The Disability Discrimination Act (The Equality Act) impacts how you interact with your employees, job seekers, and customers. Small and medium-sized enterprises must make “reasonable modifications” to ensure that handicapped consumers are not discriminated against under the Equality Act.
The legislation is set up so that you just have to make reasonable improvements, but if you fail to do so, a handicapped person may file a lawsuit against you for treating them unfairly. It might be the result of a policy or a one-time event.
For my company, what is reasonable?
When considering what kind of modification is likely to be appropriate for your organisation, you should examine the following factors to stay within the law:
- Type of company
- Turnover on an annual basis
- The cost of the change
- While the repair is being done, there will be some disruption.
- The ease with which the modification may be made
- Customers with disabilities may profit from this.
What is reasonable is determined by many variables, including the resources available to the organisation implementing the change.
Customers with disabilities should not be treated unfairly by businesses of any size, according to the Equality Act. You might be losing out on many prospective consumers if your company is not accessible to handicapped people.
“The capacity to see the problem as a whole and understand that there is no fast answer.” “Just utilise the same notion of human contact that you do with other people,” Liz Johnson, a former paralympic swimmer and founder of The Ability People, said.
She also emphasises the need of confronting your unconscious prejudice while dealing with impaired consumers. This entails avoiding making assumptions and accepting that impairments come in various forms. A partly sighted individual, for example, may have just minimally impaired vision as opposed to someone who has a considerable deal of difficulty seeing.
You can also accomplish a lot of useful things. Some adjustments are inexpensive, such as providing a seat for mobility issues and cannot stand for lengthy periods. Ask a disabled person what you can do if you’re not sure what to do.
To get you started, here are some thoughts.
Getting access to your data
– Are signs and labelling simple to read and understand?
– Do you have several versions of customer data? Leaflets, pamphlets, and menus, for example.
– Is there a variety of methods for individuals to contact your company? By phone, email, or chatbot/instant messenger, for example.
– Is your website user-friendly? How about your application? Not all functionalities from your website to your app are transferable. It’s important examining whether your app is compatible with accessibility software that some handicapped users have already installed on their devices.
Getting inside your building
– Is there a place for consumers to sit if they have to line or wait?
– Is the main level equipped with all necessary amenities? Is it possible to find popular goods on a shelf that is mid-height? Would handicapped consumers be able to place orders on a tablet or free-standing screen in the store?
– Do visually challenged folks to have an easy time seeing whatever they need to see?
– Do you have level access to and inside your building? This excludes any stairs, steep slopes, or doorway lips.
– If there are stairs, can you construct a ramp or a lift to allow handicapped individuals to enter?
– Could you put an outside bell or buzzer and go out to handicapped consumers when it rings?
– Are wheelchair users able to grasp and reach doorknobs easily?
– Are there any obstacles in the way of a wheelchair passing through the hallways and aisles?
Customer service is important.
– Do your employees know how to help persons with disabilities in an emergency?
— If you typically restrict animals, consider making an exception for assistance dogs. It’s important to remember that assistance dogs aren’t only for the blind.
– Is the personnel trained to help those who ask for it?
Suppose you cannot make such modifications for a handicapped individual. You should look into other ways to provide your customers with a similar service, such as via internet access or even home delivery.
Getting it right on the first try
According to Liz Johnson, including accessibility into your original design will save you money in the long run.
“It’s all about the consultation phase,” she said, “making sure that all of your consumer, client, employee, or potential base of any of those groups is represented.”
She went on to say that when individuals think about diversity and inclusion, they prefer to aid a certain group at a time, which is where the expenses come in. It’s possible that the measures you’ve taken aren’t as successful as you had intended.
One example is installing a lift in which you enter and hold the button to move the lift is one example. This might be problematic for a wheelchair user who does not have complete arm function. They may not be able to muster enough power to push the button all the way through, or they might not be able to get their hand into the proper position to do so.
What you need to understand is that 70% of disabilities are not visible to the naked eye.” This is why, at the planning stage and throughout the process, you need representation from someone who can argue for those distinctions, whatever they are,” she said. The Ability People, for example, may collaborate with businesses on environmental evaluations and building design.
Staff training is another area that should be addressed early on. Training that teaches staff to search for differences and treat each person with empathy is recommended by Johnson. “Businesses of all sizes and shapes must empower their staff by eliminating the element of fear via education and exposure,” she added. “That’s the stumbling hurdle.” Many individuals avoid doing anything because they don’t want to say incorrectly. Or they’re so worried about doing something wrong that they overthink what they’re saying and say exactly the incorrect thing.”
She suggests a training programme on inclusion awareness, where employees may examine the “whys” and “hows” of what difference looks like in a safe environment. Applying diverse impairments to real-world problems might help workers overcome cognitive patterns based on prejudices or prior experiences. “These seminars should not be seen as a diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiative, but rather as a learning and development effort,” Johnson added.
More information about the Equality Act may be found here.
The Equality Act is the responsibility of the Pensions regulator. It offers information and help to businesses via Disability Employment Advisers stationed at its network of Jobcentre Plus offices and Jobcentres.
Visit the Disability Services for Employers area of the.gov.uk website for further information about hiring disabled individuals.