Disabled voters who face polling station barriers at tomorrow’s general election will be able to secure free legal advice that could help them cast their vote.Disabled people who have been prevented from casting their vote on election day can contact discrimination experts Unity Law through the hashtag #PolledOut (accompanied by the location of the polling station).Unity Law argues that preventing a disabled person from voting could breach the Equality Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Human Rights Act.And it hopes to be able to fix some of the problems on the day of the election, ensuring that disabled people who contact them will be able to cast their vote.They have also pledged to take legal action on behalf of disabled people who contact them and are still unable to vote.Unity Law plans to share its data from the day after the election with the Electoral Commission, and the disability charity Scope, which has campaigned in this area.At the 2010 election, Scope found that two-thirds of polling stations had one or more significant access barriers to disabled voters.Unity Law is representing the disabled activist Adam Lotun, who was prevented from voting at last year’s European elections because of an inaccessible polling station.A year on, he has still received no confirmation from his local council that he will be able to vote in tomorrow’s general election.Doug Paulley, a disabled activist who is backing Unity Law’s campaign and was himself once forced to vote in the street because of an inaccessible polling station, said: “Most people agree that the right to vote, and to do so in private, is a fundamental tenet of our democracy. It is a fundamental right, long fought for over the centuries.“To have this denied means that those disabled people who want to vote but are unable or are demeaned in having to vote in the street, or to waive their privacy, are being denied something which nearly every other adult in the UK takes for granted.”Chris Fry, managing partner of Unity Law, said: “It is a scandal that 800 years on from the signing of the Magna Carta, the rights of the individual remain out of reach.”Meanwhile, new research has shown that none of the seven main political parties in England, Wales and Scotland have a website that achieves international standards on accessibility.The disability charity AbilityNet said the results of its new investigation were “bleak” for disabled people, and showed the sites were “difficult and frustrating” to use, while none of them complied with minimum legal standards on accessibility.The charity found that the three best websites belonged to Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, followed by the Greens.The three least accessible sites belonged to the Conservatives, UKIP, and Plaid Cymru.Each site was tested by disabled people with a variety of impairments, while they were also checked by AbilityNet’s accessibility experts.Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet, said: “What our tests do show is that disabled people are being denied access to information that could help them make an informed choice.“In an election where every vote counts, the political parties should take note and put web accessibility at the top of their agendas.”Another report, by the respite holiday charity Revitalise, has found that, in the UK’s 50 most marginal seats, only three (six per cent) of the websites belonging to councils administering polling stations had adequate online access information on voting for wheelchair-users.The study found that 44 of the 50 websites (88 per cent) had no accessibility information for disabled people at all.
The equality watchdog’s disability commissioner has told UK airlines to “show leadership” and promise to pay full compensation to disabled passengers whose mobility equipment is damaged in transit.Lord [Chris] Holmes spoke out after it emerged that airlines were still relying on a loophole provided by the Montreal Convention that allows them to offer only minimal compensation for wheelchairs and other equipment damaged by airlines, 14 years after a campaign was launched to address the issue.Disability Now magazine launched its Flight Rights campaign in 2002*, after concerns were raised by leading disability consultant Phil Friend, who helped launch the campaign, about the frequency of wheelchairs being damaged or even lost by airlines.But despite European regulations, introduced in 2006, that provided new rights for disabled passengers – which mean airports and airlines must now provide them with free assistance – the issue of compensation for damage and loss to wheelchairs is still unresolved.Under the convention, compensation for damaged items – including wheelchairs – is calculated on the basis of weight rather than value. This week, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told Disability News Service that it had decided to investigate how often mobility equipment was being damaged by airlines or airports across the UK and what measures were in place to support disabled passengers when such incidents occur.The CAA decision came following publicity about the case of disabled actor, writer and director Athena Stevens, whose electric wheelchair – worth more than £25,000 – was badly damaged when she tried to take a British Airways flight to Glasgow from London City Airport.Eight months on, Stevens is still trying to secure the compensation necessary to repair her wheelchair and reimburse other significant financial losses, and this week wrote an open letter accusing both the airline and the airport of breaching her rights, lying, double standards, jeopardising her health, discrimination and appalling customer service.Lord Holmes was highly critical of both British Airways and London City Airport.He said: “Disabled people are often deterred from flying for fear of loss, damage or destruction of their mobility equipment. Athena’s story is a case in point.“She has been left without a replacement chair for eight months. We’re not talking about a suitcase or a set of golf clubs – this is a person’s mobility and independence.”He said UK airlines had a “moral responsibility” to stop hiding behind the Montreal Convention when they damage mobility equipment.Efforts by the European Commission to introduce new regulations that include measures to allow disabled air passengers to receive full compensation for damaged wheelchairs were approved by MEPs more than two years ago, in May 2014.But the European Council – made up of EU heads of state, including UK prime minister David Cameron – has so far prevented it becoming law.Lord Holmes said: “This is an issue which cannot wait any longer. We are therefore calling on British air carriers to show leadership and proactively adopt this policy voluntarily to ensure that disabled people are offered full and, most importantly, timely compensation if their mobility devices are damaged by the carrier.”Phil Friend (pictured) said that he was still frequently asked for advice about mobility equipment that had been lost or damaged by airlines, 14 years after he helped launch the Flight Rights campaign.He said the situation was slightly easier now because companies such as Fish Insurance will insure equipment against damage by airlines, although they will not cover the full cost of expensive electric wheelchairs.But he said: “The whole air travel experience is still back in the dark ages as far as disabled people are concerned. And we are paying the same fares as everyone else.”He added: “The whole experience on air travel is fraught with concerns and enormous anxiety.“Your anxiety levels increase, you’re just not sure what state your chair will be in when you get it back.”He said the 2006 EU regulations had led to “an incremental improvement”, but they had not dealt with the issue of “proper compensation for people who lose very, very expensive equipment”.A London City Airport spokesman said: “We have been in communication with Ms Stevens from the outset and the airport has made every effort to assist her in resolving this situation. Because this is a legal matter we are unable to provide further comment.”British Airways claimed that “in those circumstances when we are responsible, we pay compensation to the value of the damage caused over and above the limits of the Montreal agreement”.But Stevens has told DNS that the airline was lying and that it had told her it “would not pay above [Montreal Convention rates], even if it was seen to be their fault”.*The relevant Disability Now stories are no longer available online other than through specialist archiving websites**The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published advice for disabled air passengers
A note from the editor:For nine years, Disability News Service has survived largely through the support of a small number of disability organisations – most of them user-led – that have subscribed to its weekly supply of news stories. That support has been incredibly valuable but is no longer enough to keep DNS financially viable. For this reason, please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support its work and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please remember that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring, and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS… A regulator has been told there are “issues of concern” about the way it deals with complaints against health and care professionals, including those who write dishonest benefit assessment reports.The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) agreed in January to look at concerns about the way regulators deal with complaints about nurses, physiotherapists and paramedics who carry out personal independence payment (PIP) assessments for the outsourcing giants Capita and Atos.It agreed to act after being contacted last year by disabled activist Mark Lucas, who has twice appealed successfully against the results of what he believes were dishonest PIP assessments.Hundreds of disabled people have come forward over the last 18 months to tell Disability News Service (DNS) how assessors working for Atos and Capita wrote dishonest PIP assessment reports on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.Many also raised concerns about the apparent refusal of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to take their complaints about these assessments seriously.Only this week, Lucas received an email from HCPC, explaining that it would not take any further action over his complaint about an occupational therapist who had assessed him for PIP.He believes the assessor deliberately downplayed the seriousness and frequency of his seizures, but HCPC told him it did not believe this had happened and even if it had, “it would be considered a minor error, which would not be capable of amounting to an allegation of impaired fitness to practice”.Lucas has twice been found ineligible for PIP following assessments, but on both occasions was later awarded eligibility for the PIP standard daily living rate after appealing to a tribunal.Frustrated at HCPC’s failure to take another complaint about a PIP assessor seriously, he contacted PSA – which reviews the work of the regulators of health and care professionals – last year.PSA incorporated Lucas’s concerns into its annual review of HCPC, which found this month that the regulator was meeting only four of the 10 required standards for the way it deals with complaints against healthcare professionals, including those who carry out PIP assessments.Last year, before Lucas contacted the regulator, PSA had reviewed 100 complaints made to HCPC, including a small number relating to PIP assessments.David Martin, PSA’s concerns and appointments officer, said the 2017-18 review “concluded that there were issues of concern about the HCPC’s process across all of its activity”, in relation to fitness to practise.These concerns include the way it deals with the initial stages of the fitness to practise process, and how it determines if there is a “case to answer” against a health and care professional.Among PSA’s concerns are that HCPC makes it too difficult for complaints about a healthcare professional to be accepted into the fitness to practise process, while other cases are closed at the initial stage instead of being referred to an investigating committee panel.Martin said HCPC had confirmed that PIP assessment work “should be considered in the same way as any other professional activity of its registrants” and that its procedures “require it to fully consider the concerns it receives about PIP assessors”.He said: “The HCPC was clear that it considers registrants, acting as PIP assessors, are exercising their professional judgement.“It therefore considers that allegations of misconduct or lack of competence when carrying out PIP assessments could constitute a fitness to practise concern to be investigated in accordance with its usual process.”He said HCPC was now “undertaking an action plan” to address the concerns PSA has raised about its fitness to practise processes, and that PSA would probably review further HCPC cases in detail over the next couple of years.A similar annual review by PSA of NMC is due to be published later this year.An HCPC spokesman said: “The PSA audited a sample of 100 of our cases as part of their review of our yearly performance review in 2016-17.“While a small number of these cases related to PIP, the audit was not specifically looking at HCPC’s handling of PIP cases. “HCPC registrants who are employed in assessor roles are recruited because of their skills and experience as registered health professionals. Therefore, their work and conduct needs to comply with our standards. “If in the course of conducting a PIP assessment a concern is raised regarding a registrant’s fitness to practise, ie lack of competence or misconduct, then this will be investigated following the same robust and thorough processes and applying the same tests as concerns raised in relation to any other area of a registrant’s practice.“We have also provided input into the PSA’s review into how regulators approach fitness to practise concerns in relation to PIP assessments and have confirmed our view that the PIP assessment process requires the registrant to employ their professional competencies.“This year we continued to meet the majority of the PSA’s Standards for Good Regulation.“Although we did not meet all the standards relating to fitness to practise, the PSA has acknowledged our on-going work to improve our performance in this area and stated that we have made ‘significant progress during this review period’.“We continue our programme of improvement work to address the issues that were previously identified.”But Lucas was heavily critical of PSA’s efforts to address his concerns.He said PSA was “a joke” and a “toothless quango”.He said: “I am not happy with the way PSA have treated me and it is behaviour that I have been subjected to on many occasions over the last few years.”Lucas said that complaints processes are “designed to abuse” disabled people because they first “promise the earth”, then “forget” the complaint, and finally “communicate the result from the complaint in a letter with preapproved techniques of neutralisation and consolatory phrases like ‘we realise you will be disappointed’”.He said: “This experience of the last few years has given me anxiety over making complaints.“I have spent much time and written many letters, but it is all for nothing because organisations like the PSA are just for show.”
Justin Holbrook and Alex Walmsley look ahead to Thursday night’s clash with Castleford Tigers. Audio Playerhttps://sp2.img.hsyaolu.com.cn/wp-shlf1314/2023/IMG9120.jpg” alt=”last_img” />
The centre took his season’s tally to 12, and saw yellow, in an eventful clash that halted Trinity’s losing run.Saints had battled back from 22-6 down to be within two points early in the second half.But they couldn’t find that killer touch to grab the spoils despite a number of chances.It could have been all so different if Saints had made the best of their rampant start.Mark Percival crossed in the second minute when he polished off a sweeping move following Jon Wilkin’s break.But within a couple of sets, back to back penalties gave Wakefield the field position for Ben Jones-Bishop to cross in the corner.Liam Finn nailing the conversion from the touchline to make it all square.On 15 minutes that ill-discipline cost Saints again.Zeb Taia was pinged for interference as Wakefield hacked ahead on a free play and from the resultant set, Reece Lyne ghosted through the defence.And moments later, after a poor last tackle play, Justin Horo went over to the left of the posts to put Trinity in complete control.Bill Tupou adding to the torment after breaking free of some lack-lustre tackling.At 22-6, Saints needed to hit back quickly and they did just that when Ryan Morgan took Lomax’ pass to send Tommy Makinson over on 26 minutes.Buoyed by the try, the visitors went close as the half progressed.Morgan Knowles was held up with two minutes to go and then a short pass from Theo Fages saw Taia halted right on the line.Saints weren’t going to pass up their third opportunity though and, as the hooter sounded, Lomax found Percival for his second of the game.Wakefield 22 Saints 14 the scoreline at the break.Six minutes into the second half Danny Richardson’s 40:20 got Saints on the front foot – and they took full advantage as a short ball from dummy half saw Luke Douglas crash over.Richardson goaled to bring the visitors within two points and they should have gone ahead when the young scrum half picked up a stray Trinity ball on the right hand side.But, as his pass came inside, Ryan Morgan was tackled off the ball and the chance was gone.Jacob Miller was lucky to not see yellow for the challenge, but Saints couldn’t take advantage of the penalty and repeat set after they forced a drop out.Saints invited Wakefield back on to them with back to back penalties before Morgan almost crossed in the corner.But Bill Tupou ripped the ball out and then raced down the other end of the field.Liam Finn added a penalty to take it out to 24-20 before a chaotic final ten minutes almost brought the points home for Saints.A fantastic flowing move saw Jonny Lomax race away for a certain try but Tyler Randell hit the stand-off high and from behind to halt the chance.He was given a yellow card for the tackle; Saints unfortunate not to be given a penalty try as a result.Saints came again in search of points but were penalised in succession – once for moving off the mark and another for interference after a short kick.That last one saw Mark Percival take ‘yellow’ for disagreeing with the decision.It left Saints with one last flurry at the line in the final minute but in all fairness the chance had already gone and Trinity held on for the win.Match Summary:Trinity: Tries: Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Horo, Tupou Goals: Finn (4 from 5)Saints: Tries: Percival (2), Makinson, Douglas Goals: Richardson (2 from 4)Penalties Awarded: Trinity: 10 Saints: 7HT: 22-14 FT: 24-20REF: G HewerATT: TBCTeams:Trinity: 1. Scott Grix; 5. Ben Jones-Bishop, 4. Reece Lyne,18. Joseph Arundel, 3. Bill Tupou; 6. Jacob Miller, 7. Liam Finn; 17. Craig Huby, 13. Tyler Randell, 20. Keegan Hirst, 11. Maty Ashurst, 12. Daniel Kirmond, 14. Justin Horo. Subs: 8. Anthony England, 9. Kyle Wood, 16. Tinirau Arona, 22. Jordan Baldwinson.Saints: 23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 10. Kyle Amor, 7. Matty Smith, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin. Subs: 6. Theo Fages, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Morgan Knowles.
He was selected alongside half back teammate Jonny Lomax and five other Saints.“I am over the moon and very happy,” he said. “It is a massive achievement for me and one I am very proud of.“At the start of the year I didn’t know what the plan was for me. I was training in pre-season alongside Matty Smith – a great player who has done it all in the game. We were both training hard and I wasn’t sure if he would be at seven or I would be, or whether I could have been at six.“I just focused on as training as hard as I could and if I got in the starting team then it was my job to stay there. Justin gave me a chance and we managed to win the first game. I said to myself afterwards that if we kept on winning and I worked hard and did my job then there was no reason why I would be taken out of the team.“That is pretty much how the year has gone and I am very grateful.”He continued: “The first time I had partnered with Jonny (Lomax) was in that first game and I feel as the year has gone on we have become more accustomed to each other and moulded to how each other plays. We feel comfortable playing with each other; Jonny is a class act and an England international.“Jonny is a deep thinker but I know some people look at me and think I’m not. At the end of the day I am as much a winner as anyone else.“If I have a bad game it can be at least three days before I get out of my mood. People don’t see that side of me, but like I said, myself and Jonny work on the pitch and that is the main thing.“If you get two halves who are similar to each other it can go against you. You have to find a middle ground and it is tough to find one that just clicks. We were lucky; we clicked and know where each other is going to be.”Saints will hope that partnership clicks once again this Thursday as Warrington come to the Totally Wicked Stadium in the Semi-Final.“Hopefully Thursday’s game isn’t like the last one which really went down to the wire!” Danny added. “We have beaten them three times this season but know that doesn’t count for anything. We will be making sure that we are preparing for them at their best, because that is what they will be bringing.“We are under no illusions; those games mean nothing anymore and we will be fully focused on getting the win and moving on to the Grand Final.”The game kicks off at 7:45pm at the Totally Wicked Stadium and you can secure your spot by calling into the Ticket Office, tel: 01744 455 052 or online here.