DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT 1995

Background Information

On 2 December 1996, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (the Act) brought in measures to prevent discrimination against disabled people. Part III of the Act is based on the principle that disabled people should not be discriminated against by service providers or those involved in the disposal or management of premises. Subject to limited exceptions, anyone who comes within either of these categories must comply with the duties set out in Part III. It should be noted that those selling, letting or managing premises could also have duties as service providers.

 

The Code of Practice (the Code)

This Code of Practice (the Code) gives practical guidance on how to prevent discrimination against disabled people in accessing services or premises. It describes the duties on those providing services to the public and those selling, letting or managing premises under Part III of the Act. The Code helps disabled people to understand the law and assists service providers, landlords and other persons to avoid complaints and litigation by adopting good practice. It also aims to advance the elimination of discrimination against disabled people and to encourage good practice.

The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) has prepared and issued this Code under the Act on the basis of a request by the Secretary of State. It applies to England, Wales and Scotland. A similar but separate Code applies to Northern Ireland.

The Code does not impose legal obligations. Nor is it an authoritative statement of the law — that is a matter for the courts. However, the Code can be used in evidence in legal proceedings under the Act. Courts (and, in respect of insurance services provided to employees, employment tribunals) must take into account any part of the Code that appears to them relevant to any question arising in those proceedings. If service providers and those involved in selling, letting or managing premises follow the guidance in the Code, it may help to avoid an adverse judgement by a court in any proceedings.

The Act makes it unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person:

  • by refusing to provide (or deliberately not providing) any service which it provides (or is prepared to provide) to members of the public; or
  • in the standard of service which it provides to the disabled person or the manner in which it provides it; or
  • in the terms on which it provides a service to the disabled person.

 

References to providing a service include providing goods or facilities.

It is also unlawful for a service provider to discriminate in:

  • failing to comply with any duty imposed on it by section 21 (a duty to make reasonable adjustments) in circumstances in which the effect of that failure is to make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for the disabled person to make use of any such service.

The reference to making use of a service includes using goods or facilities.

 

Definition within the Act with regards to “Discrimination”

The Act says that discrimination against a disabled person occurs in two possible ways.

One way in which discrimination occurs is when a service provider:

  • treats the disabled person less favourably — for a reason relating to the disabled person’s disability — than it treats (or would treat) others to whom that reason does not (or would not) apply; and
  • cannot show that the treatment is justified.

Making sure that a service provider does not treat a disabled person less favourably is also considered (more detail is available from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC)). Also considered is whether and when a service provider might be able to justify the less favourable treatment of a disabled person (more detail available from the DRC).

The other way in which discrimination occurs is when a service provider:

  • fails to comply with a duty imposed on it by section 21 of the Act (a duty to make “reasonable adjustments”) in relation to the disabled person; and
  • cannot show that the failure is justified.

 

To Whom Does This Act Apply

An adult or child has protection from discrimination under the Act if he or she is a disabled person. A disabled person is someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has an effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. That effect must be:

  • substantial (that is, more than minor or trivial); and
  • adverse; and
  • long term (that is, it has lasted or is likely to last for at least a year or for the rest of the life of the person affected).

Physical or mental impairment includes sensory impairments. Hidden impairments are also covered (for example, mental illness or mental health problems, learning disabilities and conditions such as diabetes or epilepsy).

In considering its duties under the Act, a service provider should not use any definition of “disabled person” which is narrower than that in the Act.

Among the services which are covered are those provided to the public by local councils, Government departments and agencies, the emergency services, charities, voluntary organisations, hotels, restaurants, pubs, post offices, banks, building societies, solicitors, accountants, telecommunications and broadcasting organisations, public utilities (such as gas, electricity and water suppliers), national parks, sports stadia, leisure centres, advice agencies, theatres, cinemas, hairdressers, shops, market stalls, petrol stations, telesales businesses, places of worship, courts, hospitals and clinics. This list is for illustration only and does not cover all the services falling under the Act.

Some public bodies will be providing a service, which may be covered by the Act in certain situations but not in others. For example, the police will be providing a service under the Act when giving advice and information about crime prevention, but are unlikely to be providing a service when arresting someone. A highway authority may be providing a service when assuring passage along the highway. Whether or not a function performed by a public body is a service for the purposes of the Act will depend on all the circumstances of the case.

All those involved in providing services are affected — from the most senior director or manager to the most junior employee, whether full or part-time, permanent or temporary. It does not matter whether the services in question are being provided by a sole trader, firm, company or other organization, or whether the person involved in providing the services is self-employed or an employee, volunteer, contractor or agent.

In most cases a service provider will be providing services to a disabled person in that person’s individual or personal capacity. However, sometimes a disabled person will be accessing services on behalf of an organisation (perhaps as an employee or representative of that organisation). For instance, as part of a business relationship between that organization and the service provider, a disabled employee or representative of the organization might have to visit parts of the service provider’s premises to which a section of the public is normally admitted. The service provider is likely to owe the disabled person duties under the Act during such visits.

It is important to remember that it is the provision of the service which is affected by Part III of the Act and not the nature of the service or business or the type of establishment from which it is provided. In many cases a service provider is providing a service by a number of different means. In some cases, however, each of those means of service might be regarded as a service in itself and subject to the Act.

 

Examples Given by the Disability Rights Commission

If a bank provides its services from temporary or mobile premises during a two week tennis tournament, those services are still covered by the Act.

A bank branch provides a cash withdrawal service over the counter from Monday to Friday during opening hours. It also provides a 24-hour cash withdrawal facility all through the week from cash machines (ATMs). To the extent that the ATM service is available when the counter service is not, the bank is likely to be providing an additional service, which is subject to the duties in the Act.

A local leisure centre is subject to the Act because it provides a service to the public and not, for example, because its services are provided from a public building.

(Disability Rights Commission Web Site April 2004)

 

Kirdford Parish Council Disability Discrimination Policy

Kirdford Parish Council in acknowledging their duty under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and subsequent amendments, will ensure that all premises and land under their direct control are reviewed on an annual basis with regard to access to services in line with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and that a report presented to the Council for consideration at the time of their annual budgetary process.


 

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