Skip to main content Skip to footer

Human Rights Act Reform Consultation: Accessibility Concerns

When the UK Government released its Human Rights Act Reform consultation in December 2021, it did not release a true Easy Read or accessible versions. We supported self-advocates from learning disability groups to challenge this and accessible versions were eventually released and the deadline to respond was extended.

The consultation

On 14 December 2021, the UK Government released a consultation paper setting out plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a "Bill of Rights". The Government asked 29 questions to gather people’s views on the plans and gave the public 12 weeks to respond, with the consultation due to end on 08 March 2022. 

The consultation paper was 123-pages long and written in confusing and technical language. The Government did not release an Easy Read version along with the original consultation paper.

An “Easy Read” document is one which presents text in an understandable way and was created to help people with learning disabilities access information. The Government’s definition of Easy Read includes that “easy read uses pictures to support the meaning of text”.

Instead, the Government released a “word-only Easy Read version” of the consultation paper on 24 February 2022. This gave people who use this version just 12 days to respond. There were no images in the Easy Read version and it was missing a lot of important context, evidence and information. The Government said it “apologise[s] that it is a text-only version and are working with suppliers to update this".

Courtney (Member of Pembrokeshire People First Campaigns Group)

"It's disgusting that they have only given us seven days to look at this, but given other people twelve weeks. It's Gobbledygook to me."

Writing to the Joint Committee on Human Rights

BIHR wrote to the Joint Committee on Human Rights attaching an Easy Read letter, co-produced with people with learning disabilities. The letter was signed by more than 200 people and organisations who are concerned about the lack of accessibility. These are people with learning disabilities and other communication needs, and the organisations that support them and their rights.

In the letter, people said that the consultation on the Human Rights Act was important to them and they wanted to tell the Government what they thought. But, they were not happy because the Government had not made any translations of the consultation, like BSL or Easy Read, which would help them to take part.

The letter shared people’s concerns that the Government's Easy Read version had lots of problems. For example, it was hard to understand, there were no pictures, and the consultation deadline was not changed for people who needed to use the Easy Read translation. In the letter, people asked the Joint Committee on Human Rights to ask the Ministry of Justice about these problems.

Supporting advocates to instruct solicitors

On 04 March 2022 (four days before the Consultation closed), user-led learning disability campaign group Pembrokeshire People First instructed solicitors Rook Irwin Sweeney to write to the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, about the Government’s failure to provide an Easy Read version of the Human Rights Act Reform consultation paper. Pembrokeshire People First led a group of organisations run by and for people with learning disabilities in this action, including My Life My Choice, Warrington Speak Up and All Wales People First, supported by the British Institute of Human Rights.

The letter asked the Justice Secretary to produce an amended Easy Read version of the consultation and to extend the consultation period, so it closed 12 weeks from the date of publication of the amended copy. 

As the consultation was due to close on 8 March 2022, the letter asked the Justice Secretary to urgently respond by 4pm on 7 March 2022.

Accessible versions were released

At 3.49pm on 07 March 2022, the Ministry of Justice wrote to Rook Irwin Sweeney to say they would soon send updates about their actions in response to the letter.

Shortly after, BIHR and others received an email to say that the Ministry of Justice had released a new Easy Read version with images. The Government also said there would be a six-week extension for people who required an Easy Read or audio version of the consultation document to respond. This meant that people who using alternative versions had until the 19 April 2022 to respond. The Government released an audio version on 08 March 202.

Stay up-to-date

Get our newsletter

Get monthly updates on UK human rights law and our work, resources and events sent straight to your inbox.