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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Peers back down on disability law
Photo of wheelchair user on the tube
Transport will have to be more accessible under the new law
People with disabilities will have protection from discrimination under a new law, but it will not cover those with depression.

MPs rejected a Lords amendment which would have extended the Disability Discrimination Act to cover those with the condition.

However, the Act will protect people with cancer, HIV and MS.

The Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a disabled person in relation to employment.

It will also say:-

  • Trains will have to be accessible
  • Transport operators will have to comply with current disability legislation from which they have been exempt
  • Public bodies will have a duty of promoting equality for disabled people
  • Disabled councillors will be protected against discrimination by local authorities
  • Examination bodies will be covered by disability legislation
  • Private clubs with more than 25 members will no longer be exempt
  • People dealing with landlords and managers of rented property will have greater rights, not including physical alterations to buildings

'Added burden'

The Lords had amended the legislation to make it apply to people who had suffered debilitating depression, recovered but then relapsed into further bouts.

But in the Commons, Minister for Disabled People Maria Eagle said the government had "thought long and hard" about the change but could not accept it.

Until now, people were only protected once they developed Aids-related symptoms, which meant that many were at risk of losing their homes and jobs
Nick Partridge, Terrence Higgins Trust

She said: "Fundamentally, it undermines the most basic principle of the Disability Discrimination Act that a disability has to be a long-term or permanent condition."

She said recurring illnesses were already included in anti-discrimination rules.

A spokesman for the Disability Rights Commission said it was disappointing that depression had not been included, but said it was pleased the Act had been passed.

"People with short-term severe depression - of less than 12 months - will not be covered.

"But we have been assured by the government that they would aim, should they be re-elected, that those patients would be covered by some form of legislation."

Mike O'Donovan, chief executive of the MS Society, welcomed the Act.

He said, Around 50 people in the UK are told they have MS every week. "Now they will be legally protected from discrimination from the moment they are diagnosed.

"That will make a considerable difference to people who until now have faced the added burden of worrying whether they should keep their MS secret in case their job prospects were threatened."

Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Protecting people with HIV against discrimination will help improve the lives of the more than 60,000 people currently living with the virus in the UK.

"Until now, people were only protected once they developed Aids-related symptoms, which meant that many were at risk of losing their homes and jobs and some were denied basic services such as healthcare.

"Advances in HIV treatment allow people to live longer and more productive lives, but this has not always been matched by a reduction in fear and prejudice. This new legislation will work to bridge that gap."

'Landmark' Disability Bill published
26 Nov 04 |  UK Election 2005

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