Wheelchair access to businesses and services continues to be a very real problem for people with disabilities. It limits life choices, restricts access to the community and confers the status of second class citizens on many within the disability community. If you experience access discrimination, being informed about the options for redress, and in particular mediation services in Worcester and Hereford, is vital in defending and demanding your rights.
In this blog I’m not only going to look at the law surrounding wheelchair access, but also at how you can ensure it is proactively applied if you encounter discrimination.
The inability to access shops, restaurants, transport and other services and other services within your own community not only makes everyday chores a logistical nightmare, but severely limits opportunities for independent living. Many physical environments, and in particular older buildings and infrastructures, have been designed by able bodied people with little understanding of the needs of the disabled community.
It is important to know that if you, a friend or family member has a disability, you are protected by powerful equality legislation which enshrines your right not to be discriminated against when demanding access to a business or service. If this access is denied to you, you also have the right to legal redress, or to enter disability mediation in Hereford and Worcester to overturn discriminatory practice.
The Equality Act
Anyone with a disability is legally protected under the Equality Act 2010, which stipulates that people with disabilities have the same right to access businesses and services as any able bodied person, and at no additional cost. Service providers, according to this act, need to demonstrate that they have made every reasonable adjustment’ to ensure access to their services for clients with disabilities.
Although the term is imprecise in its construction, it is generally applied with a degree of common sense. A multi-national corporation, for example, would be expected to ensure compliance with lift and ramp access in its new buildings, and to modify older buildings where possible. An independent local hairdressers on the other hand, with a raised step into their salon, would need to show ‘reasonable adjustment’ in a more modest way befitting their means, for example by providing a temporary ramp that could be brought out for use by wheelchair users as and when required.
There will only be very rare instances where a wheelchair user can be legally denied access to a business or service. If, for example, a small company hires premises on the third floor of a building with no lift access, and the cost of installing a lift is deemed prohibitive, this would not be discrimination. However,in this instance, the company would still have a responsibility to show reasonable adjustment in another form to meet the needs of a disabled customer, for example if possible offering a remote service.
Position of strength
If you are denied access because reasonable adjustment clearly hasn’t been implemented, there are steps you can take to achieve redress. These can include legal action, or using disability mediation services to resolve your dispute. It is important when considering action to remember that you are in a powerful position. Over a million people in the UK use a wheelchair, making chair users a valuable potential market of between £5 and £10 billion a year, and few businesses will want to anger the disability lobby.
Litigation versus mediation
Redress is generally achieved either through legal representation or mediation. When it comes to disputes over wheelchair access, there are several advantages to mediation which have seen it increasingly become the go-to option for disability dispute resolution.
One of the most important advantages mediation provides over more traditional legal approaches is that it empowers the two parties directly. The person with a disability is able to directly engage with the provider of the service they are being denied. They have the opportunity to talk openly and frankly about how its denial has impacted on their lives, both practically and emotionally. This is generally a very empowering experience, allowing a participant their own voice and their own testimony, and often opens up a very constructive dialogue.
As the two parties engage with each other through a facilitator openly and freely, accommodation is far more likely to be reached than through the use of representing legal counsel. Often this more combative approach tends to entrench positions, denying as it does the opportunity for a more complete understanding of the issues involved on both sides. Litigation often destroys any possibility of future collaboration between the two parties. Mediation, on the other hand, often sets the foundations for a positive working relationship moving forwards.
There are also more practical benefits to mediation, both in terms of time and cost savings. Sitting disputing parties down together to discuss an issue generally leads to far more rapid resolution than resorting to legal proceedings. Most mediation will be resolved within a single day, and many within just a few hours. Compare this to the stories of litigation that run on for months or even years. Consequently the costs involved tend to be only a fraction of legal fees. Mediation has a high rate of success, with ninety percent of cases successfully resolved, but in the rare instance that consensus is not achieved, you retain your right to pursue legal recourse.
For more information about wheelchair access and your rights, or about disability mediation, please contact us at via firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.centreforresolution.com/disability-mediation .
When loss strikes…
Bereavement embraces people, homes, jobs, pets…
It can happen to any one of us at any time. You lose someone – or something – that is precious and means the world to you.
Often the word ‘loss’ or ‘bereavement’ is only associated with death of someone close to you.
Loss…when no-one has died
Whilst friends and relations may understand the loss of a loved one, they may inadvertently dismiss how something like the loss of a business, family, house, a miscarriage or even losing a pet, can affect you so deeply.
Bereavement coaching is an extremely positive step to take to help you come to terms with all kinds of loss. It’s about finding strength after bereavement.
Sometimes, grief comes hurtling out of the blue, knocking you off course with a swift, sudden and painful shock.
At other times, you think you are prepared for the worst but when that worst arrives, you realise you were not. The shock nestles in tight and the sense of emptiness is profound.
There are those who think they can sail through unscathed, and then the thing plonks down, and you’re crying out for help.
You must at all costs ‘be positive’ and ‘keep cheerful’ and all those other things we often feel we’re expected to be at such times.
You become determined to keep soldiering on…and a whole plethora of emotions can jump on you while you do. There can be the terrible sense of guilt, hurt, fear, loneliness, panic, loss of confidence and trust, even anger. All normal.
Every one of us will react differently to different scenarios, from throwing yourself into work, non-stop talking or wanting to be alone. This is part of the healing process in gradually coming to terms with the loss. All natural.
Just get on with it
Unfortunately well-meaning associates can inadvertently contribute to your grief. Some typical phrases you might hear are:
‘You’ll get over it,’, ‘You just have to put it behind you now and move on’, ‘What’s the point of moaning about it, what’s happened has happened, you can’t bring it back.’ They are not helpful.
Something lost, something found
Life coaching or a bereavement coach can help you understand the turmoil of these conflicting emotions, and any intermittent, out of character behaviour, allowing you to give them time to drift away.
Whilst you may never forget, or want to forget, what you have lost, the right process of bereavement can help you put it in perspective, accepting what has happened, rather than fighting or suppressing the event.
You may even find you can look back, hold the good memories…and find yourself smiling.
When you are denied access to shops, restaurants, public building or modes of transport because you have a guide dog, it is important you know your rights, which can include remedy via disability mediation in Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
It is illegal for any service provider to deny entry to someone with a disability because of any equipment they may need as a result of this disability. This applies whether the equipment takes the form of a wheelchair, cane or guide dog. It is also important to know that, if you find yourself the victim of discrimination, there are available options to remedy the situation including court and mediation services in Herefordshire and Worcestershire to right this wrong.
This article looks at the impacts and issues surrounding guide dog refusal: the distress caused when a person with a disability is refused access, your legal rights under these circumstances, and the increasing use of mediation as a cost-effective means of addressing these instances of discrimination.
Equality of Access legislation
Under the Equality Act of 2010 people with disabilities have the same right to access businesses, leisure and hospitality services, public transport and public buildings as their able bodied peers. There should be no increase in the costs of any service and no disability discrimination in these circumstances.
Businesses and service providers are legally obliged to provide ‘reasonable adjustment’ to their facilities and services to ensure equality of access for all individuals, regardless of disability. As a term, ‘reasonable adjustment’ is fairly vague in construction, and open to misinterpretation by businesses and service providers. It is important to know therefore that denial of access to someone with a guide or assistance dog can only be acceptable in very rare circumstances, which are referenced later in this article.
The scale of the problem
A recent Guide Dogs survey revealed that three quarters of owners of guide and assistance dogs have at some point been refused entry to a business, public building or mode of transport when with their dog. This is despite the vast majority claiming that on a day to day basis their experiences of access had been largely positive.
The impacts of discrimination
We all know it can take just one instance of discrimination to undermine the confidence of anyone. Its impacts can be far greater for someone who may already feel vulnerable because of their disability.
Being denied entry is not only frustrating in itself, but is also potentially dangerous if it prevents access to vital goods and services. It is also deeply undermining, exacerbating the social isolation many people with disabilities already feel in their daily lives and interactions. It can also be deeply humiliating to be treated essentially as a second class citizen, and denied access to the social opportunities other people take for granted.
Reasons for refusal
Uninformed business owners and service providers may cite a range of reasons for not admitting a working guide dog to their premises. These can include health and safety concerns relating to areas where food is prepared and served, potential customer and staff allergies that a dog might induce, and the general mess a dog might create if, for example, it was caked in mud.
People with disabilities have the right to expect reasonable adjustments in all of these instances, but not the right to automatically demand access irrespective of the consequences to the business. If, for example, a small café owner has an extreme allergic reaction to animal fur, it may go beyond the scope of reasonable adjustment to demand access. Similarly, if someone with a guide dog is looking to access certain controlled areas within a hospital, the hospital would have the right to deny entry. Under either of these circumstances however, the café or hospital would have a responsibility for ensuring your assisted access, and ensuring the safety of your dog.
It is important to be aware that instances of lawful refusal are very rare, and the vast majority of refusals will be unlawful and open to challenge.
What would you do?
When witnessing or experiencing refusal on the part of a business owner or service provider, how should you respond? Evidence is key, and provides a vital source of information for any potential prosecution. Make a note of any dispute, or use your smart phone to record any footage that might be useful. If the dispute is over access to a taxi cab, if possible record the vehicle’s licence plate or registration number or ask for assistance to help you do so. If you are offering assistance to someone with a visual disability, be aware of the importance of introducing yourself to this person as you approach, bearing in mind they may not be aware of your presence.
Getting something done
Whether or not you have physical evidence of denied entry, you do have the right to seek redress. You can seek advice on making a complaint to a service provider because of the way you have been treated by calling the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 and asking to be connected to the Legal Rights Service or alternatively you can call Centre for Resolution and enquire about disability mediation on 07775445614.
Options may involve redress through a legal representative, or the more commonly chosen option of mediation.
The advantages of mediation are threefold. Mediation tends to lead to far swifter resolution than litigation. It is often conducted and resolved over the course of a day, whereas legal proceedings can often take months to resolve. Secondly, because resolution tends to be speedier, costs are likely to be significantly lower, and the option of litigation can be preserved in the unusual event that resolution isn’t arrived at.
The aim of mediation is always to understand and resolve, whereas legal wrangling often has the opposite effect of entrenching opposed positions. By giving both parties a voice and an opportunity to express their point of view it not only empowers, but allows them the opportunity for a fuller understanding and clearer perspectives.
For more information about disability mediation, please visit www.centreforresolution.com/disability-mediation