People with disabilities have important rights of access to everyday services. This includes services given by:
- local councils
- doctors' surgeries
- post offices
- places of worship
- voluntary groups, such as play groups
Non-educational services given 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.
AccessAble is an online directory with detailed access information about venues across the UK.
People with disabilities have legal protection against disability discrimination when using the following forms of transport:
- buses and coaches
- vehicle rental
- vehicle breakdown services
You can find out more about how the DDA applies to transport services at the Equality Commission’s website.
Discrimination and reasonable adjustments
The legal definition of disability discrimination states that it can occur in two ways:
It is unlawful for a service provider, without lawful justification, to treat a person with a disability less favourably than other people for a reason related to the disability. Less favourable treatment might occur if a person with disabilities is refused a service that others are receiving, or is given with a service of a poorer quality than others are receiving.
It is unlawful for a service provider to fail, without lawful justification, to meet the duty to make reasonable adjustments. This duty means service providers need to make reasonable adjustments to their policies and practices and to the physical features of their premises. They also need to give auxiliary aids to improve the accessibility of services for people with disabilities.
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
- giving disability awareness training to staff who have contact with the public
- having 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 need to make changes which are impractical or beyond their means.
Failure or refusal to offer a service to a person with disabilities - which is offered to other people - is discrimination unless it can be justified.
Local services you use most often
It's a good idea to talk to the service providers you use most often, for example 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 offer their services.
If you feel you've been discriminated against
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 its 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.
Businesses' DDA responsibilities
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. The Equality Commission can advise service providers about their legal responsibilities and how they can meet these.
Help and advice
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. It supports people with disabilities in securing their rights.