If you are a regular follower of my blog you will be used to seeing me harp on about changing places toilets, or the lack of them, and other accessibility or equality issues. I write about these things a lot because they affect my son and therefore impact on my whole family, but also because they have a lasting effect on the way that a lot of disabled people in the UK are able to live their lives.
The Equality Act 2010 is the UK’s main equality legislation and is designed to protect minorities from discrimination. It aims to ensure that disabled people are treated fairly and have the same access to goods and services that non disabled people do. It is a great piece of law, or it would be if it was put to better use.
If I could change 5 things about it this is what I would do:
1. Define reasonable
The act states that reasonable adjustments should be made to allow disabled people to access goods and services, yet there is no definition as to what is reasonable. This leaves a huge gaping hole which businesses throughout the UK are taking advantage of. What we consider reasonable appears to be very different to what they consider reasonable.
For me, a multi million pound organisation being asked to spend circa £10,000 on a changing places toilet is not unreasonable, yet they would disagree (and have done). What is reasonable depends on several factors including cost, space disruption to business etc but there without specific limitations on those factors they may as well not be there.
I would love to see a complaints system be implemented to allow disabled people to put businesses to comply with their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 and an ombudsman of sorts would be ideal. Right now, if someone isn’t compliant then the only place to turn to is the court, that is a long-winded and expensive process. The stress of going to court is something that many disabled people may be put off by, after all these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, why are we making it so difficult to ensure the law is being applied to protect them?
3. User friendliness
I have read the parts of the act that apply to reasonable adjustments so many times and even now it is still like reading a foreign language. I would love to see it be made a little more user friendly. I appreciate the law is complex and requires complex language but considering who this particular law is for, I do feel that it should be written in language that is easy to understand, not just for the people it is there to protect but also so that those who are supposed to be compliant with it, understand their obligations.
4. It’s place in the law
So often when I approach a business to request a changing places toilet I am told that they are not required under building regulations or within their planning permission. However, I feel it is important that business owners should understand that even when compliant with other regulations or legislation, they may not be meeting their obligations under the equality act as that is a separate piece of legislation which, in a way, trumps the other regulations.
If this legislation was clearer perhaps we wouldn’t keep coming up against new businesses, sometimes in brand new buildings, which are still not accessible for all potential visitors. Last week a new trampoline park was opened close to me and even though it is in a huge converted warehouse, with plenty of scope to be fully accessible, they have failed to provide wheelchair access to the trampolines or the cafe! A clear example of a business not only failing to comply with Equality Act 2010, but possibly not even knowing it exists.
Wouldn’t it be great if the Equality Act 2010 had it’s own PR team? Promoting itself to business owners so they understand it and implement it. Imagine what it’s twitter account would look like!
I’m not saying that these 5 changes would result in amazing access everywhere, or new changing places toilets in every building, but it would be a start wouldn’t it?
What 5 things would you change? Get involved in the challenge by using #SEND30DayChallenge when you share your posts on social media.