Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
stipulates that from 1st Oct 2004 a disabled person cannot be restricted from gaining access to a premises to obtain goods or services, this includes people who use wheelchairs, blind and partially sighted people, deaf people etc. this obviously has an impact on the installation of new and existing Access Control Systems
Access to services
What are reasonable adjustments?
It is important that service providers who have not already done so take reasonable steps to make their services accessible. Failure to do so could lead to loss of reputation or even legal action.
Since 1 October 1999 service providers have had to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people, such as providing extra help or making changes to the way you deliver services.
- making adjustments to the premises such as improving access routes and ensuring that they are free of clutter, or redecorating part of your premises to provide better contrast to someone with a visual impairment.
- providing appropriate or additional training for staff who may come into contact with customers with disabilities, to assist them in the provision of services to and for people with different types of disabilities.
- equipment changes, such as acquiring or using modified equipment, e.g. a telephone with text display for use by deaf customers.
- making service literature and instructions more accessible e.g. providing a Braille version for blind customers.
Since 1 October 2004 the duties additionally say that service providers should make reasonable adjustments to “physical features”.
What is a “physical feature”?
Here is a long but not exhaustive list: steps, stairways, kerbs, exterior surfaces and paving, parking areas, building entrances and exits (including emergency escape routes), internal and external doors, gates, toilet and washing facilities, public facilities (such as telephones, counters or service desks), lighting and ventilation, lifts and escalators.
It is important to realize these features aren’t just buildings or indoor facilities. They could include seating in the street or a pub garden, stiles and paths in a country park, fixed signs in a shop or a leisure facility.
Your duty is not just to put a ramp at the front entrance of your building (although that may be a useful thing to do) but to look at all aspects of your services and consider what changes you can make to the full range of physical features. You may plan a number of changes as part of a refurbishment or a continuing access improvement program. Something which might not be considered a reasonable adjustment now could well be considered reasonable in future. Access should not be considered once and then forgotten.
The law gives you a choice. You can remove the physical feature, alter it, find a way of avoiding it or provide the service with another way. The DRC strongly recommends that you consider removing the physical feature or altering it. This is often the safest option because it is the most likely to make the service accessible. It means that disabled people receive the services in the same way as other customers. This is called an ‘inclusive’ approach.
Removing or altering physical features do not always have to be expensive. For example, the way that display units are set out in a shop may make it difficult for disabled people to use the service. Simply rearranging the display units may make a tremendous difference. Improvements to the lighting could also make the service more accessible. This could be done immediately or when you are refurbishing that area.
What is reasonable?
There is no definitive answer. The law uses this phrase to give some flexibility and allow different solutions in different situations. However, the Code of Practice advises that ‘reasonable’ may vary according to the:
- Type of services provided
- Nature of the service provider and its size and resources
- Effect of the disability on the individual disabled person
Some factors when considering what is reasonable are:
- Whether taking particular steps would be effective in overcoming the difficulty that disabled people face in getting access
- The extent to which it is practicable for the service provider to take the steps
- Financial and other costs of making the adjustment
- The amount of disruption caused by taking the steps
- Money already spent on making adjustments
- The availability of financial or other assistance
If you own a corner shop the changes you are expected to make are different to those expected from a supermarket chain. Equally a village hall will have different requirements to the town hall or the banqueting suite in a large hotel. Installing a lift or new toilets may be inappropriate for a village hall or corner shop but an absolute necessity for the hotel or town hall.