Access to everyday services
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) gives people with disabilities important rights of access to everyday services.
People with disabilities have important rights of access to everyday services. This includes services provided by:
- local councils
- doctors' surgeries
- post offices
- places of worship
- voluntary groups such as play groups
Non-educational services provided by schools are also included.
Access to services is not just about installing ramps and widening doorways for wheelchair users - it is about making services easier to use for all people with disabilities, including people who are blind, deaf or have a learning disability.
DisabledGo is an online directory with detailed access information about venues across the UK. You can search the database, and filter results so that you can check whether a venue is suitable for your own individual needs.
Adapt NI is another website which offers practical information on the existing services and facilities available for you to enjoy a great day out and about. It has a database of accessible venues across Northern Ireland called Access 400.
People with disabilities have legal protection against discrimination when using the following forms of transport:
- buses and coaches
- vehicle rental
- vehicle breakdown services
You can find More information on The Disability Discrimination (Transport Vehicles) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009 is available online:
Discrimination and reasonable adjustments
Under the DDA, it is unlawful for service providers to treat people with disabilities less favourably than other people for a reason related to their disability. Service providers have to make 'reasonable adjustments' to the way they deliver their services so that people with disabilities can use them.
Examples of reasonable adjustments include:
- installing an induction loop for people who are hearing impaired
- giving the option to book tickets by email as well as by phone
- providing disability awareness training for staff who have contact with the public
- providing larger, well-defined signage for people with impaired vision
- putting in a ramp at the entrance to a building as well as steps
What is considered a 'reasonable adjustment' for a large organisation like a bank may be different to a reasonable adjustment for a small local shop. It's about what is practical in 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.
Failure or refusal to provide a service to a person with disabilities - which is offered to other people - is discrimination unless it can be justified.
Getting the most out of local services you use most often
It's a good idea to talk to the service providers you use most often, like your local doctor's surgery or coffee shop, and explain exactly what your needs are. This will help them understand what adjustments they might need to make to the way they provide their services.
What to do if you feel you've been discriminated against
What to do first
If you find it difficult to access a local service - for example, you cannot call a telephone helpline because you're deaf - you should contact the organisation and let them know. It is in their interest to make sure everyone can use their service.
It's best to offer constructive suggestions as to how the service provider could improve the way their services are provided. Explain the difficulty you have in accessing their service and give examples of how other businesses have solved the problem, if you know of any.
If the service provider agrees to make an adjustment, ask if they can put it in writing. This will help you follow up your request if the service provider does not keep their promise.
Information for businesses on their responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act
You may find it useful to refer service providers to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland website for more information about making their services accessible to customers with disabilities. You could also tell them that the Equality Commission can advise service providers about their responsibilities under the DDA and how they can meet these.
- Download: Making access to goods and services easier for customers with disabilities (PDF 1.6 MB)
- Help with PDF files
Where to get more formal help
If talking to a service provider about your needs doesn't result in any changes, the first place to turn for help and advice is the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. The commission supports people with disabilities in securing their rights under the Disability Discrimination Act.