Disability discrimination when buying and using goods and services
‘Goods, facilities and services’ include things that are free, as well as those you pay for. The term covers many businesses and services, including:
- shops, including mail-order and internet shopping services;
- hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs;
- bus and railway stations, airports and leisure centres;
- bank accounts, loans, credit cards and insurance;
- government departments, courts, doctors and law firms;
- services offered by local councils, such as parks;
- trains, trams, taxis, mini cabs, most rental vehicles and buses (though for now, the Act does not cover aircraft).
The Disability Discrimination Act says that, as well as treating disabled people as favourably as anyone else, service providers must anticipate problems that disabled people might face in using their services, and take reasonable steps to improve access. This means they might have to:
- change the way they provide a service (for example, a theatre might provide a sign-language interpreter at some performances for people with impaired hearing); or
- make it easier to get into and out of a building (for example, by widening doorways or building ramps for wheelchair users).
Organisations do not have to change or avoid every obstacle to access. For example, an organisation does not have to make every entrance to their building accessible to someone in a wheelchair, as long as there are enough ways into a building that would not be difficult or humiliating to use.
Special rules apply to trains, buses, trams, taxis and minicabs. Transport providers do not usually have to change the structure of vehicles, but they may need to change policies or procedures that make it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use them.
There are also special rules covering insurance, guarantees and deposits.
For more examples of the changes it would be reasonable to make, see the codes of practice available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (see ‘Further help’).
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