Under the Equality Act, service providers are obliged to make reasonable physical adjustments to their premises to enable a disabled person to use their services as close as possible to the standards usually offered to non-disabled people.
A service provider is a business is concerned with the provision of goods, services or facilities to the public or a section of the public. Anyone involved in the fashion industry who deals with the public will be classed as a service provider.
What constitutes “reasonable” physical adjustments?
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast answer. It will depend on a variety of factors including:
- The size and nature of the premises;
- The nature of the goods, facilities or services provided
- Practical limitations (particularly an issue in older buildings);
- The cost of making the physical adjustments;
- The business disruption caused by the adjustments;
- Your financial and other resources; and
- Whether it is possible to get financial or other assistance to make the change?
- When deciding what steps are reasonable to take, it is very much a question of looking at all the circumstances of your business and forming an opinion based on the considerations above. You will also need to consider how your ability to carry out alterations will be effected by Planning and Listed Building Legislation.
It may be possible to get a grant to assist you with the changes e.g. from the Disability Rights Commission or your local authority.
Anticipate don’t react
The duty to make changes is anticipatory. This means that you cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use your services but must think in advance (and on an ongoing basis) about the potential issues disabled people might face.