Disability charities are worried many businesses may fail to make
simple changes to shops and workplaces to make them more
user-friendly for disabled people when they come under the auspices
of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in October.
The concerns follow the findings of a report by the Department for
Work and Pensions that show that only 3 per cent of small
businesses – those employing 15 people or fewer – were aware that
their exemption from the DDA was due to be lifted. In fact, many
did not know anything about the act or that they were exempt in the
From October, all small businesses employing a disabled person will
need to take “reasonable” measures to modify workplaces to make
them disabled-friendly, as has been the case for larger businesses
since the DDA was introduced in 1996. Shops and service providers
of all sizes will also have to make changes to premises where
Andy Rickell, director of the British Council of Disabled People,
said some service providers were “sleepwalking” into it and
deliberately “sitting on their hands”.
“Some will make a commercial judgement that it is less costly to do
nothing rather than make adjustments. Some may think that they are
happy with the customers they have and disabled people can go
He added that it would probably take a legal test case brought by
the Disability Rights Commission against a “visible, big brand” to
establish what “reasonable” means. “Larger service providers are
more likely to be found in breach than local corner shops,” said
The research also found that a third of service providers were
unaware of the DDA, and of those that were aware, half were unaware
of the forthcoming changes.
A spokesperson for disability charity Leonard Cheshire said there
was a “long way to go” before all workplaces were accessible,
despite most adaptations costing less than £1,000.
The DRC said lifting the exemption for small businesses could have
a “seismic” effect in tackling high unemployment among disabled
people as they were the greatest source of new jobs.