The Disability Act 2005

The Disability Act 2005 is a positive action measure designed to advance and underpin the participation of people with disabilities in everyday life. It establishes a statutory basis for:

  • An independent assessment of individual health needs and educational services for persons with disabilities over age 18 years
  • Access to mainstream public services and actions to support access to public buildings, services and information
  • Sectoral plans to be prepared and published in six key sectors outlining positive actions measures to be implemented
  • Obligations on public bodies to be proactive in employing people with disabilities and the monitoring of compliance with those obligations
  • The establishment of a Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) in the National Disability Authority.

The Act defines Universal Design, stating it as:

“The design and composition of an Environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used

To the greatest possible extent,

In the most independent and natural manner possible,

In the widest possible range of situations, and

Without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialised solutions, by any persons of any age or size or having any particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability, and

Means, in relation to electronic systems, any electronics-based process of creating products, services or systems so that they may be used by any person.”

Accessible Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

The Disability Act contains specific accessibility requirements for public sector organisations. It states in Section 28:

“Where a public body communicates in electronic form with one or more persons, the head of the body shall ensure, that as far as practicable, the contents of the communication are accessible to persons with a visual impairment to whom adaptive technology is available.”

The most common digital form or channel for communication used by public sector organisations is the web.

In relation to Section 26 of the Act, the NDA Code of Practice (COP) on the Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies sets out that expert advice should be sought to ensure the organisation's services are accessible.

Section 26 also sets out that an "Access Officer" should be in place to arrange for and co-ordinate assistance and guidance to persons with disabilities accessing the organisation's services.

In relation to Section 28 of the Act, the Code sets out that public websites should be reviewed to ensure they achieve Double-A conformance rating with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

European Union (Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies) Regulations 2020

These Regulations transpose the European Union Web Accessibility Directive and obliges public bodies to take necessary measures to make their websites and mobile applications more accessible by making them perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.

Statutory Codes of Practice

The National Disability Authority has developed Codes of Practice (COP) on Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies and the Code of Practice on Accessible Heritage Sites. on the request of the Minister.

The Code of Practice (COP) on the Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies further expands on the obligations of public sector organisations in the provision of accessible services. It is designed to guide public bodies in meeting their statutory obligations by providing practical advice and examples. The Code is a statutory instrument and, as such, has legal effect: "Compliance by a public body with an approved code of practice shall be deemed to be compliant with the relevant provision of the Disability Act."

The Code of Practice on Accessible Heritage Sites sets out the obligations of the head of a public body and provides guidance to ensure that, as far as practicable, the whole or a part of a heritage site in the ownership, management or control of a public body, and to which the public has access, is accessible to people with disabilities and can be visited by them with ease and dignity.

Accessible procurement

Accessible procurement is a legal requirement for all public sector bodies. Section 27 of the Act requires that, where reasonable, the goods and services that are supplied to a public body should also be accessible to people with disabilities. The Code of Practice (COP) on the Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies states that procurers should highlight accessibility as a criterion to be considered throughout the entire tendering process (from drawing up and running tender competitions through tender evaluation and placing the contract to final debriefing).

Procurement Regulations

Section 27 of the Disability Act 2005 states that Accessibility of services provided to a public body are required that the goods or services are accessible to people with disabilities unless it would not be practicable or justifiable on cost grounds or would result in an unreasonable delay. This will relate to a wide range of goods and services, including equipment, materials, information communication technologies, etc.

The EU 2014 Public Procurement Directive

This directive was transposed as regulation “S.I. No. 284/2016 (transposing Directive 2014/24/EU, referred to by the Office of Public Procurement (OGP) as the “2016 Regulations”)

As set out in this Statutory instrument in Article 42, the ‘Technical Specifications’ of all public procurement tenders for goods and services for use by people must include accessibility as a mandatory requirement, except in duly justified cases. Furthermore, where accessibility requirements or standards have been specified in another Act of Union such as a Directive, then these accessibility requirements and standards must be specified in the ‘Technical Specifications’ of a public procurement tender. At national level, the statutory obligation for public bodies to include accessibility as a mandatory requirement in public procurement exercises is also contained in the Disability Act 2005 and the related ‘Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies’.

This Statutory Instrument supersedes the Public Sector Procurement Regulations implementing the EU procurement Directive 2004/18/EC. This stated the requirement to integrate accessibility considerations in the technical specifications of the contract documentation for public bids:

"23(2). In awarding a public contract, a contracting authority shall, as far as practicable, ensure that the technical specifications for the contract take account of the need to prescribe accessibility criteria for all persons who are likely to use the relevant works, products or service, particularly those who have disabilities."

European Union (Award of Contracts by Utility Undertakings) S.I. No. 286/2106 (transposing Directive 2014/25/EU, and referred to by the OGP as the “2016 Utilities Regulations”). States:

“For all procurement which is intended for use by natural persons, whether the general public or staff of the contracting entity, the technical specifications shall, except in duly justified cases, be drawn up so as to take into account accessibility criteria for persons with disabilities or design for all users.”

European Union (Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies) S.I. No. 358/2020 - Regulations 2020 (transposing Directive (EU) 2016/2102 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies) Requires public bodies to procure accessible ICT products and services including websites and mobile applications (known as the ‘Web Accessibility Directive’)

Part M of the Building Regulations 2000, 2010 and 2022

Part M of the Building Regulations (2000, 2010 and 2022) are amendments to the original Building Regulations (1997) which covers access for people with disabilities, including ensuring that new dwellings (houses, flats and apartments) and extensions are visitable by people with disabilities. TGD M (the Technical Guidance Document for Part M) deals with 'Access and Use' for the built Environment. The latest update is Part M 2022 that requires the provision of a changing places facilities in buildings, having due regard to the building’s use and size.

Building Control Act 2007

The Building Control Act 2007 establishes a standard for professional conduct and workmanship. Under this act the Building Regulations address access for people with disabilities. It applies to new buildings, extensions, material alterations and changes of use of buildings.

This Act also introduces a new Disability Access Certificate (DAC) required for new public buildings to ensure compliance to the Building Regulations Technical Guidance Document M at the planning stage.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006 recognises that every person must be empowered to participate in society and to live life to his or her fullest potential. This universal, legally binding standard ensures that the rights of persons with disabilities are guaranteed. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 2006. Ireland signed the Convention in 2007 and further to its ratification in March 2018 it entered into force from 19 April 2018. With respect to Universal Design in Article 4 (f), signatory countries are instructed:

“To undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities, which should require the minimum possible adaptation and the least cost to meet the specific needs of a person with disabilities, to promote their availability and use, and to promote universal design in the development of standards and guidelines”