With the increased demand for aluminium products and particularly in commercial buildings, there are many window companies that are installing doors for commercial buildings and completely unaware that they may not complying with the law.
It is already well accepted by experienced and responsible window and door companies that only commercial doors are suitable for business premises of any type from a small shop to a complete retail park. If you are one of the many companies that buy your doors from trade manufacturers are buying in unglazed “standard products” are you breaking the law?
Disability Discrimination Act and the Equality Act 2010?
In 1995 the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was passed as law. It was illegal under this Act to discriminate against disabled people in any way. Nine years later Government also legislated that “service providers” must make “reasonable adjustments to the physical features of their premises” that would allow disabled people whether infirm, blind or physically impaired in any way to still access their business.
But what is a service provider?
The DDA clearly explains that a service provider is anyone who provides a service to the public or a section of the public.
What are reasonable adjustments?
Reasonable adjustments to business premises can all vary but it can be summarised as making your business premises better so that disabled people are not restricted in any way from accessing your services. But disabled does not just mean somebody in a wheelchair. There are many different classes of “disability” including:
- blind or partially sighted
- deaf or hard of hearing
- learning disabilities
- mental health problems
As well as people with serious medical conditions. Within in the act these are referred to under the heading of “protected characteristics”. The true definition of a disability is
A person has a disability if s/he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
What is an example of a reasonable adjustment?
A reasonable adjustment can be large or small depending upon your premises and the service you provide. This can include stairways, steps, parking areas, entrances, exits, doors and gates, toilets and washing facilities, lifts and escalators.
If for example you own a business that has two floors, fitting an additional handrail on the stairs will make it much easier for people with mobility issues to use the upper floor. This is a reasonable adjustment.
Of course this includes doors. If you provide a door into your premises that is difficult to use by a disabled person, it is too heavy to open or a partially sighted person cannot see the handle or you have a handle that is hard to use then you must make reasonable adjustments to make your premises accessible to wheelchair users or the disabled.
In 2010 the DDA was brought into the new Equality Act.
This Act now also covers business services across a whole range of sectors for which as a supplier or installer of commercial doors you would come into contact with. These sectors include:
- retail including small shops
- banks and financial institutions
- transport and more
There are unlimited fines possible for people that break the law in relation to the Equality Act 2010.
It is important to remember that it is “services” that are covered by the Equality Act and not products or buildings. It is how people access your service that is the important factor. Business premises must comply with the relevant European Standards and British Regulations.
For England And Wales this is Part M: Access to and use of buildings.
The British Standard relevant is BS 8300:2009+A1:2010 “Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. Code of practice”.
What are you doing about being legally compliant next time you install or supply a door?
The next time you install a door that is not to a persons home or dwelling have you even thought about whether your door (the way it is designed and the way it operates) complies with the Equality Act?
Many window companies are ordering “standard” products without any thought to whether that door is compliant. But who has the responsibility for being compliant?
The responsibility will be on the building owner or occupier to ensure that they do not discriminate against disabled people trying to access their services. But in the same way, as you advise your customers about the requirement for toughened safety glass in doors or trickle vents in windows shouldn’t you as a professional and expert window and door company also be providing them with doors that will meet the Act. Which one of you has the responsibility? And what can you do about it?