Disabled access to shops, cafes and everyday services
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) gives disabled people important rights of access to everyday services.
Everyday services include services provided by local councils, doctors' surgeries, hotels, banks, pubs, theatres, hairdressers, places of worship, courts and voluntary groups such as play groups. Non-educational services provided by schools are also included.
Access to services is not just about installing ramps and widening doorways for wheelchair users - it is about making services easier to use for all disabled people, including people who are blind, deaf or have a learning disability.
Failure to make reasonable adjustments without justification is discrimination Under the DDA, it is unlawful for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably than other people for a reason related to their disability. Service providers now have to make 'reasonable adjustments' to the way they deliver their services so that disabled people can use them.
Examples of reasonable adjustments include:
* installing an induction loop for people who are hearing impaired
* giving the option to book tickets by email as well as by phone
* providing disability awareness training for staff who have contact with the public
* providing larger, well-defined signage for people with impaired vision
* putting in a ramp at the entrance to a building instead of, or as well as, steps
What is considered a 'reasonable adjustment' for a large organisation like a bank may be different to a reasonable adjustment for a small local shop. It's about what is practical in the service provider's individual situation and what resources the business may have.
They will not be required to make changes which are impractical or beyond their means.
Failure or refusal to provide a service that is offered to other people to a disabled person is discrimination unless it can be justified.
Getting the most out of local services you use most often
It's a good idea to talk to the service providers you use most often, like your local doctor's surgery or coffee shop, and explain exactly what your needs are. This will help them understand what adjustments they might need to make to the way they provide their services.
What to do if you feel you've been discriminated againstWhat to do first
If you find it difficult to access a local service - for example, you can't call a telephone helpline because you're deaf - you should contact the organisation and let them know. It's in their interest to make sure everyone can use their service.
It's best to offer constructive suggestions as to how the service provider could improve the way their services are provided. Explain the difficulty you have in accessing their service and give examples of how other businesses have solved the problem.
If the service provider agrees to make an adjustment, ask if they can put it in writing. This will help you follow up your request if the service provider does not keep their promise.
Information for businesses on their responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act
You may find it useful to refer service providers to the Disability Rights Commission website for more information about making their services accessible to disabled customers. You could also tell them that the Disability Rights Commission can advise service providers about their responsibilities under the DDA and how they can meet these.
Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS).
Phone: 0808 800 0082
Textphone: 0808 800 0084
9am to 7pm Monday to Friday
10am to 2pm Saturday
closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays
Lines are open 8.00 am to 8.00 pm (Monday to Friday)
The DRC also offers a conciliation service, to help disabled people negotiate with service providers without resorting to legal action.