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

Principles to bear in mind

The sections immediately following this one look at different aspects of how disabled customers use premises and access goods and services.

When reading these sections, it is useful to bear in mind some general principles outlined below.

Inclusive approach

  • Meeting the needs of as many customers as possible: remember that the objective is to take an “inclusive approach” – that is, to find ways of providing access to your goods and services in the same way for as wide a range of customers as possible, acknowledging that there will be some circumstances where particular provision may have to be made for customers with certain disabilities.
  • Who will benefit: some physical improvements can specifically benefit customers with particular types of disability (for example, repairing a loose-fitting carpet that might have caused a tripping hazard will particularly benefit blind or partially sighted customers as well as customers with physical impairments such as poor balance). But suggested improvements will often also be of general benefit to all customers, whether or not they have a disability.

Existing buildings

  • Practical improvements: in existing buildings (as against new buildings) it is often not possible to meet all ‘best practice’ accessible design solutions, but you should achieve best practice where possible. The most useful approach is to look for practical improvements that you can make.
  • Design guidance: we have deliberately avoided giving “off-the-peg” design solutions, because in existing buildings there are so many variable factors to take into account, and a design solution that may work well in one building may be inappropriate or simply not possible in another. Design guidance can be found in a variety of sources (see Publications).
  • Rethinking use of spaces: it may be possible to improve access to goods and services for disabled customers by rearranging the layout of the premises (with little or no physical alteration) to maximise use of accessible areas. For example, in an office where interview areas for the public are needed, it may be possible to relocate this function from an upper floor to the ground floor.
  • Retaining positive features: ensure that any features which assist access are retained and that opportunities for improvements are considered when undertaking routine maintenance or refurbishment.

Timing of improvements

  • Making a start: you will probably find that you have already implemented some of these ideas anyway; some you might be able to apply quickly and at very little or no cost. Others may be things you want to plan for the future, perhaps incorporating them when you are undertaking routine maintenance, next redecorating, or replanning the interior of your premises. They do not necessarily have to be done all at once, but the important thing is to get started.
  • Taking a long-term view: it is a good idea to have a long-term plan of gradual improvements to make it easier for disabled customers to access your goods and services.
  • Getting input and advice: you will find that you will be able to implement some of these suggestions yourself. For others you may need some additional input – perhaps by asking your existing disabled customers for their views or inviting a local access group to visit the premises and make suggestions. Others still may require more technical advice from professionals (see Where to get more advice and help). Some changes to physical features may need planning permission, building control approval and/or other consents.

Non-physical adjustments

  • Making services available by alternative methods: as well as making physical improvements (that is, removing or altering physical features that present obstacles), access can be improved by providing a means of avoiding the features or providing reasonable alternative methods of making services available to disabled people.
  • The way you run your business: the day-to day management of your business and premises will have a huge impact on how easy they are to use by disabled customers. Staff management and policies and attitudes towards serving disabled customers are just as important as the premises themselves.
  • Staff awareness: ensure that all staff are aware of the DDA and that training in how to meet the needs of disabled customers is provided as appropriate (see organisations concerned with disability and employment under Organisations for information on disability awareness trainers).
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