Disability is defined as 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. Remember that disability doesn’t just cover physical/mobility impairments, but includes people with:
Further information is available in our ‘Definition of Disability' publication (pdf).
As a service provider you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable people with disabilities to access your services. This may mean changing your practices, policies or procedures if they make it difficult for disabled people to access a service, providing extra help or changing the way a particular service is delivered.
- Providing appropriate disability awareness training for frontline staff so they can provide assistance to people with learning disabilities, blind people, deaf people, people with mental health difficulties and people with mobility impairments when these people access your service.
- Making changes to equipment such as providing a text phone for deaf people, installing induction loops for people with hearing loss or supplying adapted trolleys in shopping centres, etc.
- Making literature available in alternative formats and websites more accessible for people who are blind and/or have sight loss.
Where a physical feature makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult to access services, service providers have a duty to take reasonable steps to:
- remove, alter or avoid the feature
- provide an alternative method of accessing the service
Each business or organisation provides a unique service and this, in turn, affects the reasonable adjustments required to make a business accessible to as many disabled people as possible.
The duties placed on service providers towards disabled people are ‘anticipatory’. This means that you need to consider the requirements of disabled people in general and not the individual requirements of each disabled customer that may come to use their service. Disabled people´s needs should be considered in advance, rather than waiting until a disabled person wants to use the service you offer.
- A bank makes a bank statement available in large print for a person with sight loss or provides a sign language interpreter for a deaf person who is applying for a mortgage.
- A leisure centre installs a textphone in its reception to ensure that deaf and hearing impaired customers are able to contact the centre regarding opening times, exercise classes or other facilities. The leisure centre advertises the textphone on brochures and its website.
- A restaurant has a policy of not allowing dogs onto its premises. A customer arrives with an assistance dog and a reasonable adjustment is made to this policy, allowing the dog in the restaurant.
The "Every Customer Counts
" initiative supports traders seeking to promote accessible services. It includes an easy to follow three step process including a self audit checklist, action plan template and customer service statement.
Yes. As a service provider you are legally responsible for the actions of your employees in the course of their employment. An employee who discriminates against a disabled customer will usually be regarded as acting in the course of their employment, even if you have issued express instructions not to discriminate. This is called “vicarious liability”.
However, in legal proceedings against a service provider based on the actions of an employee, it is a defence that the service provider took 'such steps as were reasonably practicable' to prevent such actions. A policy on disability which is communicated to employees is likely to be central to such a defence. It is not a defence for the service provider simply to show that the action took place without its knowledge or approval.
Adopting an inclusive approach can have practical benefits for your business. It should be remembered that:
20% of people in NI have a disability (includes hearing, visual and cognitive impairments as well as with physical disabilities). This equates to 360,000 potential customers
40% of households in NI include a disabled resident
£80 billion pounds is spent by disabled customers in the UK each year
The improvements you make may also broaden your customer base.
friends and families accompanying disabled people
customers with pushchairs or carrying heavy shopping or luggage
customers with prams, pushchairs or young children
older customers who may not consider themselves to be disabled but who appreciate easier access.
Download our fact sheet - 'Why Access Mean Business
Services not available to the public, such as those provided by private clubs, are not covered. However, where a club does provide services to the public then the law applies to those services. For example, a private golf club refuses to admit a disabled golfer to its membership. This is not covered by the law. However, if the golf club hires out its facilities for a wedding reception, the law applies to this service. If the club allows non members to use the course, a refusal to allow a disabled golfer to play is likely to be subject to the law.
Private clubs are generally those where membership is a condition of participation and members have to comply with a genuine process of selection, usually by a club committee operating the club rules.
However, commercially run businesses which may require membership such as a health club or a video rental shop would normally still be providing services to the public and, therefore, would be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.