Businesses must adapt to accommodate disabilities

first_imgBusinesseshave been given a fresh warning about ignoring the requirements of newdisability equality laws that come into effect in less than 10 days.Thethird phase of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) becomes law on 1October. It requires all business and service providers to make reasonablechanges – such as adapting prem-ises,removing physical barriers or providing the service another way – to ensurethey are accessible to the 10 million people in the UKwith some form of disability.TheDisability Rights Commission (DRC) is warningbusinesses they could face an upsurge in activism among disabled people, whilea recent NOP poll showed that 70 per cent of disabled people had difficultiesbuying goods or receiving a service. Penalties for failing to comply with theDDA include potential fines of up to £50,000, and unlimited fines if foundguilty of discrimination at an employment tribunal.TheDepartment for Work and Pensions said it was vital that employers consideredtheir staff’s knowledge and attitude, as front-line staff will often be adisabled customer’s only point of contact with the business. Itsaid supplying something as simple as pens and paper could help staffcommunicate with deaf or hearing-impaired customers.CatherineCasserley, seniorlegislative adviser for the DRC, said there would be nowhere to hide forbusinesses that have not made or planned improvements.Anothersurvey reveals that firms are still not ready to offer equality of service todisabled people, despite the Government’s campaign to promote awareness. Researchamong 800 managers by consultancy firm Workplace Law suggests the majoritybelieve that they are doing a better job than they are.Itsaid that while many managers are aware of the deadline, a large number seem tohave paid little attention to non-physical disabilities such as visual andhearing impairments, dyslexia and learning difficulties.Thestudy also reveals that while the deadline has helped to focus employers’attention on the requirements to provide an inclusive service, some of theprevious duties of the Act – relating to employing disabled people – seem tohave been forgotten.DavidSharp, managing director of  Workplace Law, said:”While the majority of businesses have taken positive steps to make theirworkplaces accessible, we wonder whether the message about service has reallybeen understood. “There’sno point in changing your building if you don’t change the attitudes of thepeople who work in it,” he said. “That’s where the challenge of thenext three years will lie – especially with a new Disability Bill on thehorizon.”LewisSidnick, policy adviser atthe British Chambers of Com-merce,said that being accessible did not have to be expensive. “Fromdisability awareness training for staff, to changing door handles, there are anumber of simple changes that you can make,” he said.Itis estimated that more than two million businesses, including hotels, restaurants,cinemas, dental surgeries and health clubs will be affected by the changes.www.drc-gb.orgDDA – top 10 tips for employers–  Understand disability – not all impairmentsare visible–Diversity policy – develop adiversity policy and implement it–Ensure good practice in recruitment – think about using the disability press towiden your pool of applicants. Consider making application forms available inalternative formats, such as large print or Braille–Pre-interview questioning – ask whether anyone has any specific requirements sothat you can make adequate preparations before the recruitment interview –Staff training – consider disability awareness training for all your staff–Audit your premises – changes made could be as simple as lowering lightswitches, or redecorating to provide better contrast for someone with a visualimpairment–Modify equipment – you might have to provide special equipment, such as anadapted keyboard for someone with arthritis–Plan ahead – if you are planning to make a change, making reasonableadjustments at an early stage could prove cost-effective in the long run–Be flexible – allow flexible working where possible, time off work for medicaltreatment, and phase people back into work following illness–Be fair – you should not require more of a disabled person in relation toperformance or conduct than you would require of anyone elseSource:Department for Work and PensionsBy Mike Berry  Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Businesses must adapt to accommodate disabilitiesOn 21 Sep 2004 in Personnel Todaylast_img

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