Debenhams could become the first retailer to be prosecuted under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) for failing to improve physical access to goods and services within its Derby store.
Greg Jackson, a 43-year-old wheelchair user, is suing the retailer for being denied access to a section of the menswear department in the Derby store, which can only be reached via a set of steps.
The high-street store, which has 123 stores in the UK and Ireland and accumulated annual profits last year of £300.5m, has been accused of failing to make improvements to the menswear section in Derby, despite several requests from Jackson.
The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) is supporting Jackson in his case. Chairman Bert Massie said: “An independent report for the DRC shows that some 20 Debenhams stores pose similar access barriers to those found in Derby. This is unacceptable.
“Debenhams has had many years to make these changes, yet, unlike their competitors, there is no centrally managed plan to make access improvements that would meet their legal duties. Instead, they appear satisfied in doling out a second-class service to disabled customers.”
Part three of the DDA places specific duties on shops and businesses that provide services available to the public to alter, adapt or remove physical barriers that make it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to receive fair treatment. The equal access provision of the DDA came into force in October 2004.