Meeting Disability Requirements
The Equality Act 2010 affects you, whether you’ve heard of it or not. If you own or rent commercial property or a block of flats it is likely that you carry an obligation to make adjustments to your premises to facilitate its use by people with disabilities. Under the law you need to be meeting disability requirements.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1996 was amended in 2004. It has now been largely superseded by the Equality Act 2010. The aim of both of these Acts is to remove discrimination against disabled people in areas such as employment, access to goods and services, education etc. Obviously, much of this is out of the remit of the landlord or developer but the onus to make reasonable adjustments to property does fall upon the landlord.
RWS Ltd have worked on a a large number of projects where we have had to incorporate disabled access and facilities into an existing building. We have a qualified, in-house project team who can design and implement changes to the building for meeting disability requirements.
The Requirement to Make Reasonable Adjustments
The Equality Act stipulates that ensuring equality for disabled people may require changes in the way in which a service is provided and/or the removal of physical barriers to the disabled. This is the ‘duty to make reasonable adjustments’. Some reasonable adjustments will involve a landlord making particular changes to their practices, their premises or providing extra equipment for disabled people. There are three requirements that apply in situations where a disabled person would be at a significant disadvantage compared with those who are not disabled:
- Firstly, making changes to provisions, criteria and working practices such as relocating office spaces and facilities to ground floor areas. This may include simple changes such as a meeting room or making a provision if a ground floor meeting is required for a visitor.
- Secondly, providing auxiliary aids and services. This might include provision of particular computer software or providing a different service delivery method such as a hearing system or similar.
- Thirdly, making alterations to premises in removing or adding physical barriers, such as the provision of handrails. RWS Ltd deal with this type of requirement frequently as it entails changing the structural fabric of a building and redeveloping the building to suit.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments under these three requirements is anticipatory and pro-active. A service provider cannot wait for the situation to arise but must take steps to address any issues before they arise. It is a duty at large, thus it is irrelevant if a service provider knows that a particular person is disabled – the duty is to make provisions for disabled people generally now, and for the future
Obviously, the third of these three requirements is more pertinent to the construction industry, but the other two are still relevant.
RWS designing space to accommodate facilities
RWS installed Disability toilet facility in commercial property.
So what constitutes a Reasonable Adjustment?
The answer depends on who you are and what service it is you are providing. The word ‘reasonable’ is key. It is necessary to assess how you are affected by the disability requirements and what can possibly be implemented:
- How effective the change will be in assisting disabled people generally, or a specific individual. If it won’t make much difference, then there is no point.
- Its practicality; if it is not possible or feasible to change a physical feature of a building, then another solution must be found.
- The cost of making the adjustment; clearly, a solution that will require the expenditure of large sums of money. but that will see little use, is not considered reasonable.
- The service provider’s resources and size. For example, a newsagent operating as a sole trader can hardly be expected to take the same steps in adjusting his premises as a large chain store.
- Planning constraints. If Listed Building Consent, for example, could not be obtained for an adjustment then another solution must be found.
- Any other safety issues.
RWS Ltd can advise and assist with finding the best solution to meeting disability requirements that you will have to provide for your building. We can incorporate these around a refurbishment plan and help develop your requirements and specifications, creating an all-round package which will meet YOUR needs as well as the Disability requirements.
RWS conduct site surveys and make recommendations on how to meet the requirements
What are the consequences of not complying?
An individual can claim against the service provider if they feel they have not made a reasonable adjustment or provided adequate facilities. County Court will deal with the information and make a judgement based on the evidence submitted. Potential penalties include:
- Damages (including compensation for injuries to feelings)
- An injunction – i.e. a court order requiring you to make a reasonable adjustment, or
- a declaration – simply a statement by the court which says that someone has been discriminated against
It is possible, then, that a court may not only order a service provider to make physical alterations to their premises, but also award damages to the individual who brought the claim.
So What Do I Do?
Refurbishing your property to meet Disability requirements is not an overnight process. It would be prudent to invest time in consultation with a company who can evaluate your business or premise and advise what you should aim to provide in terms of Disability requirements. If you are looking for advice in this field why not contact RWS Ltd?