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What is the Disability Discrimination Act?

The DDA is an Act of Parliament that introduces and provides a means of enforcing rights preventing discrimination against disabled people.

The DDA aims to end the discrimination which many disabled people face. This Act gives disabled people rights in the areas of:

  • employment
  • access to goods, facilities and services
  • buying or renting land or property
  • using public transport

When do the DDA requirements have to be implemented?

The Act was introduced in three stages:

Since December 1996 treating a disabled person less favourably because they are disabled has been unlawful.

Since October 1999, service providers have had to consider making reasonable adjustments to the way they deliver their services so that disabled people can use them.

The final stage, which means that service providers may have to consider making permanent physical adjustments to their premises, came into force in 2004.

Do I have to make physical changes to my premises?

If you are an employer or service provider, and your premises prevents a disabled person from suitable access or the use of your services, then you must consider steps to provide suitable alternative access to your premises and or services.

How can I judge when my services are unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use?

You should consider whether the time, inconvenience, effort or discomfort involved for a disabled person to use your services would be considered unreasonable by other people if they experienced the same difficulties.

So what am I actually required to do?

If it is impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use your services you may be required to:

  • Take reasonable steps to change your practices, policies or procedures; or
  • Provide a reasonable alternative method of making your services available to disabled people.

What kind of businesses will need to meet DDA requirements?

Shops, banks, hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, opticians, high street services such as travel agents, insurance agents etc., theatres, cinemas, leisure facilities – any building that caters for the public. This list is not exhaustive basically the Act will apply to any employer, irrespective of the number of employees, and service providers.

Why can’t I just deal with any problems as and when they arise?

Because the Act requires you to plan ahead to meet the requirements of your disabled customers.

Very few disabled people use our services, so is adapting my premises really necessary?

There are over 8.5 million disabled people in the United Kingdom and they have considerable collective spending power. Any adjustments you make for disabled people may also benefit other customers and your staff. You will also retain the goodwill of disabled people and their families and friends one in four customers are disabled or close to someone who is. In addition you will avoid the risk of legal action against you.

What happens if I fail to make reasonable adjustments?

You might be breaking the law. A disabled person can make a claim against a provider whose services are impossible or unreasonably difficult for him or her to access.

Checklist of Good Practice

Listed below are some steps to guide you towards meeting the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, as well as meeting your legal obligations.

  • Think and plan ahead to meet the requirements of your disabled customers
  • If in doubt, ask disabled people themselves how they can best be served. Listen carefully and respond to what they really want. You could also consult with disabled staff and disability organisations
  • Think about the way you treat disabled customers. Let them know how to request assistance, and have a customer complaints procedure that is easy for them to use
  • Ensure that you respect the dignity of a disabled person when providing them with your services
  • Establish a positive policy on providing services to ensure it includes disabled people. Communicate this policy to your staff and monitor its effectiveness
  • Consider putting in place positive practices which will encourage disabled people and others to use your services
  • Make sure your staff training includes your policy towards disabled people and their legal rights, and disability awareness and disability etiquette training
  • Regularly review whether your services are accessible to disabled people.
  • Don’t wait until 2004 to remove any physical features of your buildings that create a barrier to access for disabled people
  • Consider doing this at the same time as any building or refurbishment work you are planning, which could help reduce costs and disruption.

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