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2011 National Disabled Members' Conference
15 July 2011

Conference notes with concern the problems some disabled members encounter in attaining and/or receiving information requested under the Freedom of Information Act 2000; especially whilst requesting information where some constraining time limits are involved.

Both the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will not currently send information and letters in accessible formats for visually impaired users; except in Braille or 14 point fonts. Neither will they email letters or post the required information on disc to recipients who use screen reader software. Conference believes that in a modern technological society, full accessibility should be offered as standard, therefore ensuring as many disabled people as possible have access to the information they require. This should be regarded as a “reasonable adjustment”.

Conference is dismayed that the DWP have stated that they are “exempt” from the legal obligations placed on government departments to provide information upon request. The Information Commissioner’s Office says that exemptions can be applied but that the exemption criteria must be stated; this takes more time.

Conference is further concerned that Freedom of Information requests to the DWP and HMRC, amongst other government departments, are being blocked by “red tape” and feels that this could be seen as deliberately raising barriers for disabled people. This will deter people from making requests or pursuing requests they have already initiated.

Conference therefore instructs the National Disabled Members Committee (NDMC) to seek joint working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to:

1.Establish a more transparent and effective process for requesting information

2.Establish whether any government departments are exempt from providing such information in all accessible formats and seek to minimise these exemption grounds

3.Produce a factsheet and/or guidance on how to obtain Freedom of Information request responses in accessible formats which includes information on government departments legal obligations

4.Lobby the government to ensure that information requested is available in as many accessible formats as required therefore ensuring no one is disenfranchised from the services from any government department or from engaging in democratic processes