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

Where to get further help and technical advice

Northern Ireland

Statutory Advice

The Building Control Service of your local Council can advise on legislative requirements relating to the built environment with respect to building regulations, associated legislation and design guidance. They may also act as a point of contact on access issues and fire safety.

If your building was constructed in line with Part R of the recent Building Regulations, then a very limited range of features may not have to be considered for alteration. An architect, surveyor or lawyer can advise you on this.

The Department of the EnvironmentÂ?s, Divisional Planning Offices can provide advice on the guidelines relating to provision of access to buildings for disabled people.

The planning service also provides statutory funding to a voluntary organisation called Disability Action (see Organisations) to enable it to operate an “Access Officer Scheme”. Through the scheme Disability Action provides a service to developers and professionals in the building industry, offering advice on best practice in relation to making buildings accessible to people with disabilities.

Access audits

An access audit establishes how well a particular building performs in terms of access and ease of use by a wide range of potential users, including people with mobility and sensory impairments and people with learning disabilities, giving a Â?snapshotÂ? of a building at one point in its life. As the starting point of an ongoing access plan, it can be used to highlight areas of improvement.

An access audit can be divided into two main stages: gathering information and making recommendations. Ideally, both activities should be carried out by the same person or team, who will bring their technical knowledge to the auditing process.

Alternatively, you might want to carry out the first stage yourself, but you would then need to bring in a professional with a technical understanding of buildings to propose any structural alterations. Access Audits: a guide and checklists for appraising the accessibility of public buildings (see Publications) explains how to carry out the first stawe.

Access advisors

A number of local voluntary organisations representing disabled people, as well as some public and private organisations have advisors who can carry out access audits for your business. (Some of the organisations listed provide this service).

There are also individual consultants working in this area. Details of some of the accredited access auditors based in Northern Ireland can be obtained from the UK wide, National Register of Access Consultants (see Organisations) however, the majority of auditors on this register are currently based in Great Britain.

Local access groups

There are many local access groups operating throughout Northern Ireland. These groups represent the access interests of disabled people and may also be a useful source of advice and information.

It is considered good practice for organisations providing goods, facilities and services to consult with disabled people in the local area. To find out if there is a local access group in your area contact Disability Action (see Organisations).

Professional / technical / design / legal guidance

If you are thinking of making significant structural alterations to your premises to improve access for disabled customers, you will need professional advice. Architects and surveyors should be able to source technical design guidance, for example on widths of doors, gradients of ramps and layouts of toilets.

It might also be useful if you are familiar with some of this design guidance as well, so that you can be sure that you are asking the architect, surveyor or builder the right questions.

Designing for Accessibility: an essential guide for public buildings (see Organisations) is a useful source of technical design guidance covering both mobility and sensory impairments. Although written mainly for designing new buildings, much of the guidance can also be applied to adapting existing premises. Details of other, more specific technical guidance, can be found under Publications. Some of these publications may be available to consult in your local library.

Solicitors can also provide legal advice in relation to all aspects of the DDA.

Disability Awareness / Equality training

Various organisations offer disability awareness / equality training for businesses. This training enables participants to explore their attitudes to disability.

If you employ quite a few staff, it might be worth considering in-house training as part of your response to the DDA. If you are a sole trader or employ a small number of staff, it might be worth getting together with other local businesses – perhaps through your local Chamber of Commerce – to organise joint training.

Some of the organisations listed (see Organisations) this type of training however there are likely to be other individuals and disability organisations in your local area that provide this type of training.

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