Error processing SSI file

EOA Report Cover

Equal Opportunities Act
(Persons with Disability)

The First Year


Maltese Version

Introduction

The Equal Opportunities Act (Persons with Disability) of 2000 is the first Act in the Laws of Malta that sets out to ensure the civil rights of a specific section of the population of Malta and Gozo. The need for an anti-discrimination law of this sort had long been felt, as it was evident that persons with disability were being discriminated against in many walks of life, in blatantly obvious or more subtle ways.

Discriminatory policies and practices were, and still are, diminishing the quality of life of persons with disability in areas as diverse as education, employment, the purchase of insurance policies, accommodation, physical access at different levels and the reception of goods and services. It is a truism to say that a lasting and deep transformation can only be the outcome of long-term awareness-raising and persuasion. However, on a practical level, we have to accept that this alone is not sufficient. An anti-discrimination law can certainly be expected to speed up the process of change, as well as strengthening the hand of those striving for equal opportunities. The law achieves these aims by stipulating that all individuals and organisations wishing to act in conformity with its terms have to come up with effective practical solutions and set reasonable deadlines for full implementation.

The Equal Opportunities Act (Persons with Disability) was passed by the Parliament of Malta on 19 January 2000, and in February of the same year the National Commission for Persons with Disability was formally established with full statutory powers. The Commission was given the responsibility of: receiving allegations of discriminatory practices, investigating these allegations, negotiating with all parties concerned in an attempt at finding a just solution acceptable to all concerned, and, as a final resort after all other methods open to it have been exhausted, instituting legal proceedings against offending parties. The Commission strongly takes the view that the success of the Act will not be measured in the number of court cases it has instituted, but by the number of cases where a satisfactory and just conclusion was reached through negotiation.

This document outlines the work carried out by the Commission since January 2000 in implementing the Act. In addition to giving a general overview, this document will also present a series of representative case studies from among those on which the Commission has worked or is currently working.

The main objectives of this document are the following:

Joseph M. Camilleri,
CHAIR

Marianne Debono,
Co-ordinator (EOU)

 

General Overview

by Fred Bezzina, Executive Director (NCPD) and Marianne Debono, Co-ordinator (EOU)

The Equal Opportunities Act (Persons with Disability) was passed by the Parliament of Malta on 19 January 2000. After extensive consultations, the Act came into effect on 1 October 2000. The Commission established a small Equal Opportunities Unit (EOU) within its Secretariat, charged with implementing the provisions of the Act. This Unit is, in effect, a one-woman office, manned by Ms. Marianne Debono, a full-time high official who answers directly to the Commission's Executive Director. Dr. Doreen Clarke acts as legal advisor to the EOU, on a regular but part-time basis. In addition, the Unit calls on the expertise of other professionals from time to time, including that of a medical doctor and an architect.

Right from the outset, the Commission started to receive complaints of discrimination against persons with disability, and immediately proceeded to work towards their resolution. The following are the six areas in which people can register complaints with the Commission in terms of the Act:

· Employment
· Provision of Goods and Services
· Education
· Insurance
· Access
· Housing

Within the period under review, the Commission received 92 complaints, and closed 36 cases. As was to be expected, the highest proportion of complaints concerned physical access issues: complaints of this nature account for just over half (53%) of all complaints that were registered. The areas in which the least number of complaints was made were Insurance and Housing. The table below shows a detailed breakdown:

INVESTIGATIONS OF COMPLAINTS OF DISCRIMINATION
Type of Complaint
Total
Closed
Pending
Employment
13
10
3
Education
10
4
6
Access
48
10
38
Provision of goods and services
18
10
8
Insurance
2
1
1
Housing
1
1
-
Total
92
36
56

Complaints were made against the following institutions:

COMPLAINTS OF DISCRIMINATION
Institution
Number
Percentage
Government
37
40
Parastatal Organisations
21
23
Local Councils
6
7
Church
9
10
Private
17
20
Others
2
2
Total
92
100

The largest number of complaints was made against the Government. Indeed, if one includes under this heading Government-funded bodies (Parastatal organisations and Local Councils) the percentage of Government-oriented complaints rises to 70% of all cases that were investigated.

The Commission closed 36 cases, which amount to 26% of all complaints. In a little over a third (14) of these cases, it was established that there were discriminatory practices, and the Commission managed to find reasonable solutions acceptable to all three parties, namely the person/s registering the complaint, those against whom the complaint was being made, and the Commission itself. In another third of the cases closed, the Commission found that there had been no discrimination on the grounds of disability. It is worth noting that, in these cases, the individual concerned retains the option of instituting legal proceedings in a personal capacity. The remaining third of the cases that were closed were terminated either because the complainant withdrew (5 cases), or because the Commission referred the cases to a different body, for example to a Trade Union or to the Employment and Training Corporation.

In two cases, the Commission asked the complainants to try to settle privately with those against whom the complaint was being raised, if necessary with the support of the Commission itself. The provisions of the Act are intended to come into play after the failure of all other methods, for example that of complaining directly to the body that is allegedly discriminating on the basis of disability.

The closed cases may therefore be broken down as follows:

COMPLAINTS OF DISCRIMINATION
 
Number
Percentage
Solved
14
39
No discrimination on grounds of disability
13
36
Referred to other bodies
4
11
Complaint withdrawn
5
14
Total
36
100

The cases that are still open are in different stages of completion. Some of the most important are reported in detail as "case studies" in this document.

Relevant Regulations are important tools in the Commission's work to implement the Act. The Commission published two sets of regulations:
a) Regulations on the procedures to be followed in investigating complaints;
b) Rules of Procedure in the First Hall of the Civil Court, in terms of Articles 33 and 34 of the Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act.

The first set of Regulations were accepted and published in the Government Gazette as Legal Notice 13 of 2001, while the second set were sent to the Ministry for Social Policy for forwarding to the Chief Justice as President of the Courts of Malta. In the light of its experience so far, the Commission is in the process of amending the regulations that were published in the Government Gazette.

The Commission has learnt much in this first year since the Act came into force. Some may say that there has been less concrete change than we had hoped for. However that may be, it is certainly the case that we are fully involved in the process whereby attitudes towards persons with disability are being transformed in Maltese society. Attitudinal change is a long-term process that calls for a great deal of patience and tenacity. With patience, tenacity and perseverance, the Commission will go on striving to ensure that persons with disability and their families enjoy the best possible quality of life. In this work, the Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act is one of the best tools at the Commission's disposal.


Principal Cases


A. Physical Access

1. Ministry of Education

a) State Schools

Talks were held between the Commission and the Education Division. The Division committed itself to allocate Lm100,000 in each of the next five years towards making state schools physically accessible to all. The Division also promised that, when the proposal to vote Lm60 million to the expansion and maintenance of state school premises materialises, a portion of this sum be utilised to achieving this end.

The Education Division drew up a plan of expenditure of these funds, and agreed with the Commission that the latter would help by providing the necessary professional expertise, funded by the Division.

It was also agreed that:

a) the new schools would all be completely accessible to all, along the guidelines of the NCPD;
b) the Division would consult the Commission before submitting applications to the Planning Authority.

b) St. James Cavalier

The EOU complained that parts of the complex were not accessible to persons with disability, in particular the main theatre and the stair and ramp handrails. Repeated representations were made to the complex management and to the relevant Ministry, and they agreed that the necessary modifications would be made. The Ministry refused, however, to specify when the work would be carried out.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken
19 December 2000 EOU raises complaint with the St. James Cavalier (SJC) management.
24 January 2001 EOU sends reminder.
6 February 2001 EOU sends second reminder.
17 February 2001 EOU sends registered legal letter to ensure reply.
21 February 2001 SJC informs EOU that they were in consultation with their architect.
26 February 2001 EOU requests a time-frame for the completion of the necessary modifications.
1 March 2001 SJC requests a meeting to discuss the prioritisation of some of the modifications.
12 March 2001 EOU sends copy of the NCPD guidelines and renews request for time-frame for the completion of the modifications.
2 April 2001 EOU sends another reminder
18 May 2001 The Chairman notes that NCPD officials will unfortunately not be able to take part in the Festival of the Senses due to be held at SJC as this matter has not been solved.
23 May 2001 EOU sends legal letter to force SJC to give a time-frame for modifications.
21 June 2001 EOU requests the intervention of the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for running SJC.
5 July 2001 A meeting between the two parties is held at SJC, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education.
20 July 2001 EOU receives minutes of the 5 July 2001 meeting,
25 July 2001 The Chairman sends the Ministry a memorandum on the implementation of the agreement that had been reached.
3 August 2001 The Ministry of Education informs EOU that it is not in a position to give a time-frame for completion of work.
4 August 2001 EOU responds suggesting a time-frame for each stage of the modification work that had been agreed.


2. Ministry of Justice

a) The Law Courts

The EOU registered an official complaint that the lack of provision of adequate access through the main entrance of the Law Courts in Valletta amounted to discrimination on the grounds of disability. A number of meetings were held to try to put this state of affairs right. Work is being carried out at present to implement a proposal that was accepted by the Law Courts.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken
26 May 2000 EOU raises complaint with the Law Courts regarding the lack of physical access to all through the main entrance to the Law Courts
21 June 2000 Law Courts say that the works required are in hand.
9 August 2000 EOU sends reminder.
18 August 2000 Law Courts inform EOU that a temporary wooden ramp has been installed and that plans for a permanent access ramp have been sent to the Planning Authority.
4 October 2000 After a programme is aired on local TV station, the Ministry of Justice asks EOU for information about access to the Law Courts, and asks for consultation to be held.
10 October 2000 EOU sends Ministry of Justice copies of all relevant correspondence in the matter..
18 October 2000 Law Courts send EOU site-plans for access ramps.
11 January 2001 EOU forwards the professional report of the Commission's architect to the Law Courts.
8 March 2001 EOU requests timeframe for the completion of the works.
2 April 2001 EOU writes to the Planning Authority urging it to speed up the process.
6 April 2001 The Planning Authority informs EOU that the application had been approved in March 1997 and that file has long been closed.
6 April 2001 EOU informs Law Courts that legal proceedings would be instituted unless work was in hand by 30 April 2001.
16 April 2001 Law Courts inform EOU that they are awaiting an extension to their planning permission from the Planning Authority.
25 April 2001 Law Courts inform EOU that they have written to the Works Department asking them to start work on the access ramp..
23 May 2001 EOU send legal letter requesting a firm date for the completion of works, and reminding the Administration of the Law Courts of their responsibility to ensure access to all.
30 July 2001 A meeting is held between the NCPD architect and that of the Law Courts.
16 August 2001 Law Courts send memo outlining three proposals discussed.
29 August 2001 A proposal acceptable to both sides is agreed on and work on its implementation starts.


3. Ministry for Home Affairs

In May 2001, the EOU registered a complaint that the premises of the Ministry for Home Affairs, under the remit of which the Planning Authority falls, was not physically accessible to persons with disability. It was agreed that, as a first step, the ground floor be made accessible. The EOU asked to be given a date for the completion of this work.


4. Ministry of Transport and Communications

a) Roads Department

The EOU received many complaints about roads that were being refurbished and that did not conform to the principles of equal access for all with regard to:
i) pavement width;
ii) the height of pavements;
iii) suitable ramps at pavement corners and other strategic locations;
iv) non-obstructive street furniture.

The EOU made several representations to the Roads Department and the Ministry of Transport and Communications. After a number of discussions, the Roads Department published a circular on the implementation in practice of the principles of access for all. The Department also made a commitment in writing that Psaila Street, Birkirkara, would be fully accessible to all.

In the light of the considerable investment that the Government is making in this area, and considering the impact such development can have on the quality of life of persons with physical disability, the Commission decided to prepare detailed reports on each street refurbishment project. Furthermore, it was decided that each report would be sent not just to the authorities concerned, but also to the media. The first such report was on work done on Valletta Road, Mosta.


The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken
2 October 2000 EOU informs Roads Department (RD) of complaints received about ramps in pavements in Wignacourt Street, Birkirkara.
6 November 2000 EOU informs RD of complaints received on lack of accessibility in refurbishment work carried out in Karm Galea Street, Birkirkara.
6 December 2000 EOU sends legal letter in default of any reply to earlier complaints.
15 January 2001 EOU sends draft copy of judicial protest being against RD, copied to the Ministries of Social Policy and Transport.
27 February 2001 EOU sends second reminder.
13 March 2001 EOU informs RD of complaints received on lack of accessibility in refurbishment work carried out in Moroni Street, Gzira.
21 March 2001 EOU requests the intervention of the Ministry of Transport.
22 March 2001 Meetings between the Directors of the NCPD and the Director of the RD.
23 March 2001 Letter detailing pending cases sent to RD Assistant Director.
23 May 2001 EOU sends legal letter to RD to force it to reply to earlier letters.
15 June 2001 Agreement that RD issue a circular about accessibility issues to all concerned.
25 June 2001 EOU informs RD of complaints received on lack of accessibility in refurbishment work carried out in Moroni Street, Gzira.


5. Ministry of Health

a) Evans Building

This building, to which persons with disability often used to have to go for driving licences or to obtain exemptions from duty on cars, was not freely accessible to all. The EOU and the Health Division (HD) agreed that, as a temporary measure, these tests would start to be carried out at the Floriana Health Centre, which has good access. The Evans Building houses three organisations, namely the Health Division, the Standards Authority and the Electoral Commission. Talks are ongoing to make this building accessible to all.

b) St. Luke's Hospital

The EOU received numerous complaints regarding lack of access in the St. Luke's Hospital complex. These included:

· the Hospital's main entrance;
· the entrance to the Canteen and the Outpatients Department;
· toilets in the Outpatients and Emergency Departments;
· better parking facilities outside the Outpatients Department.

As a result of numerous interventions by the EOU, a good access ramp was installed at the main entrance of the Hospital. The other requests are still pending.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken
3 April 2000 EOU raises issue with the HD
17 June 2000 HD informs EOU that temporary measures are being taken to improve access.
2 August 2000 EOU sends reminder.
16 September 2000 EOU asks Ministry of Health to intervene to ensure that the necessary changes are made.
2 October 2000 In the absence of a reply, EOU requests meeting with Minister of Health.
11 October 2000 HD informs EOU that the original application to the Planning Authority dated 3 July 2000 has been lost, and that a new application has to be made.
16 October 2000 HD informs EOU that the Hospital Management Committee (HMC) has taken the matter in hand.
21 October 2000 EOU contacts the Planning Authority in an attempt to hurry the application process along..
12 February 2001 EOU send reminder to HMC.
11 April 2001 EOU sets 31 May 2001 as deadline for the completion of work.
15 May 2001 Meeting between EOU and HMC. Completion of work on access ramp at Hospital main gate. Discussions are held on the outstanding modifications.
13 June 2001 EOU sends reminder.
25 July 2001 EOU sends another reminder.
2 August 2001 EOU is informed that the work has been assigned to the Hospital's Superintendent and Project Manager.
14 September 2001 Project Manager informs EOU that work on the outstanding modifications is in hand.

c) Boffa Hospital
A complaint was registered to the effect that there was no reserved parking bay for persons with disability at this hospital. This state of affairs was remedied after intervention by the EOU. Discussions were also held about the accessibility of toilet facilities in the Outpatients Department of this hospital. Agreement on the necessary work was reached, and the work is in hand.

d) Gzira Health Centre
A complaint was received that this Health Centre was not fully accessible. The EOU was told that a court case in this regard had not yet been settled. The Commission is looking into ways of making this Health Centre accessible.

6. Principal Churches

a) Mdina Cathedral

The EOU received a complaint that there was insufficient provision for physical access to all at this church. After some initial discussions, a serviceable ramp was installed on the Cathedral parvis, together with a temporary ramp leading from street level to the parvis.

b) Zebbug Parish Church

A wheelchair user requested that good access be provided to the parish church, a public building. A number of discussions were held, and Mons. A. Depasquale, Auxiliary Bishop, intervened. The major alterations have already been made, but there is still one small step that needs to be modified.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken
3 April 2000 EOU raises issue of lack of adequate access to Zebbug Parish Church with the Archpriest.
9 August 2000 After having had no reply to several reminders, EOU informs the Archpriest that it will take legal action. All correspondence on the case is copied to the Archbishop.
18 October 2000 EOU sends reminder.
24 October 2000 Planning Authority issues permit for the necessary modifications.
9 January 2001 EOU sets 15 February 2001 deadline for completion of work.
3 February 2001 Archpriest informs EOU that he is having difficulty finding a contractor to carry out the work and asks for an extension of the deadline.
8 March 2001 EOU extends deadline to 5 April 2001.
14 March 2001 Archpriest requests meeting with the NCPD architect and the contractor.
28 March 2001 NCPD Chairman discusses the case with the Vicar General.
11 April 2001 EOU extends deadline once more, this time to 30 April 2001. Archpriest informs EOU that work will be completed by 23 May 2001. EOU agrees to this deadline.
30 May 2001 EOU sends reminder to Archpriest.
6 June 2001 Archpriest informs EOU that work has been completed.
18 July 2001 NCPD architect informs EOU that some modification work is still outstanding.
25 July 2001 EOU informs Vicar General of the situation.
27 July 2001 EOU gives a month's time for implementation of architect's plans.

c) St. Francis Church, Qawra

A number of wheelchair users reported that this church was not satisfactory with respect to ease of physical access, in spite of the recent date of its design and construction. These concerns were raised at a number of meetings, including one with the Provincial Superior of the Order of Minor Franciscan Friars, and attempts were made to get the Franciscan community to give a time-frame for the completion of the modifications that had been proposed and agreed on. The Franciscan Province maintains that it can give no such time-frame, as finances for this work will come through Divine Providence. The Commission finds this stance completely untenable, and is at present investigating different ways in which it can move the matter forward.

Another important point that was raised regarded access to the altar and baptismal font. Church authorities argue that liturgical considerations preclude the provision of permanent access ramps to these areas. In answer, the Commission presented documents showing that these considerations had in no way obstructed the construction of such ramps in Catholic churches abroad. Discussion of these points is still ongoing.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

20 October 2000 EOU presents complaint to Rector of St. Francis Church, Qawra, about lack of adequate access to the church.
15 December 2000 After having had no reply, the EOU sends a legal letter to ensure a response to the complaints it had raised.
28 December 2000 Correspondence is exchanged between the two sides.
8 February 2001 EOU sends another legal letter, having had no reply in spite of the replacement of the Rector.
7 March 2001 EOU sends another legal letter, together with a copy of the report outlining the necessary modifications that had originally been sent when the case was opened.
28 March 2001 NCPD Chairman meets the Vicar General and discusses this case among others.
27 April 2001 The Rector sends a copy of his own architect's report, and requests a meeting.
21 May 2001 A meeting is held between the NCPD Chairman and the Provincial of the Order of Minor Franciscan Friars.
19 June 2001 A bilateral meeting is held, with the respective architects in attendance.
5 July 2001 EOU receives report by Church architect.
6 July 2001 NCPD Chairman informs the Rector that the report is not acceptable as it does not include the deadlines requested.
11 July 2001 Rector informs NCPD that he can give no deadlines.
25 July 2001 A discussion is held between the NCPD chairman and the Provincial.
14 August 2001 The NCPD architect presents report on modification work that is still outstanding.
3 September 2001 EOU sends Rector a legal letter in order to ensure reply.
11 September 2001 The Provincial informs EOU that he is not willing to give deadlines for the completion of modifications.

d) Xewkija Parish Church

A wheelchair-using person with disability requested that adequate access to this church be provided. As a result of the intervention of the EOU, the parish, with the support of the Local Council, built a satisfactory ramp giving access to the church.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

12 July 2000 EOU raised the request with the Archpriest of Xewkija Parish Church.
12 August 2000 EOU offers the services of its own architect.
9 January 2001 Archpriest informs EOU that the Church's own architect is to prepare the plans required.
10 January 2001 EOU informs Archpriest that the end of March 2001 is a reasonable deadline for completion of work.
6 February 2001 EOU requests that certain alterations be made to the plans drawn up by the Church architect to bring them in line with NCPD guidelines.
22 February 2001 The Church architect submits revised plans that are in conformity with the NCPD guidelines.
3 April 2001 EOU confirms that the work has been completed.


7. Maltapost

a) Birkirkara branch

The Equal Opportunities Unit presented a formal complaint that extensive renovation work done at this branch had not been carried out in conformity with the Commission's Guidelines. The Commission prepared a report directing Maltapost to effect certain permanent alterations to the outside ramp. The two sides agreed on a reasonable date for the completion of work.

It was also agreed that, in any future branch renovations, the Commission be consulted beforehand.

b) Height of Letter Boxes

A person with disability complained of the excessive height of the new letter-boxes installed by Maltapost. Bilateral meetings were held, but the company has yet to agree to abide by NCPD guidelines, which stipulate that letter boxes be no higher than 120cms. off the ground.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

16 March 2001 EOU makes official complaint to Maltapost and requests a meeting.
26 March 2001 Maltapost inform EOU that they will look into the complaint.
3 July 2001 A Meeting is held between the two sides.
2 August 2001 EOU sends reminder.
8 August 2001 Maltapost request that the matter be suspended pending the presentation of a relevant study being carried out by University students.
11 August 2001 EOU rejects this request.
26 September 2001 EOU sends legal letter to ensure a reply.


8. University of Malta

a) Student House

The Commission has been working for years to try to make this important campus building accessible to all. With the coming into force of the Act, the Equal Opportunities Unit presented a formal demand that this building be modified to allow free access to all. The two sides agree that this work should be carried out, but to date there has not even been an application made to the Planning Authority.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

28 February 2001 EOU complains to University of lack of adequate access to Students' House
22 March 2001 EOU sends reminder
27 March 2001 University informs EOU that Students' House is to be extended by two additional floors.
3 April 2001 EOU requests a reasonable time-frame for completion of modificaion work.
3 May 2001 EOU sends reminder.
22 May 2001 University assures EOU that Students' House is a priority matter, and that they will keep EOU informed of their application for Planning Authority permission.
8 July 2001 EOU sends reminder.

b) Mikiel Anton Vassalli Building

The Equal Opportunities Unit raised two complaints about this University building. The building is unsatisfactory in two respects, in spite of its having been designed and built with free access in mind:
a) a chain which was obstructing access to persons with disability;
b) the lack of access ramps onto the podiums in the main lecture halls.

In spite of the small scale of the first problem, no solution has yet been forthcoming.


9. Bank of Valletta

The Equal Opportunities Unit received a complaint about the Gzira branch of the Bank of Valletta (BOV). The two sides entered into extensive discussions, covering many other fields than just issues of physical access, for example:

a) Special arrangements for Special Identity-Card holders. It was agreed that such clients, who have restricted mobility, be given priority service in that they be allowed to jump the queue;
b) Services to clients with visual-impairment. The bank agreed that such clients would no longer need to be accompanied by a witness of their choice in order to receive bank services. Instead, the bank would supply its own witness to transactions with these clients;
c) Better training to bank staff in the provision of services to persons with disability. This training, which has already started, is being provided by the Commission, and involves persons with different kinds of disability;
d) Access to Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). BOV has already placed an order for ATMs that are physically accessible to all.

As regards physical access, progress is much slower. The Bank drew up a detailed report on physical access to each of its branches. However, the Commission has serious reservations about the accuracy of this report. At present, the architects of both sides are assessing the report's accuracy, and discussions will then proceed on a more solid basis.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

3 July 2000 EOU passes on the complaint it received to BOV
12 July 2000 BOV claims that there are technical impediments to implementing the required modifications.
17 August 2000 Meeting between the respective architects.
11 October 2000 BOV say that they do not agree to the proposed modifications.
18 October 2000 OU suggests that the case be taken to arbitration.
19 December 2000 EOU proposes that a meeting be held to draw up a comprehensive plan covering physical access to BOV branches, access to ATMs, staff training, recruitment policy, special arrangements for clients holding a Special Identity Card (SID), services to clients with visual impairment, etc.
15 February 2001 EOU and BOV meeting to discuss this comprehensive plan.
23 February 2001 The first of a series of meetings between the NCPD Director and the BOV architect, focusing on drawing up a detailed report assessing physical access to each of the Banks's branches.
19 March 2001 Meeting between NCPD Director and BOV Manager to discuss special services to clients holding a SID and sight-impaired clients.
25 April 2001 BOV publishes a circular about the agreement reached with the NCPD on priority service to clients holding a SID.
13 July 2001 EOU receives more complaints regarding lack of physical access at different BOV branches.
21 July 2001 BOV architect presents detailed report on physical accessibility of each BOV branch.
31 July 2001 Bilateral meeting to assess progress in the matter.
17 August 2001 BOV staff-training exercise started.
20 September 2001 Meeting between the NCPD and BOV architects.


10. HSBC plc

The EOU received a number of complaints about lack of physical access to branches of this HSBC Bank. As the Bank was in the process of carrying out an extensive program of modernizations to its branches, a global agreement was reached, that includes other points besides access issues. The principal points of this agreement are that HSBC Bank:
a) do its utmost to retain in employment any staff member that becomes a person with disability while in its employ;
b) consult the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC) to recruit suitably-qualified persons with disability, as far as possible;
c) ensure that all its new premises be accessible to all;
d) make 50% of its premises accessible to all, both clients and staff, within a three-year time-frame;
e) make 90% of its premises accessible to all clients within a three-year time-frame;
f) make all its ATMs physically accessible to all within a five-year time-frame;
g) offer training to all its staff, especially those that come into contact with clients, to disseminate greater awareness of the equal opportunities policies adopted by the Bank;
h) offer better services to its visually-impaired clients, and no longer require such clients to be accompanied by a witness, even when signing bank documents.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

8 November 2000 EOU requests that discussions be held on the formulation of a global plan to implement the provisions of the Act.
23 November 2000 Bilateral meeting. Agreement on broad principles.
4 December 2000 HSBC presents first proposals.
26 December 2000 NCPD makes counter-proposals.
22 January 2001 First draft of agreement is discussed.
28 March 2001 Bilateral agreement is initialed.
4 May 2001 Bilateral agreement is formally signed.


11. Establishments Selling Special Equipment of Persons with Disability

a) Invicta

The Equal Opportunities Unit entered into discussions with five companies selling special equipment of persons with disability (wheelchairs, special beds, etc.), with an aim to guaranteeing full access to their premises. In the discussions held with Invicta Ltd., agreement was reached on the modifications that needed to be made in this regard. The EOU requested that it be given a date by which the work was to be completed. The company has since confirmed that the works have indeed been completed, and the EOU architect is to verify this.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

20 October 20000 EOU presents complaint to Invicta Ltd.
30 November 2000 EOU requests reasonable time-frame for completion of modification works.
31 January 2001 EOU sends Invicta copy of NCPD Guidelines and suggests reasonable time-frame for completion.
13 March 2001 EOU sends legal letter to ensure reply.
16 March 2001 Invicta informs EOU that work is scheduled to start on 23 March 2000.
25 June 2001 EOU sends reminder.
2 August 2001 EOU sends legal letter to ensure reply.
6 August 2001 Invicta requests an extension of deadline.
30 August 2001 Invicta informs EOU that work is expected to be completed by 15 September 2001..
25 September 2001 Invicta informs EOU that work has been completed.

b) Medicat

This is another company selling special equipment of persons with disability, and its premises were lacking adequate access. Due to the fact that it could not make the necessary modifications to its existing premises, the company decided to move to new premises, and applied for the necessary Planning Authority permits. Given that this move will necessarily involve considerable investment of funds, the two sides agreed that the time for the premises to be made physically accessible to all be reasonable, but kept as short as possible.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

20 October 2000 EOU presents complaint to Medicat Ltd.
21 December 2000 Medicat gives reasons for the lack of physical access to its exiting premises.
3 February 2001 After discussions, Medicat informs EOU that they plan to move to new, purpose-built showrooms with good access by 2002.
12 March 2001 EOU requests a more concrete proposal and time-frame from Medicat.
9 July 2001 Medicat applies for Planning Authority permit for its new premises.

c) Michele Peresso

The Equal Opportunities Unit received a complaint about poor physical access to the premises of Michele Peresso, in spite of the presence there of a wheelchair ramp. The two sides met and discussed the issue, and it was agreed that the premises be modified to ensure ease of access to wheelchair users. However, the company refused to give any deadline for the completion of work. This led the Commission to initiate court proceedings against the company. The case was assigned to Judge J.R. Micallef, and hearings started, only to be interrupted on the grounds that the presiding judge had at one point served as lawyer to the Commission. At present, the case has been reassigned to Judge Arrigo, who is due to start hearings on the preliminary objections raised by Michele Peresso.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

17 April 2000 EOU receives complaint.
20 April 2000 EOU raises issue with Michele Peresso Ltd.
9 May 2000 Initial rsponse by the company.
1 June 2000 Meeting held between the two sides. Agreement that work is to be completed by October 2000.
9 August 2000 EOU sends reminder.
21 August 2000 The company denies that it had agreed to complete works by October 2000.
12 September 2000 The company submits the plans drawn up by its architect for vetting by the NCPD architect.
18 September 2000 EOU sends Michele Peresso the NCPD architect's report on the plans.
11 October 2000 EOU sends reminder.
6 November 2000 EOU sends legal letter in order to ensure reply.
17 November 2000 Lawyers representing Michele Peresso ask under which provisions of the Act the EOU is taking the current action.
24 November 2000 NCPD lawyer replies.
6 December 2000 EOU registers a judicial protest in the First Hall of the Civil Court.
18 December 2000 Counter protest by the lawyers representing the company.
19 December 2000 NCPD proposes that a mediator be appointed.
6 January 2001 EOU sends reminder regarding the appointment of a mediator.
19 January 2001 Michele Peresso submits revised plans.
26 January 2001 EOU asks the company to apply immediately for Planning Authority permission.
2 February 2001 The company refuses to keep the EOU informed.
8 February 2001 EOU sends legal letter to ensure reply.
7 March 2001 EOU sends legal letter demanding that the case be taken to arbitration as stipulated by regulations.
14 March 2001 NCPD opens legal proceedings against the company in the First Hall of the Civil Court and holds a press conference about the case.
15 March 2001 Press conference called by Michele Peresso, in which the company states that it has applied for Planning Authority permission to carry out the works requested by the NCPD.
10 May 2001 First hearing held with Judge J. Micallef presiding.

d) Technoline Ltd

The Equal Opportunities Unit raised a complaint with Technoline Ltd., a supplier of special equipment of persons with disabilities, to the effect that the company's premises were not accessible. A number of meetings were held, with the outcome that the two sides agreed on necessary modifications to be made and a deadline for completion of work.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

20 October 2000 EOU makes initial complaint to Technoline Ltd.
30 November 2000 EOU asks for reasonable deadline for completion of modification work.
24 January 2001 Technoline sends its proposals on the matter.
30 January 2001 EOU renews request for a reasonable deadline for completion.
13 March 2001 EOU sends a legal letter in the absence of a reply from Technoline.
15 March 2001 Technoline informs EOU that it will apply for a Planning Authority permit by April 2001.
9 April 2001 Technoline's architect requests meeting.
19 April 2001 Technoline forwards EOU a copy of its Planning Authority application. The planned modifications do not comply with NCPD Guidelines.
25 May 2001 The EOU sends legal letter stipulating a reasonable deadline for completion of work.
8 June 2001 Technoline informs EOU that a stair-climber has been ordered, and requests the EOU's opinion.
11 June 2001 EOU expresses reservations about the acquisition of the stair-climber.
4 July 2001 Technoline inform EOU that a platform lift is to be installed instead of the stair-climber, together with the necessary structural modifications.
20 July 2001 Technoline reapplies for Planning Authority permit.
8 August 2001 The NCPD architect requests that the revised plans be submitted.
22 August 2001 Technoline suggests a reasonable deadline for completion of work, and EOU agrees.


B. Education.

1. Absent Facilitators

The parents of some schoolchildren with disabilities complained that their children were sent home whenever their facilitator was absent. The Commission raised the issue with the Education Division, and it was agreed that the Division set up a team of supply support workers who would be able to step in in such cases. This group was in fact set up and the arrangement has been put into operation.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

14 March 2000 EOU passes on initial complaint to the Education Division.
17 October 2000 EOU passes on second complaint to the Education Division.
16 February 2001 EOU passes on third complaint to the Education Division.
19 February 2001 EOU passes on fourth complaint to the Education Division.
27 April 2000 EOU makes proposals for a reasonable solution to the issue.
23 February 2001 EOU sends reminder.
5 May 2001 EOU sends second reminder.
1 June 2001 The Supply Support Workers group starts working.

2. Facilitators in Independent Schools

The parent of a schoolchild with disability made a complaint of discrimination on the grounds that the Education Division does not provide Facilitators to work with children with disabilities who attend independent schools. The Commission raised the issue with the Ministry of Education, and asked for its comments.

3. Facilitator/Nurse for Pupil

The parents of a schoolchild with disability complained that they could not send their child to school as the Division had failed to provide the Facilitator/Nurse that she required. The Division agreed that it was obliged to provide this service, but in spite of its efforts to live up to this obligation, it failed to do so in scholastic year 2000/1.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

28 December 2000 EOU presents parents' complaint to Education Division (ED).
24 January 2001 EOU is informed that the ED has started procedures to recruit a qualified nurse to meet this child's need.
19 April 2001 ED forwards to EOU its request to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the Health Division.
26 April 2001 ED forwards to EOU copy of OPM permission to proceed.
18 May 2001 EOU sends reminder.
21 June 2001 EOU sets deadline of 1 September 2001 for solution to be found.
23 July 2001 ED states that it cannot give any date when the child in question will be able to attend school with the support she needs.
14 September 2001 NCPD raiss the issue with the Minister of Education, who confirms that he is unable to give any date when the child in question will be able to attend school with the support she needs.

 

C. Employment

1. Transport Authority

A person with disability registered a complaint against the Transport Authority, claiming that, on grounds of his disability, he had not been taken on for a post that he had applied for. Discussions were held, and as a result a new call for applications for the post in question was issued. The complainant agreed to reapply, and duly got the job.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

6 June 2000 EOU raises complaint with the Transport Authority (TA).
23 August 2000 TA refers the matter to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
20 October 2000 EOU sends legal letter.
22 February 2001 Bilateral meeting is held.
30 March 2001 TA informs EOU that a new call for applications for the post in question is to be issued.
12 May 2001 TA informs EOU that the complainant has been recruited after reapplying.

2. Maltapost

An individual with a mild hearing impairment complained that Maltapost had refused him employment as a postman on the grounds that his disability made him ineligible for holding a motorcycle driving licence. The Equal Opportunities Unit confirmed that the individual concerned was fully eligible for a motor cycle driving licence. Discussions on the matter are ongoing.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

16 July 2001 EOU raises complaint with Maltapost.
20 July 2001 Maltapost says that it is investigating the case.
16 August 2001 Maltapost claims that the hearing impairment makes the individual concerned ineligible to hold a motorcycle driving licence.
21 August 2001 EOU informs Maltapost that both local authorties and the Guide issued by the European Union state that there is no bar to people like the individual concerned holding such a licence.
3 September 2001 Among other points, Maltapost says that it has standing arrangements with the Employment Training Corporation to employ persons with disability.

3. Ministry of Health

A Nursing Aide with disability complained that he was not being assigned overtime work on the grounds of his disability. On investigation of the case, it was found that the need for overtime work arose in hospital wards, and that the individual concerned could not carry out ward work without undue risk both to himself and to patients on the wards. The case was closed, the allegations of discrimination on the grounds of disability not having been substantiated.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

29 January 2001 EOU registers complaint against the Health Department (HD).
27 February 2001 HD outlines reasons why the complainant is not assigned overtime.
1 March 2001 EOU informs complainant that it needs to make an independent medical report.
27 June 2001 Complainant agrees to this independent medical report.
20 August 2001 The medical report states that, on safety grounds, the complainant should not be assigned overtime ward work.

D Services

1. Public Broadcasting Services

The Equal Opportunities Unit received a complaint against Public Broadcasting Services (PBS), to the effect that no news broadcasts were scheduled in Maltese Sign Language. PBS agreed that it would start providing this service as of 1 October 2000, initially on a three-times-per-week basis, but with a view to increasing this as soon as suitable staff became available. As of October 2001, five news broadcasts per week in Maltese Sign Language were scheduled.


2. Reserved Parking at Place of Work

a) Ministry of Health

An employee with disability requested that he be assigned a reserved parking space close to St. Luke's Hospital. The Health Division acceded to this request.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

15 November 2000 EOU raises issue with the Helath Department (HD).
15 December 2000 EOU sends reminder.
30 January 2001 HD agrees to assign a Reserved Parking Bay for this employee's use.

b) Local Council, Pieta

An employee with disability requested a Reserved Parking Bay outside St. Luke's Hospital. Discussions about the case involved the Pieta Local Council, The Traffic Control Board and the Equal Opportunities Unit. It was agreed that a parking bay close to the individual's place of work be reserved for persons with disability. The Local Council held that the parking bay be generally available to persons with disability, and not just to the person who had made the initial request. The individual concerned did not agree to this arrangement, and the matter has not yet been settled.

The following table outlines the main developments in the case:

Date Action taken

20 March 2001 EOU registers the request with the Traffic Control Board (TCB).
29 March 2001 TCB asks Ministry of Transport about its policy in this regard.
25 April 2001 TCB and the Ministry of Transport state that a Reserved Parking Bay for individual use should not be assigned outside a person's place of work.
23 May 2001 EOU suggests that the matter be taken to arbitration.
21 June 2001 EOU informs Ministry of the case.
2 August 2001 EOU writes to Pieta Local Council about the case.
9 August 2001 EOU is informed that the authorities concerned are willing to create a Reserved Parking Bay for general use close to the individual's place of work.
25 August 2001 The individual concerned does not agree to this proposal.


3. Breakdown-Towing Service

a) CAA Ltd. and MET Ltd.

The Góaqda Persuni Neqsin mis-Smigó (GÓPNS - Deaf People Association) complained that its members could access these emergency car breakdown and towing services by means of SMS messaging alone. They asked five companies providing these services to make the necessary arrangements. CAA Ltd. immediately agreed, but the GÓPNS referred the other four companies to the Equal Opportunities Unit, claiming that these were in violation of the Equal Opportunities Act. The EOU took up the matter with the four companies concerned, with the following results:
a) MET Ltd. followed the lead of CAA Ltd. and agreed to the GÓPNS demand;
b) RMF Ltd. and SBT Ltd. asked for more information, and are still discussing the matter;
c) XTC made no response at all.



ISBN:99909-71-09-9

Published by:

National Commission for Persons with Disability,
Istituto Vincenzo Bugeja, Centru Hidma Socjali, St. Venera
Tel: 21-245952, 21-487789, 21-448521, 21-441311.
Fax: 21-484609.
Textelephone: 21-446536

Editor: Fred Bezzina


The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice.disclaimer