Making access to goods and services easier for disabled customers
A practical guide for small businesses and other small service providers
The Disability Rights Commission
The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) is an independent body, established by Act of Parliament to eliminate the discrimination faced by disabled people and promote equality of opportunity. When disabled people participate – as citizens, students, customers and
employees – everyone benefits. So we have set ourselves the goal of ‘a society where all disabled people can participate fully as equal citizens’.
We work with disabled people and their organisations, the business community, Government, public sector agencies and the education sector to achieve practical solutions that are effective for employers, service providers, education providers and disabled people alike. There are about 10 million disabled people in Britain – one in five of
the population. This includes people with epilepsy, cancer, schizophrenia, Down’s syndrome and many other types of
Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, legal rights and obligations affecting disabled people’s access to services, employment and education are in force. The DDA was amended in 2002 to include education, some duties came into force in September 2002, some in September 2003 and some will come into force in September 2005.
Many people are still not aware that they have many new rights. In addition education providers, employers and service providers are often unsure how to implement ‘best practice’ to make it easier for disabled people to use their services or gain employment.
The DRC has offices in England, Scotland and Wales. For further
details of how we can help you, please contact our Helpline – contact
details are given on the back cover of this publication.
About this guide 4
How the Disability Discrimination Act affects you 5 Disabled customers 8
Meeting the needs of your disabled customers 8 Equality, dignity and respect 9
Principles to bear in mind 10
Identifying and finding the premises 14 Approaching the premises 15
Entering the premises 17
Finding the way around 23
Moving about within the premises 25
Communicating with staff 27
Getting to goods and services 29
Shelves, display racks etc 29
Queuing systems, waiting areas and seating 30 Counters, service desks and checkouts 32 Information about goods and services 33 Customer toilets 36
Getting out of the premises 39
Public or common areas 40
Where to get further help and technical advice 41
England, Scotland and Wales 41
Northern Ireland 43
by the Federation of Small Businesses
As the main organisation representing small businesses, we welcome this practical guide on making access to goods and services easier for disabled customers.
Among our 160,000 members – covering all types of businesses – we
know that there is an appreciation of the needs of disabled customers and a willingness to do what is practically achievable to improve both premises and service provision for all customers. This guide has been written specifically with small businesses and other small service providers in mind, and we are certain that you will find in it plenty of practical suggestions for how to respond positively to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
The Federation will do what we can to help promote the guide among our membership and beyond.
UK Policy Unit
Federation of Small Businesses
This guide does not have statutory authority. It is intended to provide practical advice.
By Bert Massie, Chair, Disability Rights Commission and Joan Harbison, Chief Commissioner, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Since October 2004 companies and organisations that provide services to the public are required by the Disability Discrimination Act to ensure that their services are reasonably accessible to disabled people. In many cases the most sensible/obvious way of doing this has been to ensure that the building within which the service is offered is accessible. This is the first time that the law has required businesses to consider whether their buildings are accessible and it has presented a new challenge for many of them. However, focusing on the needs of disabled people can also provide an opportunity to gain from a significant consumer market.
This guide has been produced to help small businesses through this challenging but important process. It was based on a wide-ranging consultation by the Disability Rights Commission in Britain and the Equality Commission in Northern Ireland with almost 650 responses received. These were considered by a Working Group which included both Commissions and representatives of business and disability organisations.
The Disability Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland believes that this Guide is a valuable tool for small businesses and encourages all service providers to implement the advice to ensure that their premises meet the requirements. Our two Commissions are pleased to provide ongoing advice and assistance to employers and service providers in relation to all aspects of the Disability Discrimination Act. These new requirements are a challenge but we believe it is one which will bring additional business and benefit all customers including disabled people. Together we can turn this challenge into an achievement of which to be proud.
About this guide
This practical guide is intended to help small businesses and other service providers in all sectors of the economy find ways of providing better access to goods and services for disabled customers. Under the Disability Discrimination
Act 1995 (DDA), if you provide goods or services to the general public – whether paid for or free-of-charge – you are a ‘service
provider’ and you have responsibilities under the Act.
Small service providers are likely to be independent rather than part of a chain, employ only a small number of people, and are unlikely to have in-house technical resources such as a building services department or facilities manager.
The guide will help you:
• understand the implications of Part 3 of the DDA
• think through how customers with different disabilities would access your premises, goods and services and how this might be improved • understand the issues better and guide you on how to make the best decisions
• focus particularly on making reasonable adjustments to the physical features of your premises in accordance with the new duties that came into force in 2004
• find the advice, information and other help that you might need.
How the Disability Discrimination Act affects you The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) introduces new laws aimed at ending the discrimination that many disabled people face. It affects virtually everyone who provides goods, facilities and services
to the general public whether paid for or not (referred to in this guide as ‘service providers’).
The DDA defines disability, and identifies who is protected under it. The definition is broad: ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a
substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.
Part 3 of the Act introduces duties on service providers in three stages:
• since December 1996, it has been unlawful for service providers to
refuse to serve a disabled person, offer a lower standard of service or provide a service on worse terms to a disabled person for a reason related to his or her disability
• since October 1999, service providers have had to make reasonable
adjustments for disabled people in the way they provide their services • since October 2004, service providers have had to make reasonable adjustments in relation to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access.
Since October 2004, where a physical feature makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled customers to make use of a service offered to the public, service providers have had to take measures, where reasonable, to:
• remove the feature, or
• alter it so that it no longer has that effect, or
• provide a reasonable means of avoiding the feature, or
• provide a reasonable alternative method of making the service
available to disabled people (this fourth duty has been in force since October 1999).
Physical features are defined under the DDA as ‘anything on the premises arising from a building’s design or construction or the approach to, exit from or access to such a building; fixtures, fittings, furnishings, equipment or materials and any other physical element or quality of land in the premises ... whether temporary or permanent’.
Several factors will have a bearing on whether a change is a reasonable one for service providers to have to make, particularly for physical adjustments to premises.
• whether taking any particular measures would be effective in overcoming the difficulty that disabled people face in accessing the services in question
• the extent to which it is practicable for the service provider to take the measures
• the financial and other costs of making the adjustment
• the extent of any disruption which taking the measures would cause
• the extent of the service provider’s financial and other resources
• the amount of any resources already spent on making adjustments
• the availability of financial or other assistance.
Responding to your duties as a service provider under the DDA means coming up with solutions that are reasonable in all the circumstances and which result in as many disabled customers as possible being able to access your goods and services. For small service providers (as compared to larger ones with more resources at their disposal) the emphasis is likely to be on practical, low-cost adjustments, although you should also consider more major physical alterations to improve access to your premises if feasible and affordable.
The Code of Practice for Rights of Access: Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises provides fuller guidance on the three stages, including the new duties that came into force in 2004*. Other guidance available includes:
• Act Now Video
• Guide for small business top tips pack
• Creating an inclusive environment
• What it means to you guide for disabled
• What it means to you guide for service providers
• Making your business open for all
(See Publications, page 47 for details.)
* Disability Discrimination Act 1995: Code of Practice: Rights of Access, Goods, Facilities, Service and Premises The Stationery Office, 2002
Deals with the duties placed by Part 3 of the DDA on those providing goods, facilities or services to the public and those selling, letting or managing premises. (A separate Code has been published for use in Northern Ireland.)
Available price ?13.95 from The Stationery Office or on the internet at www.drc-gb.org
There are around 10 million people in the UK* with a current disability covered by the DDA. Of these, over 2.75 million have a significant hearing impairment and over 2 million have a significant visual impairment. Some people have more than one disability; some have disabilities that cannot be seen; and the popular perception that people with disabilities always use wheelchairs is inaccurate. Those who are likely to benefit from improvements made by small businesses and other service providers include:
• disabled customers (both existing and new ones)
• their friends and families accompanying them
• customers with pushchairs or carrying heavy shopping or luggage
• customers with children
• some older customers who may not consider themselves disabled
but who do appreciate easier access.
Meeting the needs of your disabled customers
To some extent you will be able to anticipate what customers with different disabilities may need in order to access your goods and services. It is also a good idea to talk to individual customers about any particular problems getting in and around your premises or finding what they need, and any ideas for how you could improve access to your goods and services. (But remember that what makes goods and services accessible to one disabled customer may not work as well for another disabled customer.)
* source: Family Resources Survey 2002/03.
Think broadly about the wide range of disabilities including: • sight impairments
• hearing impairments
• physical/mobility impairments
• mental ill health
• learning disabilities.
Disabled customers can benefit from a range of improvements, some of which can be relatively easy to implement, such as a suitably
positioned handrail, clearer signs or a well-planned, logical layout within premises.
If you currently have few disabled customers, this could simply be a reflection of how difficult access to your premises and goods and services is. So, in addition to your existing customers, give some thought to what improvements you can make for people who may become new customers.
Equality, dignity and respect
This guide is based on the principle that – as far as possible –
disabled customers should be able to obtain goods and receive services in just the same way as other customers who are not disabled. This would mean that all customers receive as near to equal service as possible, and occasions where some customers feel that they are being treated differently are reduced to a minimum. However, given the constraints of operating from existing buildings, there will be some situations where the same treatment will not be possible. In such cases, you will need to decide how best to serve your disabled customers: whatever solutions you come up with should respect the dignity of disabled customers. And, of course, there is nothing to prevent you from making extra provision for them.
Principles to bear in mind
The sections immediately following this one look at different aspects of how disabled customers use premises and access goods and services. When reading them, it is useful to bear in mind some general principles outlined below.
• Meeting the needs of as many customers as possible: remember that the objective is to take an ‘inclusive approach’ – that is, to find
ways of providing access to your goods and services in the same way for as wide a range of customers as possible, acknowledging that