Behind the headlines

Mark Keane struck a blow for disability rights by becoming the
first deaf person to use the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to
prove that he is a victim ofdiscrimination.

Lincolnshire Hospital NHS Trust had refused to make adjustments
so that Keane could avoid telephone work, even though this was not
a major part of the role. He had applied for a job as a part-time
medicalrecords clerk.

The resulting employment tribunal, which recently awarded Keane
£7,436 in damages, has turned out to be a landmark for
disability rights. The trust was forced to pay out under section 6
of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the ruling will act
as a warning to employers about the perils ofinflexibility in
drawing up their job specifications.

Keane’s case was fought by the Disability Rights Commission. DRC
chairperson Bert Massie said: “What this case emphasises is that
there is now an onus on employers to make adjustments so as to
remove barriers that disabled people face when they go for

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“It is imperative that social care employers lead the way in
demonstrating flexibility and, where necessary, find creative
solutions. The NHS trust case is shameful but how many of us can be
completely confident this would not happen in our workplace?
Disability is only a barrier to employment because of an outdated
reliance on a medical model which defines difference as a

Karen Warwick, senior practitioner, Barnardo’s
“The continuing struggle for people living with
disabilities in the workplace is a good indicator of the medical
model of disability retaining its dominance. The discourse attached
to this model assists in ensuring that disabled people remain
marginalised and excluded from mainstream society. Some agencies
have embraced the social model of disability and employ disabled
people accordingly, but these are few and far between. There needs
to be a fundamental shift towards the social model coupled with
disabled people continuing to ensure they receive what they are
entitled to under the law.”

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield
Institute for Health, University of Leeds
“The law is inevitably a blunt instrument for tackling
discrimination and prejudice. Even this welcome pay-out – and
others like it – constitutes something of a hollow victory. The
real issue is the need for a major change in outlook and culture.
Unfortunately, this remains frustratingly elusive. While the law
does have a role to play, both as a strategy of last resort and a
potential threat, it has to be supplemented by a focus on the
factors that lead to discriminatory behaviour.”

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the

“This case clearly illustrates that employers need to be mindful of
the special needs of disabled people when filling posts. However,
there also needs to be funding to enable employers to meet the
requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This is
particularly true for small voluntary organisations, which are
often working with such limited resources that the money to pay for
the extra cost of implementation would have to be taken from
somewhere else. Increasingly, we are seeing more and more
regulation without back-up resources being made available to
implement it.”

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers

“The DRC’s victories for disabled people are very welcome. Too many
employers still have low disability awareness and are insensitive
to disability issues. Many managers and employers, often quite
unwittingly, subject disabled people to terrible humiliation in the
workplace. Raising general awareness of all the varied cases that
the DRC has already fought and won will encourage employers and
employees to change their attitudes.”

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