The deadline for offering a user-friendly environment becomes official on October 1 when Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 comes into play.
A most timely call on this subject came from Raj Patel, who runs RP Service Station in Manchester. He was about to have work done on his shop entrance and wondered what changes he should make to comply with the DDA. A second retailer rang, also concerned but not about to have any work done so he wanted to know what he could do for next to nothing.
The DDA is an interesting one because it hasn’t been tested yet. Come next month it will be unlawful for a ‘service provider’ (and that includes all shops) to discriminate against a disabled person by not providing the same level of service that it offers to any other member of the public. The law also says that you, the service provider, have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to your premises where physical features might make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled persons to use it.
To check out the latest I went onto the happy2help website launched by Garage Watch two years ago and was surprised to see that it was “under construction”. So I rang Mark Bradshaw, founder of Garage Watch, and he told me a diverting story. When the website was due for renewal he found that an American company had registered it as their own and wanted 500 dollars to relinquish it even though Mark explained it was a charitable site. According to Mark, even Neighbourhoodwatch.co.uk has been appropriated in this way. Garage Watch has got round it by adding a ‘uk’ to the URL, so the new site is happy2help.org.uk. It might still be under (re)construction when you try it. If so, go to www.garagewatch.org.uk where you can access happy2help via a link.
The scheme has produced 30,000 ‘happy2bhelped’ stickers for cars and Nestlé Rowntree has generously produced a counter top display for them.
On top of this the UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) has put together a guide on complying with the DDA for forecourts.