Equality Act: The Reality!
Unfortunately some access advisers and consultants have used the Equality Act as a weapon to frighten service providers into undertaking costly and time consuming works, which may not always have been necessary.
The Equality Act requires that service providers undertake REASONABLE adjustments in terms of premises and service provision.
So it may be more appropriate to specify that the Equality Act does not require UNREASONABLE adjustments to be made.
Service providers often ask what is ‘reasonable’? To some extent, that is a question that is hard to answer, but it is ‘reasonable’ in terms of the law.
For example if a shopkeeper has a shop that has a step into the premises and fronts onto the pavement, it may be impossible to build a ramp. Threatening the shopkeeper with the Equality Act, alleging that s/he is in definite breach of the Act, through not providing a ramp, is not only disingenuous, but also erroneous.
The shopkeeper would have to show that s/he had considered the requirements of the Equality Act, but would be able to offer a robust defence by showing that:
Due to the shop fronting onto the pavement, ramp provision is not feasible. Any ramp provided would have to comply with the requirements of the Approved Document for Part M of the Building Regulations. However, to comply with these requirements, the ramp would have to extend a significant way down the pavement, which would not be permitted by the local authority, because the ramp would pose a real trip hazard to people with visual impairment or learning disability etc.
If the shop did not front onto the pavement and there was space available for a ramp then the shopkeeper would have to provide it, wouldn’t s/he?
Not necessarily! Provision of a ramp may incur significant costs, if it is lengthy and accommodates the required landings every two metres and compliant handrails.