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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.

Every customer counts

Every customer countsAre you open for business... for everyone?

An accessible business is one that is equally open to all potential customers, including the approximately 400,000 people in Northern Ireland who have a disability.

Every business has a legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that disabled people can access their services but there are many other reasons why you should stop and consider how accessible your business currently is. These include:
  • Enabling customers of all ages and abilities to access your services could widen your customer base.
  • A disabled customer can often quickly become a loyal customer who may also bring their friends and family, meaning repeat business for you.
  • We’re all getting older, the market and need for accessible services and products will continue to grow in the future.

The Equality Commission has developed the "Every Customer Counts" initiative to support Northern Ireland traders seeking to promote accessible services. Our goal is to encourage business men and women to take a moment to use our free self assessment tool and consider how open their services currently are to disabled people.



1. Policy


2. Audit

• Download our self audit tool (editable pdf) to identify any potential service gaps or possible areas for improvement.

3. Action

We are committed to providing additional support to anyone seeking to make adjustments to their current arrangements.

Read our good practice guides for ideas and handy tips on how to improve your service (pdfs):
Accessible Goods and Services guide Accessible Retail guide Accessible Cafes, Restaurants and Hospitality guide
Accessible goods
and services

Accessible retail

Accessible cafes,
restaurants and hospitality
Additional information

Read our online guide to making adjustments to your premises
You can also contact us to discuss your plans and get additional support and guidance.

> Download the complete set of documents for your business/organisation

For convenience download our complete set of documents for your type of business/organization as a zip file:
Goods and Services documents zip file Retail documents zip file Cafes, Restaurants and Hospitality documents zip file

> Sign up to the 'every customer counts' commitment


> Turn a small investment into a big profit

Every organisation has duties under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) to make reasonable adjustments. These are the actions you should take to make your services more accessible to disabled people, relative to the size and circumstance of your business. These include:
  • any provision, criterion or practice (policy)
  • physical feature of premises (building)
  • provision  of auxiliary aids (access supports)

Reasonable adjustments should aim to provide equality in service provision for everyone, with the same level of access, dignity and choice.

Small changes can have big benefits
Small changes to the way you work, how you present information and your premises can have a big impact on your customer numbers.  Making sure that your staff can provide great customer service to disabled people can often make the biggest difference of all. Well trained staff who are confident serving disabled people could also boost your sales.

Remember it all adds up...
  • 23%* of people in NI have a disability (includes hearing, visual and cognitive impairments as well as with physical disabilities) *Dept for Communities Family Resources survey 2018/19
  • 40% of households in NI include a disabled resident
  • £249* billion pounds is spent by disabled customers in the UK each year (*2017)
  • Download our fact sheet - 'Why Access Means Business' (pdf)

> The post-pandemic landscape

Following the recent Covid 19 pandemic, and the economic difficulties many are facing, businesses are now more aware than ever that they need to not only retain their existing customer base, but to actively attract new customers and clients in this ever more competitive environment.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 makes it unlawful for service providers to discriminate against a disabled person by treating them less favourably for a reason related to their disability unless the treatment can be justified, or by failing to make reasonable adjustments, including anticipating the requirements of disabled people. One way to do this is for a service provider to consider if their services are accessible to all potential customers, including those with disabilities, or those who are older, by:
  • anticipating their needs and making any reasonable adjustments to the physical aspects of their premises or to any practices or policies, such as: amending a “no dogs” policy to allow for assistance dogs; allowing extra time for appointments; or providing an auxiliary aid such as a loop system or alternative means of communication for those who are hearing impaired;
  • ensuring all staff receive regular training in good customer service, which should include disability awareness or disability etiquette training, to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made and that all customers receive the service they require;
  • being mindful of the fact that some service users, particularly those who are especially vulnerable to Covid 19, may still prefer to wear masks and maintain safe social distancing and ensure that this is respected by staff;
  • treating all customers with dignity and respect, including allowing a little extra time for transactions etc where this is necessary.

Further information can be found in the guides above.


Public Authorities can also get involved
The Equality Commission has widened the ‘Every Customer Counts’ initiative to include the public sector. Like the private sector, local councils, health trusts and other public authorities in Northern Ireland must provide their services to everyone including those with disabilities.

Following the ‘three steps to success’ (above) will assist public authorities in complying with duties and requirements covered by the Disability Discrimination Act and Section 75. Read more about good practice in the public sector


Sign up to our Commitment statement>
< Service providers Disability - what does the law say? >
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.
  • 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)

Useful organisations:
Every Customer Counts logo
< Related publications
< Every customer counts
< Disability - what does the law say?
Sign up to our Commitment statement >

Signees to the Every Customer Counts initiative include:


Sign up to our Every Customer Counts commitment

Good practice case studies

Private Sector:

Specsavers, Newtownards

Leigh Nelson, a director of Specsavers, Newtownards, gives her account of steering her branch through the Every Customer Counts process and what it achieved for her business.

The modifications to her business were predominantly to do with how they offer their service, making sure that all staff have the training, the ability and the willingness to engage with all sorts of customers. Physical adaptations were minimal.


Knock Travel

Doreen McKenzie, from Knock Travel (now Oasis Travel), Newtownards, explains how they changed their premises to make them more accessible for everyone.

Providing good service and meeting the needs of their customers was vitally important, so they undertook an audit, talked to their customers, delivered training to their staff and put a plan in place. The changes were not difficult and have delivered tangible benefits for both customers and the business.


Todds Leap

Todds Leap outdoor activity centre offers a range of activities to suit all age groups.

Ben O'Hanlon, explains how they made various adjustments to cater for customers with disabilities. Even small changes can be of great benefit to disabled people. He said, "It's important to put a smile on their face just like everyone else. All customers count, all people count."


Public Sector:

Libraries NI

Libraries NILibraries NI in partnership with voluntary organisations actively seeks to promote their services to disabled people and thereby increase the number of disabled people using library services. Libraries NI sees this as an important part of ensuring that disabled people can participate in the social, economic and political life of our community and is therefore an important part of being socially integrated.

Outreach initiatives taken by Libraries NI, designed to increase the participation rates of disabled clients include:

  • ‘Rhythm and Rhyme’ for children with autism
  • Provision of dementia friendly services
  • Provision of accessible mobile libraries
  • ‘Knit and Natter’ for people with mental ill health
  • Craft activities for people with learning disabilities.

Learn more about NI Libraries' good practice
Photo caption: Equality Commission Chief Executive Dr Evelyn Collins with Ormeau Library user Jenny Coeman and Libraries NI Chief Executive Irene Knox

Health and Social Care Sector

Making communication accessible launchThe Health and Social Care sector in Northern Ireland recently launched a new piece of Guidance for staff. The guide 'Making Communication Accessible for All: A Guide for Health & Social Care (HSC)Staff' will assist health sector staff to make sure that people using health services have access to the appropriate communication methods that they need, thus assisting disabled people in accessing services.

Development of the guide was led by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust in partnership with the Health and Social Care Trusts, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), Public Health Agency (PHA), Business Services Organisation, the NI Ambulance Service and partners from the community and voluntary sectors.

Welcoming the development of this valuable guide, Orla Barron, Health and Social Inequalities Manager at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said:
“One in 5 people will experience communication difficulties at some point in their lives.  Inclusive communication reduces barriers which are often created through people simply not knowing how to communicate effectively.  This guide aims to give staff practical tips and advice that will establish good practice and mean improved health outcomes for people with communication support needs and the wider community.  Producing the guide with the community and voluntary sector was essential as the partnership working meant that people with expert knowledge and first-hand experience could influence this good practice resource for staff”.

The guidance provides practical advice and support to staff by signposting for example, how to access sign language interpreters. It assists staff to think about the many different ways to effective communication i.e. speaking, writing, sign language, photographs, pictures, symbols, objects, electronic aids, as well as non-verbal communications including facial expressions, body language, sounds and gestures.

Photo caption: pictured at the recent launch at Knockbracken Healthcare Park, Belfast, are users of health and social care services, pictured with reps from Belfast, Southern and South Eastern HSC Trusts, the Equality Commission NI, the RNIB, Mencap, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority, and the Public Health Agency.

NI Assembly

Christine Watts from the Northern Ireland Assembly explains they made their services more Autism friendly

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