Access to everyday services

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 gives people with disabilities important rights to use and access services without being subjected to disability discrimination. There is a duty on service providers to make reasonable adjustments to improve accessibility of services for people with disabilities.

Everyday services

People with disabilities have important rights of access to everyday services. This includes services provided by:

  • local councils
  • doctors' surgeries
  • shops
  • hotels
  • banks
  • pubs
  • post offices
  • theatres
  • hairdressers
  • places of worship
  • courts
  • 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.

The Adapt NI is another website offers practical information on the existing services and facilities available for you to enjoy a day out and about. It has a database of accessible venues across Northern Ireland called Access 400.

Transport services

People with disabilities have legal protection against disability discrimination when using the following forms of transport:

  • trains
  • buses and coaches
  • taxis
  • 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

Under the DDA, disability discrimination can occur in two ways.

Firstly, 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 provided with a service of a poorer quality than others are receiving.

Secondly, it is unlawful for a service provider to fail, without lawful justification, to meet the duty to make reasonable adjustments. This duty requires service providers to make reasonable adjustments to their policies and practices and to the physical features of their premises and to provide 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
  • 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.

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 provide 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 responsibilities under the DDA 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 under the DDA.

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