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Disabled Access: Why it’s Essential

A new report reveals people with disabilities are struggling with easy access to a section of the hospitality sector. Some businesses are not adapting to accommodate all customers, despite disabled access being essential, no matter what your business.

It’s crucial to make sure every customer is treated equally. If businesses get a bad reputation for failing those who are less mobile, for example, this could lead to a loss of trade. In addition, UK law requires businesses to make “reasonable adjustments” to their premises so that anyone with a disability can use their services.

Disabled access

© David Tran / Adobe Stock

Various laws have been passed to ensure business owners comply such as the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995, and the Equality Act in October 2010. However, some premises are still sadly lacking when it comes to complying with the law and welcoming disabled customers.

 

How many restaurants fail disabled customers?

According to a report by the House of Lords Select Committee, entitled The Equality Act 2010: The Impact on Disabled People, they are “let down across the whole spectrum of life”. Access to public buildings is a “challenge”, with many venues failing to provide even basic facilities, such as a disabled toilet. People with a disability find it hard to fight discrimination in the courts, with many just giving up and not bothering to go for a meal, or to the pub, because of the obstacles placed in their way.

The hospitality sector has a long way to go! A government audit of more than 30,000 UK businesses found 40% of restaurants didn’t have an accessible toilet; 75% didn’t cater for visually impaired customers; and 85% of restaurants and shops didn’t have a hearing loop. A study by the Business Disability Forum revealed a shocking 3.6 million people had left restaurants, pubs and clubs because the staff couldn’t meet their needs.

The government report concluded there was an urgent need to meet the needs of people with a disability, with the government bearing the “ultimate responsibility” for enabling everyone to compete on equal terms in society.

 

House of Lords demands tougher penalties

When restaurants and pubs go against the law and make no effort to cater for disabled customers, they should be closed down, according to the House of Lords. It has been suggested local authorities should be given new powers to refuse to grant or renew a licence to premises that don’t comply.

According to the government report, some restaurants blatantly flout the law, including some who are using their disabled toilet as storage space – in venues where space is scarce, the disabled toilet has frequently been found to house cleaning products.

The law permits any disabled person inconvenienced by this to raise the issue with the business owner. They could take legal action if they wished, and the business could be fined. However, it is a lengthy, expensive and difficult process. It also begs the question, “Why should they have to?”

Disabled access should be standard, rather than something people have to fight for through the courts. Other problems encountered include a lack of wheelchair ramps; narrow aisles that won’t easily accommodate a wheelchair; and heavy doors that make it difficult to enter a building.

 

Is funding available for businesses to provide disabled access?

Certain grants and funding are available to businesses to make their premises more accessible for everyone, including employees and customers.

To find out what’s available in your area, your first port of call should be your local council. You can also check the Gov.uk website for funding updates, or check on the websites of charities for disabled people, such as Scope.

Automatic Access can help your business by creating disabled access for the hospitality industry. Installing automatic doors can solve one of the most common problems when it comes to accessing your premises.

Disability awareness is vital to ensure equal opportunities for everyone when it comes to entering business premises. This has never been more important than it is now, in the light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Research has shown disabled people feel they have been forgotten during the crisis.

Aside from the distress caused to customers with disabilities, the 12 million disabled people in Britain have an estimated combined spending power of £200 billion, so any business that excludes them is missing out on vital income.