Code of practice on accessibility of public services and information provided by public bodies (Ireland)
The Disability Act 2005 (the Act) is a positive measure, which provides a legal basis for making public services accessible. Sections 26, 27 and 28 of the Act place obligations on public organisations to make their services and information accessible to people with disabilities. We have prepared this code of practice at the request of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
Although the Act contains conditions on accessibility in relation to buildings and heritage sites, these areas do not fall within the scope of this code of practice. These will be dealt with separately.
The obligations under sections 26, 27 and 28 in the code are explained. The code does not cover the associated complaints process which will apply under sections 38, 39 and 40. Sections 38, 39, 40 say that someone with a disability can make a complaint about a public organisation that fails to provide access under by sections 26, 27 and 28. If the person making the complaint is not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint, they can appeal to the Ombudsman.
Who will benefit from these conditions?
The Act is designed to improve access to public services for people with disabilities. For the purposes of sections 26, 27 and 28 of the Act, the term disability is defined in section 2 of the Act, as follows: "In relation to a person, (disability) means a substantial restriction in the capacity of the person to carry on a profession, business or occupation in the State or to participate in social or cultural life in the State by reason of an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual impairment."
What services are covered?
The code applies to a service which comes under the definition of services in section 2 of the Act. It covers a wide range of services and facilities provided by public organisations that are available to the public generally or a particular section of the public. This includes: a) using any place or facility owned, managed or controlled by a public organisation; b) providing information, an information resource or a scheme, allowance or other benefit managed by a public organisation; c) any cultural or heritage services provided by that organisation; and d) any service provided by a court or other tribunal.
What public organisations are covered by the code?
The code applies to a wide range of public organisations. The public organisations covered by the code are defined in section 2 of the Act to cover: a) a department of state; b) the Office of the President; c) the Office of the Attorney General; d) the Office of the Controller and Auditor General; e) the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas; f) a local authority; g) the Health Service Executive; or h) a person or organisation (other than the Defence Forces) set up in the following ways: (i) by or under any Act (other than the Companies Acts 1963 to 2003).
This would include for example: the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland set up under the Radio and Television Act 1988; the Central Statistics Office, set up under the Statistics Act 1993; us, the National Disability Authority, set up under the National Disability Authority Act 1999; the Courts Service set up under the Courts Act 1998; and the Legal Aid Board set up under the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995. (ii) under the Companies Acts 1963 to 2003 and paid for totally or partly using money provided, or loans made or guaranteed, by a Minister of the Government or shares held by or on behalf of a Minister of the Government. This would include for example, Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann.
Tackling issues on accessibility
To make sure services are accessible it is important to be aware of the obstacles people who have physical, sensory or learning disabilities come across. Their needs will vary and will inform the kind of action that is appropriate and can be delivered wherever practical.
Obstacles to accessibility for people with disabilities include a broad range of elements including, for example:
- communication, if something is presented in a format which is not accessible;
- lack of awareness of the needs of people with disabilities;
- the physical environment for example, design, layout, signs, lighting and so on; and
- the design of services for example, where systems, procedures and practices can cause obstacles.
Information and services can be made accessible when they are provided in a way that meets the needs of those people they are intended for.
In general, you can achieve this by asking people what they need when it comes to information and services.