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Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.

Accessible goods and services

Accessible goods and services: a guide to making reasonable adjustments

Good business means anticipating what your customers need and want, and this includes the needs of disabled customers, and their families and friends. It is also a good idea to talk to your customers about any issues they may have when using your services, such as parking, getting in and out of your premises, using the facilities, and any recommendations they may have to help improve access.

An enjoyable customer experience
Imagine you are a customer - take a typical journey through your own service. You want to make it as easy as possible for all of your customers.


Remember, a little can go a long way
Many small changes to the way you work, how you present information and your premises can have a significant impact on the number of your customers and can be carried out at little or no cost. Some adjustments are relatively easy, such as making menus easy to read, clearing circulation space, putting grabrails in a toilet, or a handrail by a set of steps. Staff training, good customer service and positive attitudes towards disabled customers can often make the difference. Other measures, such as installing an accessible toilet, or creating a step-free main entrance can involve more work and may require technical planning, advice and finance.

Think broadly about a range of impairments too, such as:
  • mobility impairments, including stick users and wheelchair users
  • visual impairments
  • hearing impairments
  • arthritis and limited dexterity
  • mental health
  • learning difficulties
  • learning disabilities

If you have noticed that few disabled customers use your services, this may be because your business is not known to them and their families as providing suitable access. In addition to existing customers, think about what improvements would attract new customers.

What does the law say?

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 applies to you if you are involved in any business or organisation which:

  • provides a service
  • offers facilities
  • supplies goods to the public.

All service providers are covered by the DDA, large and small, private and public sector, whether the service is free or paid for. This includes services and facilities such as:

  • Shops, post offices, restaurants
  • Banks, building societies, insurance companies
  • Doctors and dentist surgeries
  • Hotels and guest houses, tourist attractions
  • Sports and leisure facilities
  • Churches or other places of worship
  • Libraries and museums
  • Property letting / management agencies
  • Hospitals, pharmacies and opticians
  • Bus and railway stations
  • Government departments
  • Cinemas and theatres


At present, there are a small number of exemptions from Part III of the DDA. The total exemption for transport vehicles was largely, although not completely, lifted in 2009. In many circumstances it is unlawful for transport providers to discriminate against disabled people in relation to the use of transport vehicles.


Public Authorities

Public authorities have additional proactive duties under the DDA Part 5A Section 49A, to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people and encourage participation by disabled people in public life.

Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act also requires designated public authorities, in carrying out their functions to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between persons with a disability and persons without.
Good practice videos

Good customer service and a common sense approach can often make all the difference for your disabled customers.

The videos below provide tips on etiquette when serving people with a range of disabilities.

Disability Etiquette


Positive experiences of customer services


The importance of attitude


Communicating with disabled customers


Treat all disabilities differently


Things to remember


Where to find further help and technical advice:
  • Disability awareness / equality training - The Equality Commission provides information about training, policy development, and disability codes of practice.
  • Disability Action NI - provides a range of services for disabled people, their families and their carers and are a useful source of information on disability issues.
  • Local access groups - There are many around the country and your council may have details about your local group. Adapt NI also has a list of local access groups
  • Professional access audits - For access audit reports and access advice on making reasonable adjustments, a professional registered access auditor is recommended – visit the National Register of Access Consultants

Resources from conference (10 March 2016)

< Related publications
< Every customer counts
< Disability - what does the law say?
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