The aim of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 is to end the discrimination that many disabled people face. The Act gives disabled people rights of access to goods, facilities and services, as well as in employment and buying or renting property.
Since December 1996 it has been unlawful for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably.
From 1st October 2004 business will have to consider making reasonable adjustments to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access.
If you have a business that offers a service to the public, such as a shop, restaurant, café, etc., regardless of whether you actually have any disabled customers or not you will need to ensure that disabled people have equal access to it.
In effect you will may need to consider making reasonable changes to the physical features and layout of your business or premises where physical features discriminate against disabled people, or to provide a reasonable means of avoiding the feature. Some of these features maybe obvious such as steps and stairs, others may not, such as counter tops and lighting.
Be positive in your steps to make your services accessible to disabled people, consider people with a wide range of people with sensory, mental or physical disabilities. For example people who use wheelchairs, blind and partially sighted people, deaf people, people, with long-term illnesses and people with learning disabilities. It is your duty to make reasonable adjustments. Try to anticipate their needs and the adjustments that may have to be made for them. Ask your customers if they have any special requirements and what adjustments may need to be made.
By not making reasonable adjustments to the way you deliver your services, so that disabled people can use them, you could be braking the law.
What are reasonable adjustments is likely to depend on the type of services you are providing, your size of business, and what resources you have. The following factors could be taken into account when deciding whether the steps you had taken were reasonable:
Would it overcome the difficulty that disabled people face in accessing the services.
How practicable it is was to make the alterations.
How much would it cost.
How much disruption would it cause.
What financial and other resources are available.
There are several Disabled Workers on the 'Disabled Workers Database' offering advise on the DDA and Access, try 'searching' on the Database for Access Audits.