David Blunkett, education and employment secretary said: 'The opening of the DRC is a truly historic day. Disabled people have waited a long time for this and finally have an independent and strong voice working on their behalf. It is a huge step forward in
helping ensure that disabled people get the fair treatment in life they deserve - which is their right, but one that many others often take for granted.
'The government is delivering on its commitment to comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for disabled people and now the DRC will make sure that everyone else plays their part too.
Margaret Hodge, minister for disabled people, said: 'The DRC is a fantastic development in the fight for equal rights for disabled people. It will provide much needed and long-awaited services and help on everything from advice and information to supporting cases and challenging attitudes.
'It is shameful that disabled people have for so long been denied the same rights as the rest of us. Discrimination whereby a woman with spinal muscular atrophy had her application to join a dating agency refused, or when a man diagnosed as terminally ill with cancer was sacked by his employer, should not be tolerated.
'I hope the DRC will work with business and others to make a real and lasting impact on the way society views disabilities.'
Bert Massie, Chair of the DRC, said: 'Disabled people face discrimination in our society. Too often disabled people are denied their rights, prevented from participating fully in our communities and denied the choices others take for
'The Disability Rights Commission is going to change all that. Through advice, conciliation and legal enforcement we shall use the force of argument and, where necessary, the force of law. We will be an authoritative point of contact for individuals seeking support. We will be able to guide employers and service providers to meet their legal obligations and implement best practice, so ending
discrimination - inadvertent or otherwise.'
'This is a real milestone in achieving full civil rights for all disabled people. In achieving it - and, working in partnership, achieve it we will - we will be making history.'
The Disability Rights Commission London office address is: 222 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8HL. Website address: www.drc-gb.org
A list of the disability rights commissioners is attached.
The DRC is an executive non-departmental public body, paid for by grant-in-aid.
Bert Massie - deputy chairman of the National Disability Council, a member of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee and a Trustee of four disability organisations. He is also an adviser to the Cabinet secretary on the employment of disabled people in the senior civil service. He was formerly director of the Royal
Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR). Appointed from January 2000 to 31 March 2004.
Commissioner with special knowledge of Wales Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick - Chair of Disability Wales and a project development manager with the Shaw Trust. Appointed until 31 March 2004. No political activity declared. Commissioner with special
knowledge of Scotland
Mrs Elaine Noad - director of community services, South Ayrshire Council, an equalities adviser to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and a trustee of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. Appointed until 31 March 2004. No political activity declared.
Commissioners with a business interest
John Hougham - He is currently chairman of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and was formerly executive director, personnel, Ford Motor Company. He is also chair of the Employment National Training Organisation; President, Manpower Society and a board member of the Careers Research Advisory Council (CRAC). Mr
Hougham will become a Commissioner and Deputy Chairman on 1 May 2000 when he has ceased being Chairman of ACAS. His appointment will run until 31 March 2004. No political activity declared.
Jenny White - Legal Adviser to the Electricity Association, a member of the National Disability Council (NDC) and an adviser to the Trustees of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and much involved with the CBI and the Employers Forum on Disability (EFD). Appointed until 31 March 2003. No political activity declared.
Kay Allen - Equal Opportunities and Diversity Manager for B&Q, formerly managing director of her own HR executive support business and human resources director for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society. Much involved with EFD and the See the Person campaign. Appointed until 31 March 2003. No political activity declared.
Peter Humphrey - Now runs his own business consultancy but was formerly Senior Managing Consultant with Price Waterhouse and Group Personnel Director, Securicor PLC. He is currently the CBI's nominee on Treasury Working Party on Ill Health Retirement, currently on the Institute of Directors Professional Standards,
Chartered Accreditation and Examiners Boards and on the Training Standards Council. Appointed until 31 March 2002. No political activity declared.
Commissioner with Trade Unions interest
Richard Exell - A senior policy officer at the Trades Union Congress (TUC), much involved with disability policy issues. Formerly a member of the National Advisory Council on Employment of People with Disabilities (NACEPD), Disability Alliance and Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), and now of the Social Security
Advisory Committee and various European Commission and Trade Union bodies. Appointed until 31 March 2003. Richard has canvassed, leafleted and undertaken organisational work in local, national and European elections for the Labour Party.
Commissioners with disability interests
Jane Campbell - Co-Director of the National Centre for Independent Living and a freelance consultant for disability issues. She has held several voluntary appointments and has served on Government bodies, including the Disability Rights Task Force (DRTF). Appointed until 31 March 2004. Jane once spoke at a Labour Party fringe meeting on the issue of civil rights for disabled people.
Philippa Russell - A leading, well respected and influential figure for many years on behalf of disabled children, notably as Director of the Council for Disabled Children and Associate Director of the National Development Team (for people with learning disabilities). A member of numerous voluntary and public bodies over the years,
including NAGSEN, NDC and DRTF. Appointed until 31 March 2002. No political activity declared.
James Strachan - Chief Executive of the RNID and a member of the Disability Charities Consortium, DRTF, task force on social services provision for deaf people and a Trustee of Save the Children. Appointed until 31 March 2002 as Commissioner for Communications. No political activity declared.
Michael Devenney - Research fellow at the Centre for Institutional Studies, University of East London. Freelance consultant, trainer and film maker on disability. Senior Associate of Disability Matters. Wide range of voluntary and public sector experience, including as Chair of the Social Services Committee, Islington Council. Appointed until 31 March 2004. Michael was a Labour councillor for the London Borough of Islington between 1988 and 1994.
Colin Low - Senior Research Fellow at the Rehabilitation Resource Centre, City University, London. Vice-chairman of the RNIB, SKILL and Vice-president Disability Alliance. Involvement with blind and pan-disability issues, including NDC and DRTF. Appointed until 31 March 2002. No political activity declared.
Saghir Alam - An assistant solicitor and mediator in Rotherham. He is heavily involved in his local community through a range of voluntary and public positions, including Chief Executive of the Kashmiri Educational and Cultural Development Trust, Rotherham Racial Equality Council, Community Health Council, Chamber of Commerce and TEC, and vice-chair of Rotherham Council Standards Board. Appointed until 31 March 2003. No political activity declared.
Evelyne Rank-Petruzzietto - Is much involved in Speaking Up and Focus in Cambridge and a spokesperson for the management committee of People First, and in the learning disabilities reference group for the DRTF. Appointed until 31 March 2003. No political activity declared.