There is more to meeting your DDA obligations than installing a ramp and a disabled toilet. Elspeth Grant explains how to get it right for your disabled employees.
Recent figures released by the Sector Skills Development Agency highlighted a low employment rate for disabled people: 40 per cent compared to 81 per cent for non-disabled.
With such a low percentage of disabled people in work, some would say changes to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 that took effect on 1 October 2004 are long overdue.
One such change means that small businesses - with 15 employees or less - are now liable, along with larger businesses, for 'reasonable accommodation', which requires employers to make adjustments to assist disabled employees or applicants. The duty is to take steps as are 'reasonable' in all circumstances to change working arrangements or physical features of the premises if these put a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with people who are not disabled.
The Act does not contain any guidance about the type of adjustments that might be needed, but sets out five matters to be considered when determining whether it is 'reasonable' for an employer to have to take a particular step. They are:
- The extent to which taking the step would prevent disadvantage
- The extent to which it is practical for the employer to take the step
- The financial and other costs which would be incurred by the employer and the extent to which it would disrupt any of its activities
- The extent of the employer's financial and other resources
- The availability to the employer of financial or other help towards costs.
Commissioning an access audit is certainly a good starting point, and practical examples of areas where changes might help disabled employees include:
- temporary or permanent ramps
- locations of switches and sockets
- alteration of door handles and taps
- contrasting colours on walls, floors and staircases
- accessible toilets
- improved lighting
- improved signage
It is not necessary for an organisation to undertake alterations to a building or other environment on the basis they might employ a disabled person in the future. To meet the needs of existing or potential employees, employers should undertake a full workplace assessment with a qualified assessor when a disa