SMEs risk court action over lack of facilities for disabled customers

More than three-quarters of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are now at risk of court action under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), according to new research.

Published today by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) – the charity representing deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK – the NOP World Financial research shows that 75 per cent of SMEs questioned had not made any changes to enable deaf and hard of hearing people to access their products or services.

This means thousands of businesses are at risk of court action under the new disability legislation over the 9 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK.

Although 58 per cent of businesses questioned were aware of the implications of the DDA – an improvement on similar research carried out a year ago by RNID – few had taken any practical steps to facilitate deaf and hard of hearing customers using their services.

Dr John Low, RNID chief executive, said: “RNID expected to see small businesses make significant changes in order to meet the requirements of the new disability legislation. This research shows there is much that remains to be done to encourage small businesses to make the simple, cost-effective changes necessary to embrace the needs of disabled customers.

“This lack of action is unacceptable for deaf and hard of hearing customers, so RNID is addressing the problem head on. We are providing free deaf and disability awareness training to small and medium-sized businesses and free fact sheets on how to comply with the DDA, emphasising that many of the changes required are easy to implement and inexpensive,” he said.

“RNID is also offering deaf and hard of hearing consumers DDA Business Cards to hand out to those businesses they feel need a helping hand adjusting to their new duties. More than 340,000 cards have been distributed so far, advising on simple deaf awareness techniques as well as directing businesses to free RNID information on how to comply with the DDA.”

Options to help deaf and hard of hearing customers:

– Install a permanent induction loop to help hearing aid users

– Supply a pen and paper to help ease communication

– Reduce background noise

– Train staff in deaf awareness

– Take extra time to explain things more clearly

– Be clear when speaking

– Improve lighting, to help lipreaders


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