Disabled people must push the government hard as it negotiates its withdrawal from the European Union (EU), because the terms of the Brexit deal are likely to have a significant impact on disability rights in the UK, according to a leading academic.Professor Anna Lawson, head of the Centre for Disability Studies and the new Disability Law Hub at the University of Leeds, said that a so-called “hard Brexit” – in which the UK withdraws from the EU single market as well as political union – was likely to damage the rights of disabled people in this country more than a deal that allowed the UK to stay in the EU single market.She told Disability Rights UK’s annual conference in north London that disabled people and their organisations would need to pressure the UK government to explain how it would fill the “disability gap” between the rights that are currently in place and those that will exist after Brexit.Lawson (pictured, speaking to the conference) said that a “soft” Brexit would mean the UK staying in the EU single market, and therefore benefiting from all the legal protections that offers, such as laws on assistance with public transport and non-discrimination.She said: “So many of the disability-related rights and policies conferred by EU law will continue to be binding on the UK if we remain part of the single market.”But leaving the single market would mean that disabled people would have to pressure the government to fill in more gaps in protection currently offered by EU membership, such as in procurement law, and disabled passengers’ rights when travelling on planes or ships.The EU has also agreed new laws on public sector website accessibility, and has proposed a new European Accessibility Act.Lawson said the benefits of the accessibility act could “trickle down” to disabled people in the UK even if there is a hard Brexit, because designers and manufacturers in the other countries in the single market would be bound by it.Leaving the single market would also mean the loss of freedom of movement, which would affect disabled people’s ability to recruit personal assistants from EU countries, and the recruitment of NHS staff.But Lawson said that even if there was a hard Brexit, the EU was likely to continue to influence disability rights in the UK, with campaigners able to use any EU legislative improvements as a bargaining tool domestically.She said: “The bigger question is what does the UK need to do to fill any disability gap that would open up.“There will be a much bigger gap if we leave the single market.”She also pointed to EU funding that has been awarded to disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), and added: “We need to make sure disabled people do not suffer because the funding isn’t available to DPOs [after Brexit].”She said it was important to ensure that any replacement funding from the UK government had the same requirements for accessibility and non-discrimination as EU funding.Lawson said it would be vital to assess which disability-related rights would be affected by Brexit, so disabled people know “what is at stake and what is the size of the gap”.She said Disability Rights UK was surveying disabled people, DPOs and voluntary organisations to ask them how much EU funding they have received and the kind of projects it has funded, in a bid to “use that to influence the UK in terms of what it needs to be thinking of in the coming years”.Lawson also appealed to DPOs to continue to be involved in dialogue and collaborations with other DPOs across Europe.She said: “This matters, because what happens at EU level is still going to be a really influential bargaining tool for us with the UK government.“If much stronger disability rights protections are developed at EU level, even after we have left, we can use that as bargaining tools with the UK government.”Lawson also warned that the government’s threat to quit the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and replace it with a British bill of rights – unconnected to Brexit – was “something we as disabled people would need to campaign very hard against”.
The aviation regulator is being forced to change guidance that appears to discriminate against many disabled people who want to take their assistance dogs with them on commercial flights.Guidance issued through a safety notice by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) states that assistance dogs must have had their training, behaviour, health and welfare “endorsed” by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) or the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland.But CIEH insists that it has no remit to endorse assistance dogs and says it has repeatedly asked CAA to remove this reference from the safety notice.Now, following concerns raised by disabled campaigner Mark Lucas, CAA has said the guidance is likely to be withdrawn.Lucas, from Stoke-on-Trent, had sent a letter warning CAA that he believes the guidance was discriminating against him as a disabled person.He says the guidance has made it harder for him to persuade airlines to allow his assistance dog Betty (pictured) – who he has trained himself – to accompany him on flights from the UK.He has been told by CIEH: “We have written on numerous occasions to CAA asking them to remove all references to us from their safety notices but they have never responded.”Betty assists Lucas with his mental health – reducing the stress that can cause an epileptic seizure – but because she has not been trained by an organisation that is a member of Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation, airlines refuse to allow Betty to accompany him on flights from the UK as an assistance dog.He believes airlines and CAA are doing everything they can to prevent dogs like Betty being treated as assistance dogs.He argues that only a tiny percentage of the disabled people who could benefit from assistance dogs have animals trained by the big charities like Guide Dogs.But Lucas and other owners of assistance dogs can now point to guidance published in December by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which aims to help businesses understand their duties to owners of assistance dogs under the Equality Act 2010.The guide states that assistance dogs “can also be owner trained” and says that the law “does not require the dog to wear a harness or jacket to identify it as an assistance dog”.Lucas believes that this guidance means “the time is up” on the discrimination he and others are facing and shows that owner-trained dogs can be treated as assistance dogs under the Equality Act.He said: “The way they have interpreted the act means the Equality Act is on my side.”But even if CAA removes the discriminatory guidance, Lucas believes he will only persuade the industry to change its rules by taking a court case against an airline.Other campaigners are also pushing for change.Esme Brenton, founder of Sherlock Hounds Assistance Dogs (SHAD), which works with owner-trained assistance dogs, said: “I would like to see a change in the attitude the airline industry have towards assistance dogs in general.”She added: “As long as the dog is under control, does not cause any issues in public and provides a direct benefit to their handler’s disabilities they should be able to accompany their handler.”Like Lucas, she believes the problems lie within the airline industry in the UK, rather than in other European countries, where assistance dogs like Betty are accepted.She said: “After talking to a few people it appears that the issue lies within the UK. “Although expensive, some would rather travel by other means to Europe to then get a flight from Europe to their desired destination. “There is also no problem getting back into the UK when boarding from other countries.“Sadly this can lead to people coming to this country for a holiday and when trying to go back they can find themselves stranded in the UK.”Although SHAD runs its own assessment scheme for owner-trained assistance dogs, Brenton believes that all dogs should be accepted as assistance dogs “as long as the dog is under control and does not cause any issues to the public and provides a direct benefit to their handler’s disabilities”.She said: “I don’t agree [with] ‘one size fits all’. This way of thinking simply puts barriers up. “While organisations like mine work for some, it doesn’t for others. Everyone should be given a choice of how to train. “The only difficulty comes from a small minority of people abusing the system.”She added: “A great deal of disabled people benefit a great deal from having an assistance dog.“Sadly, the numbers of those in need outweigh the limited resources and spaces [available from] the main organisations such as Guide Dogs and all those under the umbrella of Assistance Dogs UK. “This leaves many having to take on the challenge and commitment of training their own dog.”A CAA spokesman said the safety notice was “currently under review and will likely be withdrawn soon. We will be contacting [CIEH] directly to discuss.”
SAINTS cruised to a 30-0 win over London Broncos at Langtree Park to all but cement their place in the top four.Paul Wellens and Mark Flanagan both grabbed braces as Mike Rush’s men ended the regular season home campaign on a high.Saints led 10-0 after a dour first half thanks to tries from Tony Puletua and Flanagan.But they upped the ante in the second with Flanagan netting his second after Jonny Lomax chipped through before Wellens added another to his impressive total.The full back then clocked his 23rd of the year before Anthony Laffranchi scored right on the hooter.Continuity was the name of the game as Saints made only two changes from the team that beat Castleford – Jon Wilkin and Josh Jones both returning from injury whilst Chris Flannery and Michael Shenton missed out.Ade Gardner making his comeback in the under 20s competition.Saints got off to the greatest possible start when Tony Puletua took a ball at pace to crash under the posts.Lomax goaled then London almost snatched one back when Luke Dorn put one up to the air – Wellens excellently quelling the danger.On 17 minutes Kieran Dixon put the Broncos is a great position as he took a tap on his 20 after a Saints error and scooted 60 metres.From there, the visitors were awarded a penalty but they failed to play the ball correctly.James Roby sent Jonny Lomax away on 25 minutes but he was hauled in before Lance Hohaia – who really put himself about in defence and attack – sent a ball over to Francis Meli that he just couldn’t take in.But there were too many penalties from either side for the game to build up any momentum before Saints finally profited from one.This time Lomax flew at the line and drew defenders all around him before slipping out a nice pass to Mark Flanagan.In the second half, a great break from Francis Meli had him ankle tapped as he just looked to put distance between himself and the defence.But Saints were soon on the board when Lomax’ innocuous kick had Flanagan in for his second.Paul Wellens then grabbed his 22nd of the season as he showed the strength of a prop forward to burrow over from close range.Lomax missing both conversion attempts.Paul Wellens notched his second on the hour mark after Puletua’s great inside ball, goaled by Wheeler.The game was effectively over as a contest by then and although both sides had pressure it was only Saints that realistically looked like scoring.And they did just that on the hooter; Lomax feeding Anthony Laffranchi under the posts.A massive point’s swing now on the final weekend of regular fixtures is the only way Saints would be denied a top four finish.And that would be a superb position after being shackled out of the playoff places earlier in the season.Match Summary:Saints:Tries: Puletua, Flanagan (2), Wellens (2), LaffranchiGoals: Lomax (1 from 4), Wheeler (2 from 2)Broncos:Tries: Goals:Penalties:Saints: 11Broncos: 12HT: 10-0FT: 30-0REF: Richard SilverwoodATT: 13262Teams:Saints:1. Paul Wellens; 21. Tommy Makinson, 17. Gary Wheeler, 26. Josh Jones, 5. Francis Meli; 6. Lance Hohaia, 7. Jonny Lomax; 8. Josh Perry, 9. James Roby, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 4. Sia Soliola, 11. Tony Puletua, 12. Jon Wilkin.Subs: 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 15. Mark Flanagan, 16. Paul Clough, 19. Andy Dixon.Broncos:5. Michael Robertson; 21. Kieran Dixon, 3. Jamie O’Callaghan, 4. David Howell, 23. Omari Caro; 1. Luke Dorn, 7. Craig Gower; 8. Antonio Kaufusi, 9. Chad Randall, 30. Scott Wheeldon, 31. Will Lovell, 13. Tony Clubb, 22. Ben Bolger.Subs: 10. Mark Bryant, 14. Julien Rinaldi, 18. Olsi Krasniqi, 32. Mike McMeeken.
SAINTS Chairman Eamonn McManus has issued the following statement following the recent Travis Burns incident and injury at Hull KR.The Travis Burns incident and injury at Hull KR has frustrated me greatly and raises critical issues for the game which cannot be ignored or suppressed any longer. In the immediate aftermath of the Grand Final, I did publicly state that the combined inconsistency of officiating on the pitch and the irreconcilability of disciplinary decisions off it had created an environment capable of exploitation, innocent or otherwise.Only a month ago Kyle Amor was banned for two games (probably correctly) for an accidental dangerous tackle which neither hurt nor injured anyone. How can you reconcile this with no sending off and a one match ban for a late shoulder to the head (which by definition must be deliberate) by a prop which breaks a half back’s cheekbone?Conversely, Alex Walmsley was sent off and also banned for a late high tackle, but with no use of the shoulder, against Huddersfield last season. There are too many similarly irreconcilable examples to use, but such an exercise is probably futile.This is not a complaint that St.Helens are being mistreated in particular, but a serious concern about the very foundations of the game, its players’ welfare and its business. An environment of confused rule application on the pitch, compounded by inconsistent disciplinary sanction off it, will inevitably lead to unnecessary serious player injury as well as a disillusioned fan base. In addition to obvious player welfare concerns there is, equally importantly, a consequent commercial ill effect for the entire game as well as for individual clubs.There is no point in making strong commercial progress, which the game recently has, if it is to be undermined by inconsistent officiating and disciplinary. The RFL and Super League have made great commercial progress in recent times, for which they are to be congratulated. However, this makes it all the more imperative that effective action is taken so as not to neutralise this.I can see no signs of progress since I raised what I considered to be a major alarm bell on this situation after last year’s Grand Final.