States back anti-discrimination legislation to support disabled

LAWS to prevent discrimination on the grounds of disability have been unanimously approved by States Members on what was described as a ‘great day’ by the Social Security Minister.

A ramp helps a wheelchair user to do her shopping in town
A ramp helps a wheelchair user to do her shopping in town

As part of a five-year project to update the Island’s discrimination laws, Social Security Minister Susie Pinel brought forward proposals which set in law the accessibility requirements required in buildings to support disabled Islanders.

It marked the final stage of discrimination legislation after race discrimination laws were put forward in 2013, followed by sex and age discrimination in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Deputy Pinel said: ‘It is important to appreciate that all of us are likely to be affected by disability at some point in our lives, be it personally, a family member, a friend or a colleague.’

Disability discrimination will come into effect in September this year, with businesses having to comply with access requirements by September 2020.

Several Members pointed out that the States Chamber was not particularly accessible and Senator Lyndon Farnham suggested the Assembly could lead the way by making changes to the way Islanders, particularly the disabled, can get to the public gallery.

Senator Paul Routier agreed and said: ‘There should be an audit undertaken to ensure people can gain access to this building.

‘Let’s be proactive and let’s welcome this legislation and ensure that people with a disability can be a full part of our community.’

Deputy Simon Brée then revealed that an initial accessibility audit of the States Building had been carried out and the Privileges and Procedures Committee had received a draft copy of the review.

Constable Chris Taylor said it was disappointing that laws were needed to make the Island more accessible for disabled people but welcomed the new law. He said: ‘We should be supportive because we regard them as equals, not because we have legislation forcing us to do so.’

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