Some regulations and guidance documents are very useful for challenging access barriers, if you can find and know how to use them. We have tried to list and explain some of the more useful ones here.
First we list the two equality bodies established by the British and Northern Irish governments. Then list other documents in topical followed by alphabetical order.
We have put keywords such as ‘wheelchair’ or ‘bus’ in the text of this page so you can search this page to quickly find things that are relevant to you, as we don’t yet have a website with clever search and filter features.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is commonly named by its acronym EHRC, covers equalities issues for England, Scotland and Wales. They publish some of the most important sources of information relating to disability rights and access, such as:
- Statutory Codes of Practice that provide detailed information about the Equality Act and how parliament intended it to be interpreted and applied. Codes of Practice are frequently cited in complaints, legal letters and court documents.
- Technical guidance containing the text of codes of practice that the government decided not to “lay before parliament” to make them statutory. Technical guidance is still useful for providing guidance about interpretation and application of the Equality Act.
- Guidance Documents that provide sector or issue specific advice in a format accessible to a layperson.
The EHRC also has a searchable publications library and a variety of web pages about all of the Equality Act ‘protected characteristics’.
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI)
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) covers equalities for Northern Ireland and has the following information:
- A searchable library of publications
- A very useful site-map of all their content across different sectors.
EHRC – Assistance Dogs, a Guide for Businesses
The EHRC have produced a guide for businesses about dealing with assistance dogs in Word, PDF and Welsh formats.
Guide Dogs access-refusals toolkit
Guide Dogs for the Blind have produced a toolkit for challenging discrimination around guide dogs with template letters and information for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. While this is Guide Dogs’ specific, it can be easily adapted to other kinds of assistance dogs.
Assistance Dogs UK (ADUK)
Assistance Dogs UK (ADUK) has a brief webpage about assistance dogs and the law.
A sample Guide Dogs version of the ADUK Dog Identification Booklet in PDF format. The Identification book is not required, but can be useful to show. It also summarises the Equality Act and Assistance Dogs (access to services), Allergies and Assistance Dogs, Public and Health Issues, Taxis and International Travel. The printed book is not in Braille or large print, which is why we link to the PDF illustrative example.
Guide Dogs – Open Doors campaign
Guide Dogs for the Blind have an Open Doors campaign with specific guidance for business owners and taxi or private hire drivers which an assistance dog handler may find useful to share if needed. There is also information about the impact of refusals on Guide Dog handlers.
Access to sports facilities and rest-areas for Assistance Dogs
Sport England recommends that sports facility providers allow an assistance dog to rest somewhere near the main reception area while the owner is using the facilities in “Accessible Sports Facilities FAQ’s” items 5 and 6.
The Sport England Design Guidance Note (DGN) ‘Accessible Sports Facilities: Updated 2010 guidance’ (formerly known as “Access for Disabled People”) specifies that facilities should have Assistance Dog rest areas built in. These can be found in Table 4 and Figure 4.
Buildings and built environment
Part M of the Building Regulations (England)
Officially called “Access to and use of buildings: Approved Document M” but often shortened to “Part M of the Building Regulations” or just “Part M”. Part M is b>statutory guidance from the government about the design and layout of buildings which has a lot of force in the law.
Part M (volume 2) outlines requirements about everything from accessible toilets and parking to lifts and corridors and tactile paving. You can quote the relevant bits of Part M if you think an organisation has not complied with it (you may need to check relevant archived copies on that page for older buildings).
British Standard BS8300 parts 1 and 2
British Standards are not binding but they can have significant influence in arguing for accessible buildings and built environment expanding considerably on the advice given in Part M.
Unfortunately British Standards documents cost several hundreds of pounds to access. We recommend finding out if your city’s library or a university library has access. RA is exploring the option of buying copies if we can legally lend or extract information from them for people.
The latest version of the BS8300 was released in 2018 and has been split into two parts:
- BS 8300-1:2018 Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment. External environment – code of practice.
- BS 8300-2:2018 Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment. Buildings – code of practice.
Public infrastructure e.g. footways, cycleways etc
LTN 1/20 Cycle Infrastructure Design is a document applicable to England and Wales that provides guidance for local authorities on accessible and safe cycling infrastructure. This guidance can be useful if cycleways are obstructed for disabled cyclists in any way by inaccessible infrastructure.
Wheels for Wellbeing have a selection of guidance sheets and links to information about how to challenge discriminatory barriers (which can often be usable for accessible pedestrian barriers too). In November 2023 there was a Wheels for Wellbeing webinar with Leigh Day Solicitor Ryan Bradshaw on this issue.
Sustrans have a How to Remove Barriers webpage including Freedom of Information Act successful examples with local authorities and private landowners (and also includes Scottish and Northern Irish resources).
Historic England publish a guide to adapting historic buildings and landscapes.
Disability Information Scotland
Disability Information Scotland have a Guide to Accessible Environments.
Disability Wales have a Planning for Inclusive Access in Wales Good Practice Toolkit
Planning Northern Ireland
Planning Northern Ireland have guidance for designing for an accessible environment including historic buildings and sites.
Health and Safety
If you are refused access on the grounds of ‘Health and Safety’ it may be worth looking at the resources below or contacting them to ask for their opinion on your situation. The Executives can support both employees and service users.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
In Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), Health and Safety is regulated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which is a non-departmental public body (government agency). They have a range of resources about health and safety for disabled employers and employees.
Risk at Work – Manual Handling – regulations
Over one third of workplace injuries are caused by ‘manual handling‘ which is covered by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) (MHOR).
HSE Health and Safety Myths
The HSE also have a rich vein of myths where they challenge the claim of “health and safety” in various scenarios:
- Case 62: Wheelchair user refused entry to a nightclub.
- Case 101: Powered wheelchair user told to leave a shop because she is blocking the aisles.
- Case 134: Customer with mobility impairments refused entry via the closer and more accessible staff entrance.
- Customers are told for health and safety reasons they cannot consume their own food on an organisation’s premises.
- Case 227: Organisation refuses to confirm ingredients of refreshments contain an allergen.
- Case 257: Employees told they cannot use their own handwash products.
- Case 259: Council refuse to allow householder with access ramp to have a gate put at the bottom.
- Case 267: Employee with assistance dog told she can’t use kitchen sink to rinse dog’s water bowl and refill it.
- Case 300: No mirror in accessible toilet.
- Case 303: Food provider refuses to cut food up into smaller portions for customer
- Case 305: Organisation refuses to install lowered hot water dispenser for wheelchair users.
- Case 347: Hotel refuses customer alternative mattress despite having provided one before.
- Case 367: Shop staff refuse to give a glass of water to someone who has come round after fainting.
Northern Ireland has its own Health and Safety Executive (HSENI). They have a webpage of resources as well as a practical guide for balancing Health and Safety with the DDA [PDF].
Healthwatch helps people find out about health and social care services and works to identify areas of difficulty for certain groups of people. Healthwatch is split into local Healthwatch organisations which have close links with local services and may be able to provide advice, signposting or record issues for their research and improvement projects.
- There is a BSL play list on HealthWatch’s YouTube channel
- You can find your local Healthwatch and see if they can advise you about any health and social care issues.
- You can search the Healthwatch National Reports Library for research and reports. Try using a keyword like blind or deaf, or LGBT or mental health.
- If you need to complain, Healthwatch provide basic Complaints guidance
Accessible Information Standard – England
The Accessible Information Standard sometimes shortened to AIS applies to NHS hospitals and dentists; GPs; and publicly funded adult social care providers in England.
The standard requires organisations to identify, record, flag, share and meet the needs of patients and service users who have sensory, communication or information needs caused by a sensory impairment. This means people with a visual impairment, deafness, autism or learning difficulty are covered but sadly people with dyslexia or low-literacy are not covered.
Useful Accessible Information Standard resources:
- Deafblind UK, Accessible Information Standard pages
- SENSE (template letters, guidance and glossaries for users)
- Official NHS England Accessible Information Standard pages
British Sign Language (BSL) Accessible Information Standard resources for Deaf people
- SignHealth webpage in English with 3 minute embedded video in BSL with open captions.
- NHS England overview video about the Accessible Information Standard from 2017-18. 5 minutes long in BSL with open captions.
- NHS England full guidance video: 45 mins long in BSL with open captions.
All Wales Standards for Accessible Communication and Information for People with Sensory Loss (Wales)
There are accessible information standards for Wales explained at the NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights.
Reports around disability and healthcare
This report uses the results of a survey of 714 disabled people and 194 healthcare professionals to show that shows the NHS (England) Accessible Information Standard (AIS) is largely not working. For example: only 3% of visually impaired people who need alternative formats and 7% of deaf people with communication support needs are getting them. The report has case studies, analysis and urgent recommendations for the NHS.
The report is available in PDF, Word, BSL, and audio formats. The Summary is available in EasyRead, BSL and on the main webpage.
The Sick of It report involved a paper and online survey of 533 deaf people, 300 BSL using deaf people selected to have a BUPA healthcheck with BSL/English interpreters and Deaf advisers to ensure full access and 43 in-depth interviews with some of the healthcheck group. Findings showed that despite having slightly healthier lifestyles than average, deaf people were twice as likely to have undiagnosed high blood pressure and other health conditions. Even where a medical issue was diagnosed, Deaf people had inadequate access to treatment and understanding of their condition. Poor access to accessible communication and information was shown to be the cause of low health awareness, underdiagnosis and poor treatment in Deaf people.
Many aspects of transport are exempt from the usual Equality Act provisions. At best they have limited or weakened provisions, or separate legislation.
Public Service Vehicle Access Regulations (PVSAR) [Bus and Coach]. These specify the accessibility features buses and coaches must have if in use in various UK contexts.
The Conduct Regulations
Actually titled (catchily) “Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990 (as amended)”. The original 1990 legislation is modified by the amended 2002 legislation.
These conduct regulations put bus and coach drivers under a criminal law duty to take specified actions to assist and enable disabled passengers to access their vehicles (buses or coaches).
Northern Ireland transport regulations – various
Northern Ireland has a variety of different regulations relating to transport covering buses; coaches; trains; taxis; vehicle rental and breakdown recovery which includes:
- Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998.
- Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000.
- The Disability Discrimination (Transport Vehicles) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009.
Air travel legislation is complicated and a lot depends on the departure and destination locations and many other factors.
In Europe the rights of disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility are covered by European Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006, which requires airlines and airports to provide “Special Assistance”, but is not easy to read for non-lawyers.
GOV.UK has pages explaining disabled and mobility impaired passenger rights
The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) summarises disabled and mobility impaired passengers rights and links to facilities at UK airports from all airlines.
Damaged mobility equipment, such as wheelchairs and scooters, is an issue that commonly arises with airlines.
There are limited rights for disabled people and those with reduced mobility on boats via the EU regulation for passenger rights for people travelling by sea and inland waterways (EU 1177/ 2010), which in the UK is enforced by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.
Website and mobile accessibility
The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (PSBAR)
The European Union (EU) “Web Accessibility Directive (Directive (EU) 2016/2102)” required all then-members of the EU to create accessibility guidelines for public services’ websites and mobile apps. The UK brought the “The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (PSBAR)” into force on UK public bodies with deadlines for new and some older content to be made accessible. PSBAR are linked to existing Equality Act (and DDA in Northern Ireland) accessibility duties.
The purpose of PSBAR is to ensure that public bodies’ websites and mobile apps are:
The UK government’s Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) explains how PSBAR requires websites and apps to meet the “Web Content accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1“. While PSBAR refers to websites, it may actually include anything accessed through a web browser by staff or customers of a public body so would include things like Office 365, internal software and any documents such as application forms that customers would need.
Public bodies have to publish an accessibility statement summarising the accessibility of their content and compliance with PSBAR. Where content is not compliant, public bodies have to give a timescale for when it will be fixed or justify things there will be delays to fixing or not being fixed because of “disproportionate burden”. This is calculated in light of the public body’s size, resources and estimated cost of resolving issues. PSBAR also applies when public bodies outsource the creation of their websites.
The Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) will do compliance testing on a sample of public organisation’s websites and mobile apps.
Individuals are advised to complain to the organisation about non-compliant content in the first instance. If a reasonable response is not received in a reasonable timeframe, then individuals can complain to the EHRC via the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) in England, Scotland and Wales or ECNI in Northern Ireland.
Public bodies that do not meet the PSBAR accessibility standards can be considered to be failing to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act (and DDA in Northern Ireland). This means an individual can also take individual disability discrimination claims in the usual ways.
Other advice and guidance
Independent Cinema Office
How do I make my cinema inclusive and accessible guide for independent cinemas.
Attitude is Everything (UK Live Music Scene)
Attitude is Everything is a small charity that makes live music events more accessible to deaf and disabled people.
OfCom Disabled people and call centres
OfCom’s advice to businesses running telephone call centres to make their services accessible to disabled and deaf customers.
Disabled People’s Protection Policy (Office for Rail and Road)
Disability guidance for rail companies with specifics of how to provide access.
Transport for London (TfL) ‘Big Red Book (4th edition)’
In London all bus drivers have to comply with Transport for London’s official guidance which includes information about older and disabled people. TransportForAll provide information and a downloadable copy of the latest ‘Big Red Book’. Starting at page 31, The Big Red Book has sections on:
- Travelling with assistance dogs,
- Travel support cards,
- Bus boarding procedures for wheelchair users,
- Letting wheelchair users off buses,
- Permitted wheelchairs and scooters on buses and,
- Mobility walker devices and shopping trolleys.
“We’re On Board” – bus charter
We’re on Board is a charter coordinated by the R.N.I.B. for bus service operators to make bus services accessible and inclusive to blind and partially sighted passengers. Check which providers have signed up and if they aren’t abiding by it, this can be mentioned in complaints.