The Government launched the National Disability Strategy (NDS) in September 2004 to underpin the participation of disabled people in Irish Society. The strategy builds on existing policy and legislation, including the policy of mainstreaming public services for disabled people.
The key elements of the strategy are:
- The Disability Act 2005 (http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2005/act/14/enacted/)
- The Citizen’s Information Act, 2007, which equips the Citizens Information to provide a personal advocacy service for disabled people. (http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2007/a207.pdf)
- Sectoral plans prepared by six Government departments
- The Education for People with Special Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 (http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2004/A3004.pdf)
- A multi-annual investment programme worth €900 million targeted at high-priority disability support services which ran until 2010.
About the Disability Act
The Disability Act 2005 places a number of requirements on public bodies, including local authorities and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, principally:
- Section 25 requires that public bodies ensure that their public buildings are, as far as practicable, made accessible to disabled people not later 2015;
- Section 26 requires that public bodies, where practicable and appropriate, ensure their mainstream public services are accessible for disabled people, and provide assistance if requested, with Access Officers appointed to co-ordinate arrangements;
- Section 27 requires that services supplied to public bodies are accessible to disabled people, unless it would not be practicable or justifiable on cost grounds or would result in an unreasonable delay;
- Section 28 requires that public bodies, as far as practicable, communicates in forms that are accessible;
- Section 29 requires that heritage sites, to which the public has access, are accessible, as far as practicable, to disabled people;
- Sections 38, 39 and 40 specify complaints and inquiry procedures; and
- Section 47 requires that, in so far as practicable, all reasonable measures are taken to promote and support the employment by public bodies of disabled people.
A comprehensive guide to the Disability Act can be downloaded from the Department of Equality, Justice and Law Reform: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Guide-to-Disability-Act-2005.
The full act can be accessed or downloaded from the following website: http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2005/a1405.pdf
About the Sectoral Plans
Another principal component of the National Disability Strategy, in terms of delivering services to disabled people, is the suite of sectoral plans to be put into practice by six Ministers and their Government Departments. The six Departments are:
- Environment, Community and Local Government;
- Social Protection;
- Transport, Tourism and Sport;
- Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; and,
- Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.