pdf

From: englandhelpline@equalityhumanrights.com
Date: 4 October 2010 13:34:55 GMT+01:00
To:    Pesky People

Cc: englandhelplinereplies

Subject: Your enquiry to Equality and Human Rights Commission

Dear Alison Smith
Your personal reference number –

Thank you for your recent enquiry to the Equality & Human Rights Commission. I understand that you are unable to access the live streaming of the Conservative Party Conference on the Conservative Party Website.

Please note that in general where an individual is unhappy with digital content on website the body to refer the enquiry to is the Internet Watch Foundation: http://www.iwf.org.uk/

This is because this is not a protected area under the Equality Act 2010 ( examples of protected areas are employment/ education and the provisions of services ) However it may be possible to argue that the live streaming of the Conservative Party Conference on their website could be considered to be a service and as such the Conservative Party as a service provider.

However we cannot say this definitively and it would be up to a judge in a Court of law to make the final decision as to whether the provision of the Equality Act 2010 would apply.

Our Remit
Firstly, here is a brief overview of the Helpline’s remit:-

The Commission champions equality and human rights for all, working to eliminate discrimination, reduce inequality; and protect human rights, and to build good relations, ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to participate in society.

  • The Helpline provides information, and offers initial advice and guidance to many different types of enquirers on areas regarding discrimination and human rights issues.
  • However we do not offer legal advice, advocacy services or face-to-face meetings.
  • The Helpline and the EHRC are not able to assist with Human Rights cases unless they also carry a discrimination strand i.e. disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion or belief, race and age.
  • The Helpline does not act on your behalf to dispute a situation, unless we deem it a strategic case. Instead we offer you solutions; provide you with information on the related legislation and signpost you to suitable organisations.

Your enquiry

Firstly in order to be protected by the Equality Act 2010 an individual would have to satisfy the definition of what it means to have a disability under the Act. Only HIV, Cancer and MS and a person who is certified as blind or partially sighted by a consultant ophthalmologist, or is registered as such with a local authority are automatically covered by the DDA. The DDA says a disabled person is someone with ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.

For the purposes of the Act:

  • substantial means neither minor nor trivial
  • long term means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least 12 months (there are special rules covering recurring or fluctuating conditions)
  • normal day-to-day activities include everyday things like eating, washing, walking and going shopping

The condition as it affects you would have to meet the definition as outlined above to get DDA coverage (please note that the affect of any medication on the condition would be discounted when considering whether the definition had been met). Only a court of law can say definitively if an individual will be covered by the legislation.

It unlawful for service providers to discriminate against a disabled person in relation to the service in question. A service is defined as being offered to all or a section of the public. To reiterate – the live streaming of the Conservative Party Conference on their website could be considered to be a service and as such the Conservative Party as a service provider.

(I should note that there was a duty under the old legislation (i.e. the Disability Discrimination Act) on service providers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people but the Equality Act 2010 makes it explicit under s20 (6) that disabled people need to be able to understand the information they are sent by people like their council or their bank so that they know what to do. This is a reasonable adjustment by proving information in accessible formats. What is reasonable will be up for a judge in a Court of law to decide.

Please find attached a copy of an EHRC model letter, which can be used as a template for a letter. This letter is a guide only. Your letter should be sent to the Conservative Party to request written justification for the treatment you received. I would advise keeping copies and sending by recorded delivery. If you receive no response or are unhappy with the response then please contact us again for further advice and guidance.

Time limits

There are strict time limits for taking any case to a County Court. If you wish to take a claim to a County Court you must bring your claim within six months of the act of discrimination. This means that the last possible date for your application to reach the Court in time is six months minus one day from the date of the act of discrimination you are complaining about. Please note that it remains your responsibility to ensure that any deadline in your case is met. I would urge you to get legal advice on this point. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help – you can find your local Bureau by inserting your location on their website below:

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

Equality Act 2010 References Guides

I have attached an Easy Read Guide to the Equality Act 2010 published by the Government Equalities Office.

Also, our Chair, Trevor Phillips and Commissioner, Stephen Alambritis introduce the Equality Act in this video on our website. It is accessible on our website here with subtitles:

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/equality-act-starter-kit/video-understanding-the-equality-act-2010/alternative-format-understanding-the-equality-act-2010/

There is also useful information on our website here about the duty of service providers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people:

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/guidance-for-service-users/the-duty-to-make-reasonable-adjustments-to-remove-barriers-for-disabled-people/

I hope this advice is useful, however, please do not hesitate to contact the Helpline once again if you have any further questions, quoting your reference number above.

Kind regards,

EHRC Helpline