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New UK Equality Commission Gears Up For Action

The UK’s new Equality and Human Rights Commission is likely to be a more effective ally for those lobbying for better access to technology by people with disabilities than its predecessor Disability Rights Commission, a senior official told E-Access Bulletin this month.

The new commission (http://www.equalityhumanrights.com) was formed as an interim organisation in October 2007, with its full active launch set for April 2008. Covering England, Scotland and Wales, it replaces, unites and adds to the work of three former agencies: the Commission for Racial Equality; the Disability Rights Commission; and the Equal Opportunities Commission. Its statutory disability committee is chaired by Baroness Jane Campbell.

Sarfraz Khan, senior legal officer at the new commission, said the work of his former employer the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) in the area of championing access to technology would be continued by the new body.

“The new commission offers an opportunity for a joined-up approach, not necessarily just considering technology access issues from one particular group, or piecemeal, but allowing us to deal more holistically,” Khan said. “It could pick up on issues that might
demonstrate multiple disadvantages, for example older people and disabled people.”

The new organisation will also have deeper pockets, he said. “It has greater resources than the previous commissions individually and collectively, which will probably mean it is in a position to do much more work, and access a greater number of areas. It also has a broader remit, covering human rights, and we will see how this applies to access to technology.”

The commission’s duties include to fight discrimination in the fields of age, disability, gender, reassignment of gender, race, religion of belief, and sexual orientation; and to promote awareness, understanding of and protection of human rights. Next month, it will publish a consultation draft of a three-year strategic plan for 2009-2012 covering legal assistance; research; codes of practice; and inquiries and investigations.

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