The Disability Discrimination Act requires that the following should not discriminate against disabled people.
Since December 1996 employers with fifteen or more employees in total were affected, regardless of the size of the workplace or its branches. From 1st October 2004 the Act encompassed employers, regardless of size, whilst additionally offering some protection to people seeking to access work.
An employer has a duty to 'take such steps as is reasonable' in order to prevent an arrangement or physical feature having a discriminatory effect and to avoid placing persons with a disability at a greater disadvantage to others. Employment adjustments do not have to be anticipated or made for the disabled population at large.
b) Service providers and sellers or letters of land and property
In the case of service providers reasonable adjustments need to be anticipated and may have to be made for the disabled population at large. This affects all service providers, whether free or paid for and regardless of organisation size. As from 1st October 2004 some physical features may require to be altered.
The term 'services' covers the provision of goods (goods in a store and facilities or conference suite hire). Services which are provided free (access to parks or in return of payment i.e. restaurant meals) are also covered.
Where a service provider may have to make reasonable adjustments to the physical features in their premises to be able to overcome any barriers to access, the physical features are described as :-
- Any feature arising from the design or construction of a building on the premises occupied by the service provider
- Any feature on those premises or any approach to, exit or access to such a building
- Any fixture, fitting, furnishing, furniture, equipment or materials in or on such premises
- Any other physical element or quality of land comprised in the premises occupied by the service provider
The reasonable adjustments may be :-
- Removal of feature
- Alteration to the feature
- Provide means of avoiding the feature
- Provide the service by an alternate means
The Act does not require the service provider to adopt one way rather than another way of meeting the obligations. The focus is on results. Should there be a physical barrier, the service provider's aim must be to make its services accessible to disabled people.
The important point is that the aim is achieved, rather than how. If a service remains inaccessible, then the service provider may have to justify its decision.
The DDA relates to all service providers and all buildings, existing or new.
Since the DDA became law it has come into force progressively and the final stage was implemented on 1st October 2004 and as from this date applies to all 'service providers' and 'employers'.
The Disability Discrimination Act requires that both service provider and employer shall not discriminate against disabled persons by treating any less favourably than an able-bodied person. It requires that 'reasonable adjustments' be made to any physical features of the building or that the service is provided by alternative means.
Having buildings and their facilities designed to 'best practice design standards' may reduce the risk of the employers or service providers receiving claims for discrimination from individuals and/or employees, but there are no guarantees.
This is an 'enabling act' which will allow people who feel discriminated against to seek redress through the courts. It is not possible for an architect, designer or contractor to be sued directly under this Act as it is not prescriptive.
The Code of Practice BS 8300: 2001 A:2005 - The Building Regulations - Approved Document M (including Technical Memorandum: 2005)
BS 8300, published in 2001, contains many prescriptive requirements that effect ironmongery that includes dimensional drawings for lever handles, forces for door closers, handrail design and detail of disabled toilets as well as minimum door widths.
Approved Document 'M' came into effect on 1st May 2004 and gives the minimum standard for access provision. Titled "Access to and use of buildings" it is aimed at a more inclusive approach to design. The regulations affect all new buildings and extensions to existing buildings and include effective clear door widths, the use and position of vision panels, visual contrast of the door area, opening forces created by door closing devices, doors that are manually and automatically operated and the layouts and components in WCs and bathrooms, among others.
As BS 8300 was written before AD 'M', some sections offer differing guidance to that of AD 'M'. The necessary amendments have been made to the Standard, which are now incorporated into "Technical Memorandum for AD 'M' ", published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
(Produced or shown by kind permission of Häfele UK, information given correct at time of print Aug 2008)