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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Access to everyday services

The Equality Act 2010 (EA) gives disabled people important rights of access to everyday services. Service providers have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to premises or to the way they provide a service. Sometimes it just takes minor changes to make a service accessible.

Everyday services

Disabled people 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 physical access, it is about making services easier to use for everybody.

DisabledGo and Direct Enquiries are online directories 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.

Discrimination and reasonable adjustments

Under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably because they are disabled. The service provider must not indirectly discriminate against a disabled person unless their is a clear reason to do so.

Also service providers must not treat a disabled person unfavourably because of something connected with their disability, unless there is a clear and fair reason. For this form of discrimination the service provider must know or should reasonably have been expected to know that the person is disabled.

A service provider must not harass a disabled person in relation to access to everyday services.

There is protection from discrimination against:

  • people with a disability
  • people who are associated with a disabled person
  • people who are wrongly believed to be disabled

Service providers have to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the way they deliver their services. This is so that a disabled person is not put at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people in accessing the services.

Examples of reasonable adjustments could include:

  • installing an induction loop for people who are hearing impaired
  • 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 which has steps

What is considered a reasonable adjustment for a large organisation, like a bank, may be different from a reasonable adjustment for a small local shop. It is 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 adjustments that are not reasonable because they are unaffordable or impractical.

Getting the most out of local services

It's a good idea to talk to the service providers you use most often, like your local doctor's surgery or a shop you often use. Explain to them exactly what your needs are. This will help them understand what adjustments they might need to make to the way they provide their services.

What to do if you feel you've been discriminated against

If you find it difficult to access a local service, you should contact the organisation and let them know. For instance, you can't use a local takeaway or sandwich shop because the counter is too high. It is in their interest to make sure everyone can use their service.

It is best to offer constructive suggestions as to how the service provider could improve the way their 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 and their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010

You may find it helpful to refer service providers to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s website. On this website, they can find more information about making their services accessible to disabled customers. You could tell them that the Commission can advise service providers about their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 and how to meet them.

The document 'Making access to goods and services easier for disabled customers' is a useful guide.

Where to get more formal help

If talking to the service provider about your needs doesn't result in any changes, you can seek advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Commission can help and advise disabled people in securing their rights under the Equality Act 2010.

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