If you’re providing a service to the public, whether it’s free or for profit, you may not be aware that you already have legal duties under the Disability Discrimination Act.
In 2004, the Disability Discrimination Act was passed, and it meant that you have to make reasonable adjustments to physical barriers that might prevent disabled people using your service or accessing your venue. There are no specific guidelines or a rulebook as such, and as different people have different needs, there are several things to take into consideration.
- Ensure your premises offers plenty of light – anybody with even partial blindness can take a tumble if the hallway light is fading!
- Seating may seem like an obvious point, but it’s one that is often overlooked. Making sure you have enough seating means you can ensure that nobody will go too long without being able to sit down.
- Install a permanent ramp and a handrail at the entrance to your building to ensure that all guests can access your facility
- Lower your reception desk, so that people who are in a wheelchair or of lower height can communicate normally.
- Take the time to ‘map out’ the building you work from. What are its weak points, as far as disabled access is concerned? Perhaps there’s a ground floor room that could serve as meeting room, as it currently does a common room? Think about what you can chop and change in terms of your office’s layout to meet the requirements of someone who may not be able to get around them as easily.
- Provide an induction loop for people with a hearing impairment. It’s an invaluable time-saving and convenience tool should you have a client with a hearing deficiency.
It really does pay to think ahead and to incorporate these kinds of changes into your refurbishments, both in terms of welcoming important clients and hiring employees with desirable skill sets who may not be as mobile as the rest of your workforce.
Adding more space to your walkways and aids around your building for disabled people, you’re also providing yourself with the opportunity to offer a more comfortable environment for the elderly, and customers with young children.
Why these changes are good for your business:
You can take advice from the Disability Right Commission, which is a conciliation service and can broker an agreement. If a court decides that you have discriminated against a disabled person, you may have to pay damages for any kind of loss, including injury to emotional feelings. It’s well worth reading up and really getting to know the practices, and you can call The Department for Work and Pensions on 0845 124 9841 to claim your information pack, which includes an instructive video on the Disability Discrimination Act.