Disabled access and facilities in business premises
How to improve access for people with disabilities
Your business will have established a way of providing a service to your customers. This involves establishing:
- practices - what your business actually does
- policies - how your business regulates what it does
- procedures - the systems set up to ensure the policies are achieved
Formal and informal practices on access
Practices, policies and procedures may be:
- set out formally, eg a ban on animals entering the premises
- established informally or by custom, eg owners are discouraged from entering the premises with an animal but there is no outright ban or penalty for non-compliance
It is good practice to carry out an accessibility audit of your business. This will identify areas where you could make it easier for disabled people to access your business and its services. The Equality Commission provides an accessible business checklist (PDF, 581K) as part of their every customer counts initiative to help businesses assess and improve their accessibility.
Understand your customers
Good business involves anticipating what your customers need and want including the needs of disabled customers. Talk to your customers about the issues they may have when using your services, such as parking, getting in and out of your premises or using the facilities. Ask them for recommendations on how you could improve accessibility.
It is a good idea to think about the range of impairments that your customers may have, such as:
- mobility impairments eg stick users or wheelchair users
- visual impairments
- hearing impairments
- arthritis and limited dexterity
- mental health
- learning difficulties
- learning disabilities
This will give you a better understanding of potential barriers to access for some of your customers. This enables you to take steps to remove these barriers.
Making reasonable adjustments for disabled access
Your business may have in place certain practices, policies and procedures which may place people with a disability at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people in accessing your goods or services. You must make reasonable adjustments that let you provide a service that is as close as possible to the standard of service provided to other people. You must not wait until a disabled person wants to use a service before making any reasonable adjustments.
You must consider the need for, and put in place, any reasonable adjustments required by customers with a disability.
You can do this by:
- removing the practice, policy or procedure altogether
- making exceptions to the practice, policy or procedure to accommodate disabled people
- informing, instructing and training all employees so that they are aware of these changes
Examples of changing practices to improve disability access
Examples of changing practices, policies and procedures include:
- waiving a 'no dogs' policy to allow disabled people accompanied by an assistance dog to enter your premises
- allowing other forms of identification other than a driving licence - thereby allowing disabled people who are not permitted to hold a driving licence to access your goods or services
Accessibility guides for businesses
You can download the following accessibility guides from the Equality Commission:
Disability Action Helpline028 9029 7880