Disability Discrimination Act – Access To Goods And Services

Making Access to Goods and Services Easier for Disabled Customers: A Practical Guide for Small Businesses and Other Service Providers

Entering the premises

Step (or steps) to entrance door

Steps are the single biggest barrier to independent access for people with mobility impairments: many small shops and other businesses are located in premises where there are one or more steps to the front door.

If you have a step or steps to your main entrance door, it is worth looking at all the possibilities and then deciding which ones are realistic for you to undertake. Structural alterations might include:

  • raising the pavement or other approach up to the level of the entrance
  • installing a permanent external ramp (ideally in addition to the steps rather than as a replacement because some people find steps easier to use than ramps)
  • installing a permanent ramp just inside the premises
  • moving the entrance to a position where it is more easily accessible from the street.

These types of solutions may or may not be possible depending on a range of factors, and you would need technical advice and guidance on these options (see Technical Advice). Careful consideration should always be given to safety. If there is no reasonable and practical way of replacing the step or steps, here are some other adjustments that you might be able to make.

Practical suggestions:

  • Ramps: in situations where for some reason it is not feasible to create wheelchair access using a permanent solution (see above), could you use a temporary ramp? The disadvantage of temporary ramps is that they need to be stored somewhere when not in use and they can be awkward to handle. To ensure safety, temporary ramps should be obtained from commercial suppliers. They should be firm, secure and have non-slip surfaces.
  • Fitting handrails: could you fit a handrail to one or both sides of stepped entrances to help customers with mobility impairments up and down the step(s)? Having something to grip and provide support makes access much easier and safer.
  • Marking the steps more clearly: could the edges of steps be made easier to see using a colour that contrasts with the main part of the step? This can help customers with visual impairments or learning difficulties to identify the existence of a step or steps.
  • Lighting: could lighting at the entrance be improved?
  • Call bells/entryphones: if the layout of your premises means that staff inside the building cannot easily see if someone needs assistance to get in, could you fit a call bell or an entryphone system? If you do this, think about how someone in a wheelchair would reach it and how customers with hearing or visual impairments would use it.
  • Relocating the main entrance: is there a rear or side entrance or an entrance further along the frontage where level access is possible? If so, could this be made into the main entrance for everyone, so all customers use the same entrance?
  • Designating an alternative entrance with level access: if the main entrance cannot be made accessible or relocated, could a rear or side entrance nearby – perhaps one normally used by staff or for deliveries – be designated as an accessible entrance for wheelchair users and others? Although not ideal, this might be the only way to enable disabled customers to have access to your premises. This approach should only be taken if it is a safe alternative and is not unpleasant or undignified to use. Ensure that the entrance is clearly marked, left open and clear of obstructions during business hours or that there is a call bell or other means of alerting staff so that they can come and open the door on request.
  • Offering assistance to customers over the step: although you should not assume that a disabled customer wants to be assisted without asking first, where stepped access cannot be avoided, wheelchair users and others may be willing to accept assistance from staff to get into the premises.
  • Alternative methods of providing services: there may be situations where it is not reasonable to remove, alter or avoid a physical feature (such as a flight of stairs) that creates a barrier to access for some disabled people. In such cases, could you come up with alternative methods of providing the service, such as bringing goods to the customer at the entrance, home delivery or through the post?
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