The Disability Discrimination Act
What is the Disability Discrimination Act?
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) passed onto the statute books in 1995. It was the first significant piece of legislation to prohibit discrimination against disabled people and was an important step forward in the campaign for full civil rights for all disabled people.
Why is the DDA important?
The DDA is important because disabled people still face discrimination in our society. Part III of the Act is specifically about access to goods, services and facilities and it applies to anyone who provides a service, offers facilities or supplies goods to the public.
Many disabled people are still denied access to service that others take for granted. Poor access, negative attitudes and a lack of awareness can often make ordinary activities like going to the cinema, shopping, using a cash-point, going to the pub or having a meal in a restaurant more difficult, time-consuming and stressful for a disabled person. The DDA Part III duties are not just about physical things like ramps and lifts; they are about ensuring that all disabled people are treated with respect and can use services that non-disabled people already take for granted.
Who does the DDA apply to?
Shops, pubs, restaurants, banks, hotels, theatres, cinemas, leisure facilities, insurance companies, telecommunications companies, broadcasting services and many others are all covered by the Act.
Public services such as hospitals, doctors’ and dental surgeries, government buildings, libraries and museums; historic buildings, places of worship and bus and railway stations are also included.
How does the DDA affect me?
The Act puts a variety of legal duties on service providers. If service providers fail to meet these duties they will be breaking the law and could be prosecuted.
What does the DDA say?
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was passed in 1995. Part III of the Act put duties on businesses and services providers to make goods, facilities and services accessible to disabled people.
Since December 1996 it has been unlawful for a service provider (such as a shop, restaurant, leisure centre) to discriminate against a disabled person.
- By refusing to provide any service to disabled people which it provides to non-disabled members of the public
- By providing a worse standard of service to disabled people than it provides to non-disabled people
Since October 1999 the following provisions have also become law and service providers also have to:
- Change practices, policies and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service
- Provide auxiliary aids or services, which would make it easier for or enable disabled people to use a service
- Overcome physical features, which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service, by providing the service by a reasonable alternative method
On 1 October 2004 the final stage of the Part III provisions of the DDA came into force. The new duties require anyone providing goods, services or facilities to the public to make reasonable adjustments to physical features that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to access their goods, services or facilities.
What is reasonable?
The DDA Part III states that any adjustments made to ensure disabled people can access a service must be ‘reasonable’. The definition of ‘reasonable’ is subjective and it is a matter for the courts to define.
Issues like significant cost or major structural alterations to a building would probably be considered unreasonable and rather than install a lift for example a service provider could be expected to provide the service by a reasonable alternative means.
As the number of cases going through the courts increases more case law will be established which should give a greater insight into the meaning of ‘reasonable’ in this context. Also, the definition of what is reasonable is likely to change as expectations around access standards increase.
How can I find out more about the DDA?
If you are unclear about how the DDA affects you there is plenty of help and advice available.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission can also answer any questions or queries you may have relating to any aspect of the DDA.