BUSINESSES URGED TO ACT ON DISABILITY
At a time when red tape is already felt to be binding tightly, life for every business or organisation which delivers goods or service to the public, whether for profit or not, is about to get even more difficult.
The full weight of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), giving disabled people a wide range of rights to gain access to goods, facilities and services with the same ease as non-disabled people, is about to descend upon those unsuspecting shops, restaurants, pubs and other businesses providing services to the public, who have done little or nothing to ensure equal access for all.
The DDA is not being enforced by a proliferation of ‘access inspectors’ but by a far more subtle, and effective means: any disabled people using services in the UK who feel they do not have equal access can instigate civil proceedings under the DDA. As a civil act, it relies on these cases to define the parameters of the Act and the obligations it imposes, as opposed to laying down specific regulations and requirements, with judgements having wide implications.
Although the first part of the DDA came onto the statute book in 1995, the pace of change in some sectors has been painfully slow. This situation is about to change as a number of test cases currently progressing through the system conclude over the coming weeks. Decisions on the early cases will highlight the rights that disabled people now have in the UK.
David Driver, a solicitor specialising in DDA and legal director of Configure, the UK’s largest disability consultancy, said: “Any organisation that provides goods or services to the public, from the corner shop to the leisure centre, or the dentist to the public library, is likely to be covered under the DDA.”
All businesses that provide services to the public need to be DDA audited. But the process does not stop there, they will need to stay abreast of changing DDA regulations to ensure compliance as cases go through the courts and the legislation develops.
David Driver continued: “With over 10 million disabled people in the UK, with an estimated £80 billion to spend, taking action to provide equal access is not only morally right, it makes financial sense.
“In our experience, many service providers that have taken action and adjusted their buildings have done so to avoid he potential impact of an adverse DDA decision.”
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Notes to editors:
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· There are 10 million disabled people in the UK with an estimated buying power of £80 billion (source: DWP).
· Disability does not only mean those who use wheelchairs – this group make up only three per cent of disabled people. Other groups are more numerous, if less well recognised:
o Eight million people are affected by diseases relating to arthritis (source: Arthritis Care).
o 8.7 million have some degree of hearing loss (source: RNID).
o One million people have a learning disability (source: MENCAP).
o Nearly one million people are blind or partially sighted (source: RNIB).
o Over 250,000 people have severe facial disfigurement (source: Changing Faces).
· The Office of Population Census also reveals some interesting facts:
o Almost 70 per cent of disabled adults are 60 or over.
o Currently, 40 per cent of the UK population are aged over 45, the point after which the likelihood of disability begins to increase significantly.
o Over 90 per cent of visually impaired adults are 60 or over.
o Over 360,000 children under 16 have one or more disabilities – this represents three per cent of all children under that age.
· The Disability Discrimination Act has been brought into force in three stages. The final part came into operation in October 2004 obliging businesses to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in order to facilitate equal access to all goods and services.
· Configure Limited is the UK’s leading commercial disability access consultancy providing access audits, auxiliary aids, building adjustments and employee disability equality training. In the last year it has audited 2,500 sites, made over 1,500 building adjustments, supplied 4,000 auxiliary aids and trained over 65,000 people in disability equality.
· More information about Configure can be found on its website: www.configure.co.uk.
For further information please contact the Configure Press Office direct on 020 7939 7980 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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