In theory, every disabled person should have the rights and means to access the same services and facilities as everybody else. In reality, this isn’t always the case. Despite disability access laws, many companies aren’t entirely equal when it comes to what they offer and to whom.
What is accessibility all about?
Some of the confusion surrounding disability access laws stems from misinterpretation of what the laws are all about, and what is entailed in order to make a product or service more accessible to a disabled person. Most people assume that accessibility is all about ensuring a disabled person has physical access to their building, but this is just one small part of the wider issue.
Accessibility is also about making services easy for everyone to use. So, even if a disabled person doesn’t need to visit your premises, you may still be flouting disability access laws in other ways.
For example the internet has had a huge impact on disability access laws. Any organisation that has an online presence needs to make sure that its website is easy to navigate for anyone with a disability. It can be hard to understand all the issues surrounding website accessibility, but there are lots of organisations and resources that can help point you in the right direction. (In fact, watch this space and we’ll be publishing one of our own soon).
What else can be done?
There are lots of measures that an organisation can make to ensure it is accessible to everyone. Service providers, such as banks, supermarkets, restaurants, or cinemas, will need to assess how individuals use their facilities. Depending on each provider, it could include making signage bigger, installing automatic doors, fitting a disabled toilet, providing a ramp, or setting up an induction loop.
Public services such as schools, hospitals, airports, and other transport providers also need to invest time and effort in ensuring disabled people can use their services in an easy and efficient manner.
Making reasonable adjustments
But what happens if you are a small organisation? Many smaller companies might not have the financial means to make major changes to their business to allow for accessibility. For example, installing an automatic door or a wider toilet just might not be feasible, without having to uproot to bigger premises or take out a loan.
Current disability access legislation states that an employer needs to make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of disabled people. However, it also recognises that small service providers may not have the means to implement changes in the same way that a bigger organisation can. If changes are impractical or beyond a firm’s means, then the firm is not expected to make any adjustments. So, despite having the laws in place, in some instances they can’t always be applied.
One more thing to consider is to take on-board, and try to address, the concerns of any disabled person who uses your facilities. They may be able to offer you practical guidance on how to make improvements, so if you can, then it’s worth trying to implement suggestions.