Other people manage + Whose duty to make adjustments?
Organisations often respond to complaints about access by saying they know other disabled people can manage, so your difficulties cannot be genuine. They may also tell you that you should get your friends, family or carer to help you even when it is their duty to make reasonable adjustments.
Another common response is claiming that “no one else has complained about this access-issue,” which is often untrue but hard to prove unless you and a friend share your complaint experiences.
Other people’s access experiences or complaints are not relevant to yours. We know that disabled people don’t complain about the majority of access failings, because there are so many failings that no-one could possibly keep up, especially when complaints processes are tiring, and we get mistreated sometimes when we complain.
Poorly accessible does not have to be impossible
You do not have to be completely unable to get around a barrier to have a legitimate complaint:
The Equality Act legal term is “substantial disadvantage” – which is defined as “more than minor or trivial compared to someone without the disability”.
The DDA (for Northern Ireland only) uses “unreasonably difficult” which may have a higher bar than substantial disadvantage but is not explicitly defined.
Examples of either unreasonable difficulty or substantial disadvantage could include:
- Taking you much more time (than someone who doesn’t experience the barrier).
- Taking you the same time as non-disabled people, but still causing you to struggle because of that in some way
- Risks of injury or risk to your health (including pain, discomfort, dizziness etc).
- Risk of damage to a mobility aid.
- Negative practical impacts, such as costing you more money.
- Receiving a poorer quality service or experience.
We recommend that in the first instance you respond to the organisation and say that other customers are irrelevant, and if necessary making a formal complaint and escalating through the steps shown on our ‘making complaints’ page.
Whose duty is it to provide access for you?
Organisations sometimes respond to a request for access, or complaint about failings by telling disabled people to “get your own family/carer/friend to help you”. This excuse seems to be especially common from public sector organisations like government departments, the NHS and local authorities. While some people are happy to use their own person to assist them, you should not have to provide your own assistant, or (in legal terms) “adjustment”.
The law is very clear – the duty to make reasonable adjustments belongs to the service provider (or employer).
This is another one of those situations where we can only recommend that you keep reminding the organisation in your correspondence and legal papers that the “duty to make adjustments is theirs”. In our experience, you sometimes have to keep challenging this right into court or beyond settlement of a claim.
Reasonable adjustment duty and Code of Practice
You may find it useful to quote the relevant Code of Practice around what a service provider is, and that the duty to make adjustments is theirs. You can also read and quote some of the extra content in the codes directly around adjustments or send a link to the Code and ask them to read it.