Many shops fail disabled customers

A new report, titled ‘Rights and Reality’, has found that 40% of disabled people have experienced difficulties accessing goods and services in the past 12 months

Two in five (40%) disabled people have experienced difficulties accessing goods and services in the last twelve months, with around a quarter of all disabled people (23%) directly identifying their experiences as discriminatory, according to a major new report by a leading disability charity.

The report, based on research conducted by Ipsos MORI for the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, finds that disabled people continue to face issues like poor accessibility and a lack of appropriate facilities in premises, as well as difficulties in using public transport. The report also features a series of in-depth interviews carried out by the organisation.

On Tuesday 6 April the new Equality Act, which the charity supports, was passed through parliament. It replaces the current Disability Discrimination Act and provides an opportunity to make key improvements to the way in which the law works for disabled people.

Leonard Cheshire Disability is calling for establishment of a pilot project allowing formal arbitration of cases, so that they can be heard and settled before having to go to court, as well as the use of ‘Equality Tribunals’ to make it easier for disabled people to take a case.

The report finds that only 1% of disabled people who have encountered discrimination when accessing goods and services have taken legal action to challenge it. The potential costs and stress of taking action, as well as a lack of knowledge of disabled people’s rights under the Act, are cited as major barriers to doing so.

Only 9% of those disabled people who had taken any form of action in relation to the discrimination they had experienced reported that the organisation in question had made improvements in its provision of services for disabled people.

Guy Parckar, public policy manager at Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “The impact of goods and services being inaccessible can mean much more than immediate inconvenience – it can contribute directly to the chances of a disabled person living in poverty through barriers to employment, education and other opportunities. Our report demonstrates that only a tiny minority are tackling the issue through legal action. The new Equality Act is a golden opportunity to make sure that the law works better for disabled people.”

The report finds that 79% of disabled people agree that if they felt a shop had discriminated against them because of their impairment they would tell friends and family about it. Furthermore, 45% of disabled people surveyed confirmed that if they faced too many difficulties accessing a service they would give up trying to use it.

Parckar added: “All the existing evidence shows that improving accessibility will be beneficial to disabled people, will be beneficial to business, and will be beneficial to the economy. Making the law work more effectively and giving disabled people access to their rights is a vital first step in this direction.”

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