Steps on a disability civil rights journey – Haben Girma


I recently read an excellent autobiography “Haben: The Deafblind woman who conquered Harvard Law” (available in various formats including audio read by Haben herself).

I was struck by Haben Girma’s journey of experiencing and challenging an instance of ongoing discrimination in chapter 18 which felt directly relevant to Reasonable Access’s aim of supporting and empowering disabled people to assert and enforce disability access rights.

If you plan to read the book, you may wish to delay reading further to avoid spoilers.
Continue reading “Steps on a disability civil rights journey – Haben Girma”

Challenging the government – cost rules in discrimination cases

We are delighted to announce that one of our members, Esther Leighton has been given permission for a full Judicial Review hearing to challenge costs rules in discrimination cases.

Esther is being represented by a star team of Louise Whitfield at Deighton Pierce Glyn solicitors and barrister Karon Monaghan of Matrix Chambers. This case has been funded by the EHRC as having strategic importance for application of the the Equality Act as the outcome will affect people with all 9 protected characteristics.

Why this case matters

If you experience discrimination on the grounds of a ‘Protected Characteristic‘ such as disability, sex or race, you are technically protected by the Equality Act 2010.

In practice, usually only an individual can enforce the law – there isn’t a specialised body to complain to. Informal complaints often don’t work, and 24 years after disability discrimination law came into force, poor access and discrimination is still widespread. Taking a legal case became harder after 2013 (when the government changed the law) because there is a high risk you can be made to pay the other side’s costs (sometimes even if you technically win your discrimination claim).

As enforcing the Equality Act is so difficult and risky, organisations know that the risk of being sued for even blatant discrimination and poor access is very low. Society loses out, because accessibility and treating people fairly regardless of their protected characteristics are not seen as a priority.

As Esther herself said in court papers:

“These cases are important because they are about my daily experience. Getting into a cafe or a shop may not sound significant to a lot of people, but it is discrimination like this that excludes me from experiences that non-disabled people have every day without thinking about it.”

The court hearing is on 28th January 2020 at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London. Several of us will be there to support Esther and her team – we will provide updates when we have them.

We have adapted Judge Edis’s orders to make them accessible. A copy of the original orders in PDF can be found linked from Deighton Pierce Glyn’s press release