Disability Discrimination Act

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (with final amendments in 2003/4) is aimed at ending the discrimination faced by many people with disabilities. Under the act an employer has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent an arrangement or physical feature having a discriminatory effect on any employee. A service provider is required to anticipate and make reasonable adjustments for the disabled population at large.

Who is affected by the Act?

In its broadest terms you have a duty if:
you employ staff
let property, provide accommodation
provide transport
education, or
sell goods.

For example, if a restaurant or a landlord providing a holiday flat refuses a blind person entry under a policy of "no dogs", this would constitute a breach of the Act and the person would be able to bring action against that service provider. (Guide dogs should be permitted.)
Equally, a person with impaired hearing unable to access public council meetings or a wheelchair user prevented from entering a library, museum or even employment, can bring action under the Act.
The only exception is if the services provided are not for the public. For example, those provided by private members clubs.

Who enforces the Act?

Unfortunately, the Act cannot clearly define specific alterations that need to be made. Instead the legislation focuses on results. The Act is not actively policed by anyone, however, powerful consumer organisations support individual cases, which have already resulted in awards in excess of £80,000.

What if I don't own the property?

It is important to remember that it is the service provider not the building that must comply with the Act.

In a multi-let building (where shops, office space and residential flats may exist side by side) the landlord is responsible for making the common parts comply with the Act. Common parts include staircases, corridors, lifts etc...

Where a business owner rents premises, the landlord is NOT responsible for DDA compliance measures.

How can I make arrangements to comply?

The focus of the Act is on results. Where there is a physical barrier, the service provider should make its service accessible to disabled people. The Act does not require a service provider to adopt one way of meeting the obligations rather than another. What is important is that this aim is achieved, rather than how it is achieved.

What if I am an employer?

The regulations concerning employers and employees focus on the employer to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate individual employees or potential employees. These may be as broad as the terms of contract, adjustments to the premises he will be working in, acquiring or modifying equipment and even assigning a person to a different place of work.

A point to remember is that up to October 2004 the rule on employers only applies to those who employ over 15 people, however, in October 2004 it is planned that there will be no exceptions

What if I miss the October 2004 deadline to make alterations?

If a service remains inaccessible a service provider may have to defend its decisions in court.
Similarly, an employer or landlord responsible for common parts may have to defend decisions not to comply with the Act, in court.

What should I do?

Ringley Chartered Surveyors can provide independent advice on all matters regarding the Discrimination Disability Act. We can undertake Access Audits to enable service providers and employers to meet their obligations.

How can an access audit help?

An audit of your premises makes good business sense.

  • Firstly, every situation, facility and service is likely to be different.
  • Secondly, service providers are more likely to comply with their duties when they are familiar with the level of arrangements they need to make.
  • Thirdly, conducting an audit of your premises will enable you to draw up a disability access strategy, which would, if nothing else, reduce the likelihood of a claim against you.
  • Finally, if an audit is undertaken early before October 2004 the cost can be spread over a longer period and provide the necessary time to develop the correct strategy or the company's specific requirements.
What's the audit process?

The audit is a basic process of journeying through the building, its facilities and services.

Consideration is given to people who work there, those who are likely to visit and the degree of difficulty they are likely to encounter.

The audit aims to identify elements likely to affect:

  • wheelchair users
  • the visually impaired, those with hearing difficulties
  • old people
  • child carers and people with learning difficulties.
What audit documentation is there?

Documentation provided includes plan drawings of the building, a detailed report documenting the use of the building, its size and number of people visiting, and parking.

The plans clearly indicate the necessary alterations and in many instances would include photographs of the area or element described.

Further documentation suggests improvements that could be made to the building as auxiliary measures. For example these could be as simple as displaying goods on another section of a ground floor, larger printed documents issued to partially blind people, colour coded flooring, or even a temporary ramp to bridge the period from the time of audit, to the time that a permanent ramp is installed.

The access audit is more likely to enable a company to comply with their duties by educating them about the adjustments that need to be made and measures that could be taken.

How can Ringley help?

Service providers need to develop a strategy and make alterations to meet their obligations under the Act.

This may include:

  • defining the service
  • awareness of physical restrictions
  • changing policies that may lead to discrimination
  • changing established procedures and practices
  • providing an alternative entrance
  • providing an additional handrail where there is only one
  • lowering part of a counter for ease of access by someone in a wheelchair
  • adjusting photocopiers

Our service would also look into additional funding arrangements, which your company may be entitled to. For example, the Government's 'access-to-work' initiative.