The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA 1995)

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 aims to end the discrimination that many disabled people face. The Act gives disabled people rights in the areas of:employment education access to goods, facilities and services buying or renting land or property.

The Act also allows the government to set minimum standards so that disabled people can use public transport easily.

The Act was introduced in 1996 and has three successive stages of implementation:

Stage 1

Dec 1996 - Recognise overall problem

Stage 2

Oct 1999 - Start making reasonable adjustments

Stage 3

Oct 2004 Deadline - Buildings which need to comply include shops, restaurants, leisure centres, places of worship, offices, schools, colleges, public buildings.

Changes to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA 1995) in October 2004

The development of legislation to improve the rights of disabled people is an ongoing process. From 1 October 2004, Part 3 of the DDA 1995 has required businesses and other organisations ‘service providers’ to take reasonable steps to tackle physical features that act as a barrier to disabled people who want to access their services.

This may mean to remove, alter or provide a reasonable means of avoiding physical features of a building which make access impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people.

Examples include:

  • putting in a ramp to replace steps
  • providing larger, well defined signs for people with a visual impairment
  • improving access to toilet or washing facilities

The responsibilities of local businesses

Businesses that provide a service to the public, whether they charge for it or not, have duties under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Service providers include shops, banks, hotels and cinemas.

If you are a disabled person, they cannot refuse to serve you or provide you with a lower standard of service to you because of your disability, unless it can be justified. They may also need to make reasonable changes to the way in which they provide their services to make sure that they don’t discriminate against you as a customer. Since 1 October 2004 service providers have had to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to any physical barriers that may prevent you using their service. This may mean they will have to provide their service by a reasonable alternative means. For example, if you are shopping, the shop staff should bring goods to you or help you find items. What is a reasonable adjustment?

Under the DDA, service providers, such as shops and banks, only need to make changes that are ‘reasonable’. There’s no rulebook, and some organisations can afford to do more than others. For example, it would not be reasonable for a small shop with a tight budget to undertake the same level of structural alteration that a large supermarket could finance. It’s about what is practical to the service provider’s individual situation and what resources the business may have. They will not be required to make changes which are impractical or beyond their means.

Examples of reasonable physical changes

These may include

  • ensuring premises are well lit, where appropriate, and providing well-defined signs
  • installing an induction loop for people with a hearing impairment
  • installing a permanent ramp and a handrail at the entrance to a building where there are steps
  • providing an accessible area, for example, a low level desk in a bank - for wheelchair users

You can find further information on the Disability Discrimination Act, at www.direct.gov.uk