Widespread claims that the Equality Act no longer has full force
We are noticing several disabled people and disabled people’s groups are saying that other organisations are claiming that they don’t have to meet disability Equality Act duties such as properly considering disabled people’s needs, or making adjustments, because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This is likely to be nonsense!
The Equality Act is still in full force, there have been no legal “easements” to it.
We are not lawyers, this is definitely not legal advice, but some thoughts we have and strategies to try.
Small changes may be legitimate
There may be small changes, such as “what is reasonable”, or what is a “proportionate means to a legitimate aim” which are genuinely reasonable right now.
With ‘reasonableness’ changes, we would argue that the organisation has a duty to consider other ways of achieving the maximum level of access possible for a disabled person. They need to be thinking about alternatives to what is “less reasonable” at this time.
What is proportionate
A legitimate aim to reduce risk of Coronavirus to staff or customers, or a change in resources, but organisations still have to consider whether what they are doing is proportionate. Are organisations properly considering risk?
Some positive examples we have seen
- The wearing of disposable arm protectors to enable staff to provide hands-on guiding to visually impaired people.
- Providing verbal guiding while still distancing.
- PPE being provided to staff who need to get within 2 metres of a customer to assist them.
- Allowing disabled people to avoid queueing.
- Ensuring that one-way systems don’t disadvantage disabled people.
Things you might do
The most important strategy we have noticed is to start a dialogue with the organisation.
Don’t take “no” for an answer, it’s often not well informed.
Remain polite at all times, but project confidence in your rights.
Push back. Don’t take the first (or several) “no” for an answer.
You don’t have to quote the exact bits of the Equality Act, just mention you feel that it is not being correctly understood and followed.
- Try a polite challenge. Ask the organisation to reconsider its decision
- Ask the organisation what consideration they have made to meeting disabled people’s needs.
- Ask for evidence to justify why access is being refused.
- Request copies or links to policies they’re relying on. If the policy is long, ask them to say which part they rely on.
- Ask them to provide evidence of considering disabled people’s needs in their planning.
- Ask for proof that providing access is justified e.g. what risks they consider exist.
- Ask what alternative options have been considered.
Try a formal request
If you have tried some pushback strategies and are still not getting anywhere. Make a formal request for access.
Summarise what you have asked and been told and what access you feel you are entitled to.
You can mention parts of the Equality Act, although you may need to find the right part to quote.
A useful one is often the reasonable adjustments duty. Where it is lawful to ask for different or even ‘favourable’ treatment if the alternative is no access.
If you get no reply, or an unsuitable reply, look at our complaints page for ideas.
We can’t guarantee these strategies will get access 100% of the time, but in our experience they are effective a lot of the time. The more regular disabled people who push back, the less organisations are likely to get away with disablist policies and practices.
Maybe some organisations will realise that pushback costs them more time and effort than just being accessible and inclusive from the start!
That’s one of our hopes and aims anyway.