Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) comes into force in October 2004, yet many businesses still appear to be unaware of its requirements. If you have not already begun to ensure your workspace is compliant with part III of the DDA this must be one New Year’s resolution that is high on your agenda. Justin Palmer, director of Principio, looks at what part III of the DDA involves and what changes may need to be made to your workspace to ensure compliancy.
The DDA was passed in 1995 with the objective of ending the discrimination, which many people with disabilities face in their everyday lives. Of the 8.6 million disabled people in the UK, one million are unemployed but would like to be able to work. Many are unreasonably forced out of the workplace simply because the majority of organisations are not equipped to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The DDA aims to change this and will help ensure more equal opportunities for people with disabilities, as well as providing organisations with access to a wider pool of staff.
We have already seen the implementation of parts I and II of the DDA. Since December 1996 it has been illegal for all service providers to discriminate against disabled people. And since October 1999, organisations have been required to review their policies, practices and procedures in line with the DDA and reasonable adjustments have had to be made for disabled people, such as providing extra help.
Part III of the DDA and what it means for you
For many organisations Part III of the DDA has the greatest implications. Part III requires all organisations to ensure that their buildings and services are fully accessible to people with disabilities, and that there is no discrimination between an able-bodied person gaining access to any part of the building and a disabled person. For example, where a physical feature makes it impossible or difficult for a disabled person to make use of a service, steps must be taken to remove or alter the feature so that it no longer causes an obstruction. Alternatively, you can provide reasonable means for avoiding the feature or provide other arrangements for making the service available to people with disabilities.
Any organisation, whether large or small, which provides goods, facilities or services to the public must meet these demands. Many new buildings have been designed with the DDA in mind, however the majority of businesses still appear to be unaware of the requirements. With the DDA 2004 deadline fast approaching, if you haven’t already begun to review what changes need to be made, this must be an urgent task for early 2004. If you neglect to ensure DDA compliancy, you will risk possible prosecution. This won’t just impact your organisation’s budget but it will also damage your business’ reputation.
Where should you start?
The Disability Rights Commission recommends that organisations begin with an audit of their buildings to assess the suitability of access for disabled persons. An access audit plan should note all current and future design features taking into consideration the following:
– external approach
– entrance and reception
– horizontal and vertical circulation
– internal spaces
– sanitary facilities
– signage and information
– evacuation and management.
Once an audit has been carried out with a reputable company, a list of perceived conflicts and suggestions for how they can be resolved should be drawn up. This would probably involve producing a list of alterations to the building in order to make any necessary improvements.
Make the best use of your workspace
If extensive changes need to be made, this may be an ideal opportunity to reassess your whole building design and carry out a workplace change audit. This would not only show where you need to make improvements to meet the DDA but would also ensure you maximise your workspace. The layout of your premises can strongly impact staff motivation and productivity in either a negative or positive way.
A workplace change audit could include looking at factors such as how your teams within your workspace relate and if they are occupying that space efficiently. Re-aligning your teams in their space or creating more space may improve productivity. This may also be the time to re-assess the ownership and control of your buildings and think about whether or not you might benefit from an alternative means of occupation or outsourcing some areas to contractors.
How much will this cost?
The cost of any changes will obviously depend on measures already taken to ensure your organisation’s buildings meet the needs of disabled people. To help businesses budget, there is an implementation period in order to comply with the October 2004 deadline. There may also be some grants available to government buildings for this process. If you are looking at carrying out a workplace change audit at the same time, develop a plan which demonstrates the costs of complying with the DDA against the potential benefits of improving your office space.
Opening up accessibility and setting an example
Although changes to your buildings may be expensive, the costs of ensuring compliancy with the DDA must be weighed up against not complying. Not only will you face prosecution but you will also be confronted with bad publicity.
You will also lock out an important section of the population who have many skills to offer plus considerable spending influence. Ensuring your facilities are accessible to disabled people isn’t just a legal requirement, it is also a sound business decision. With over 8 million disabled people in the UK with a combined spending power of £50 billion a year, you need to ensure you can provide a good service and welcome people with disabilities.
For more information on the DDA, visit the Disability Rights Commission website For more information on how Principio can help ensure your buildings comply with the DDA, please call 0117 316 7300.