Disability Act 2005 & Complaints Procedure
ACCESS TO BUILDINGS AND SERVICES AND SECTORAL PLANS
Part 3 of the Disability Act 2005 places an obligation on public bodies to make their buildings and services accessible and requires the preparation of Sectoral Plans to support continued improvements in six key areas of public service provision. There are complaints procedures with a right of appeal to the Ombudsman.
Public buildings other than heritage sites (section 25)
Public bodies are required to make their public buildings accessible to people with disabilities by 2015. This will require the re-fitting of older public buildings so that they comply with Part M of the Building Regulations.
A Minister may, after consultation with other Ministers and interested parties, make an order to exclude a public building from the scope of these requirements if he is satisfied that the building –
- is being used as a public building on a temporary basis
- will no longer be used as a public building after three years or
- does not justify refurbishment on cost grounds having regard to the use of the building.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may ask the National Disability Authority (NDA) to draw up a Code of Practice to assist public bodies in making buildings accessible. Public bodies will have to comply with the Code as far as possible at the time of new construction, material alteration or extension of a public building or where it would be cost effective for the purpose of giving access to a greater number of people.
Mainstream public services (section 26)
From 31 December 2005 there will be a statutory requirement on public bodies to integrate, where practical and appropriate, their services for people with disabilities with those for other citizens. In some cases, assistance to access the service will be available to people with disabilities, following a request. “Access officers” will be appointed in each public body to co-ordinate these arrangements.
Contracted-in public services (section 27)
From 31 December 2005 public bodies will be required to ensure that goods or services purchased are accessible, unless it would not be practicable or justifiable on cost grounds or would result in an unreasonable delay.
Communications (section 28)
From 31 December 2005 communications by a public body to a person with a hearing or visual impairment must, as far as practicable, be provided in an accessible format, following a request. Information provided electronically must, as far as practicable, be compatible with adaptive technology. Published information, relevant to persons with intellectual disabilities, must be made available in easy to read formats.
Heritage sites (section 29)
From 31 December, 2007 heritage sites under public ownership, management or control and open to the public, must be accessible to people with disabilities. This requirement will not apply if the works involved in making the site accessible would have an adverse impact on the conservation of the site.
Complaints and the Ombudsman (sections 38–40)
Public bodies must appoint “inquiry officers” to process complaints about any failure by a public body to provide access as required by sections 25 to 29 of the Act. Each
Sectoral Plan must establish a complaints mechanism for individuals who have not been able to access a service specified in the plan.
Any person who is not satisfied with the outcome of a complaint made in relation to
Part 3 may appeal to the Ombudsman. Under the legislation the Ombudsman is given new powers to investigate any failure by a public body to comply with the access requirements of Part 3 or any commitment made in a Sectoral Plan.
Our Access Officer, Paddy Donnelly, appointed under section 26 (2) responsibility is ‘to provide or arrange for and co-ordinate the provision of assistance and guidance to persons with disabilities in accessing its services’.
Making a complaint
Section 38 of the Disability Act 2005 gives any person the right to make a complaint in writing should Louth Local Authorities fail to comply with sections 25, 26, 27, 28 or 29 of the Act.
Complaints, where possible, should include the following information:
- Name, address, contact telephone number and e-mail address (if available)
- Whether you are looking for access to a building, services or information?
- What location/centre did you deal with?
- When and whom did you meet? Date/staff name
- How and why was the service/ information/ public place or building inaccessible to you?
- What was the response of the persons (s) you were dealing with?
- Why were you dissatisfied with the response / comments?
Our Inquiry Officer is responsible for dealing with complaints made under Section 38 of the Disability Act. All complaints are to be made in writing and sent to:
Louth County Council
All written complaints under Section 38 of the Disability Act will be acknowledged within 5 working days. The issue will be responded to within 21 working days.
There are no fees involved in making a complaint regarding the Disability Act 2005. If you are not happy with the final response you can contact
Office of the Ombudsman,
18 Lower Leeson Street
Telephone 01 678 5222
See www.ombudsman.gov.ie for more information.