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GUEST ARTICLE: The Equality Act – Access & Inclusive Design

Bevans Chartered SurveyorsIn this article we will primarily focus on services to members of the public who have a disability.  This is far wider reaching than just companies who provide services to members of the public.  For example, do you hold meetings at your offices or do clients visit your premises for any other reason in which case this legislation probably applies to you too?

What does the Equality Act require you to do?

The Equality Act requires that as a provider of “services” you make reasonable adjustments, points to consider to test the reasonableness of this requirement: -

Your resources

  • What you have already done
  • What you plan to do
  • Whether you have audited your premises
  • What you knew and what it was reasonable for you to know

In the US the test of reasonableness has been quantified by what costs are reasonable.  This is not so in the UK and there is a reliance of case law to test what is to be considered reasonable.  To take a very simple example, a small retailer with one premises and a relatively modest turnover would not be expected to make alterations that would make the business no longer viable.  This is as opposed to a large national retailer which has a significant turnover.

What are the implications behind the legislation?

There have been some significant cases where large retailers have been faced legal action for inadequate provision and the consequences have been severe.  This has not only included financial compensation but adjustments imposed on the retailer for all of their premises and a very short deadline to comply with this order.

Accessible design – who are the disabled community and what do we need to think about?

A disability has a physical or mental condition which is substantial and adverse which has an effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities

  • Disabled population of UK is 11 million
  • 1 in 7 have a significant hearing loss
  • 2 million significant visual impairment
  • 360,000 totally blind
  • 3.2 million with dexterity or locomotion disabilities
  • In comparison, only about 500,000 wheelchair users

What should you be doing?

As a service provider which includes members of the public visiting your premises you must have an Access Audit in place to fully understand your current position.  Where companies have been successfully prosecuted and it has been found they have not even had an Access Audit and strategy in place the consequences have been severe.

An Access Audit will make reasonable adjustment recommendations categorised to what must be implemented immediately to what should be considered during your next capital spend. If you are involved in the design of new premises or refurbishment of existing property then you must ensure that the design has made all reasonable adjustments as required, the Building Regulations are only a starting point for this.

The above is a very brief overview of the legislation, its objectives and what business should be doing to meet these and we would be pleased to provide further information on how we are able to assist your individual business needs.

Please feel free to contact us through our website.

 

These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.

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