NI: Student wins disability discrimination case with NI Equality Commission support

Claire Taggart
Claire Taggart

A 20-year-old disabled student has settled a discrimination case against Northern Regional College with the assistance of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

Claire Taggart decided to action against the college after she found herself occasionally unable to attend classes due to non-functioning lifts on campus.

Fellow students used to help carry her wheelchair up the stairs until a heavier, powered wheelchair became medically necessary and it could no longer be easily carried.

In one instance, Ms Taggart said she was “told to go home because the lifts were not working”.

Finally, in May 2014, she was stuck in one of the college lifts and required rescue by the Fire Service, prompting Ms Taggart to investigate options for legal recourse.

The college has now apologised, made a payment of £1,000, and taken specific measures agreed with Ms Taggart to deal with problems affecting the lifts. The Equality Commission and college staff have reviewed the college’s disability policy and procedures.

Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said: “Education has a unique role to play in tackling all kinds of disadvantage in society, and equality for all – including people with disabilities - should be a core objective for every college or school.

“They need to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the full range of educational facilities and opportunities and see that they are provided with the necessary support to do this. Disabled students with mobility problems shouldn’t be put off going to college, with all it has to offer them, just because the lifts don’t work.

“Every year the Commission gets more complaints about disability than about any other sort of discrimination. The most common cause of complaint regarding access to education is the failure of institutions to make a reasonable adjustment so that a disabled person is not placed at a disadvantage in comparison with other students.

“Disability discrimination is a continuing problem and we maintain our focus on addressing it. We’ll be supporting the 2016 UK-wide Disabled Access Day (12 March) with an event in Belfast on 10 March. It’s part of our ‘Every Customer Counts’ initiative, which helps businesses and service providers understand what is required of them under the law and how they can improve access for disabled people.”

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