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What Service
Need to Know

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995

This publication is available in a range of alternative formats and
languages on request. Please contact the Equality Commission, contact
details for which can be found on the back page of this booklet.

1. Introduction
Does the Disability Discrimination Act affect me?
Do I have disabled customers/service users?
The business case
2. Discrimination under the DDA
What is disability discrimination?
Refusing to serve a disabled customer
Lower standard or worse manner of service
Less favourable terms
More favourable treatment
Reasonable adjustments
Physical features
What is reasonable?
3. Justifying discrimination under the DDA
Health and safety 
Incapacity to contract
No longer being able to provide the service
Fundamentally altering the nature of the business
Greater expense for a specialist service
4. Key issues for specific services
Selling, letting and managing premises
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5. Improving access for disabled customers
Developing a disability policy
Training for staff
Physical features
Sign language interpreters
Assistance dogs
Information provision
Adopting a flexible approach
6. Legal redress
Making a complaint under Part III of the DDA
Cases/settlements in Northern Ireland
7. Further information
Useful contacts
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1. Introduction
Does the Disability Discrimination Act affect me? 
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 is divided into a number of
sections. Part III of the DDA deals with the rights of access to goods,
facilities, services and premises. It places a number of key duties on
businesses and organisations and affects a wide variety of different types
of businesses and organisations referred to collectively as ‘service
providers’. The DDA applies to you if you are involved in any business or
organisation which:

provides a service

offers facilities 

supplies goods to the public
All service providers are covered by the DDA, large and small, private and
public sector, whether the service is free or paid for. This includes
services and facilities such as:
•  Shops and restaurants
•  Banks and building societies
•  Doctors and dentist surgeries 
•  Hotels and guest houses
•  Sports and leisure facilities
•  Churches or other places of worship
•  Tourist attractions
•  Insurance companies
•  Property letting/management
•  Libraries and museums
•  Pharmacies and opticians
•  Hospitals
•  Bus and railway stations
•  Government departments
•  Broadcasting services
•  Post offices
•  Cinemas
•  Theatres 
At present, there are a small number of exemptions from Part III of the
DDA, for example, the use of any means of transport is currently
excluded. However, the services connected to or the infrastructure
surrounding transport is covered by the DDA. Please see Part 4 for
further details.
Do I have disabled customers/service users?
It is estimated that 20% or approximately one in five people in Northern
Ireland have a disability. That is one fifth of all people who may use or
access your service! This includes people with a wide variety of different
conditions, including;
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•  Wheelchair users or mobility impairments
•  Visual impairments
•  Deaf / hearing impairments
•  Learning disabilities
•  Medical conditions e.g. epilepsy
•  Mental ill health
•  Progressive conditions e.g. cancer, HIV
•  Dyslexia 
The Disability Discrimination Act defines a disability as a ‘physical o r
mental impairment which has a substantialadverselong term affect
on a persons ability to carry out normalday-to-day activities
’. It is
important for service providers not to focus on whether a person meets
the legal definition of disability and concentrate on meeting the needs of
all customers / service users.
The business case
Businesses and organisations should not just be meeting their duties
under the DDA solely because they have a responsibility to do so, but
because it makes good business sense. Disabled people and their family
and friends have significant spending power and will choose to spend
money accessing services and purchasing goods which are accessible
and welcoming to disabled people.
Making improvements to your business will not only benefit existing
disabled customers and attract new ones, but could be of benefit to
customers with pushchairs or heavy shopping, customers with young
children and older customers who appreciate easier access. For example,
clear, easy to read signage benefits all customers, not just people with
visual impairments.
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2. Discrimination under the DDA 
What is disability discrimination? 
Service providers have clear duties not to discriminate against a disabled
person by providing less favourable treatment or failing to make
reasonable adjustments.
Service providers must not:

refuse to serve a disabled customer

offer a disabled customer a lower standard or worse manner of

offer a disabled customer less favourable terms
Service providers must:

make reasonable adjustments or changes to policies, practices or 
procedures to enable disabled people to use your services 

remove, alter or avoid any physical features which make it 
impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to access the 
Refusing to serve a disabled customer
Service providers cannot refuse to provide or deliberately not provide a
service it offers to disabled people for any reason relating to their
For example
A hotel receptionist pretends that all of the rooms are taken in order to
refuse a booking to a customer with Downs Syndrome because she
does not think that people with learning disabilities should be staying in
hotels unaccompanied.
You also cannot refuse to serve a disabled customer because you think
that another service provider may cater better for them. You could still be
breaking the law even if you think you are being helpful to the disabled
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There are some occasions where service providers are able to refuse to
serve disabled people. However, the reason for refusing service must have
nothing to do with the person’s disability and you would refuse to serve
non-disabled customers in the same circumstances.
For example
A publican could refuse to serve a disabled customer because they are
drunk and abusive. As long as the refusal is nothing to do with the
person’s disability, the publican is not breaking the law.
Lower standard or worse manner of service
Service providers must not offer a disabled person a lower standard of
service than they would offer other customers, for example serving
disabled people last in a restaurant. This includes being less polite to a
disabled customer because of their disability and making assumptions
about disabled people.
For example
A theatre manager allocates a seat with an obstructed view, despite
others being free, to a customer with a visual impairment on the
assumption that they would not be able to see the whole stage anyway.
Less favourable terms
Service providers also must not offer disabled customers or service users
worse terms than they would offer non-disabled customers. You cannot
charge more for the same service or restrict the way that the service is
used because of a customer’s disability.
For example
A deafblind person is booking a holiday to America. The travel agent
asks for a larger deposit than it would other customers because they
believe, without good reason, as a result of their disability, this
customer is more likely to cancel their holiday.
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More favourable treatment
The Disability Discrimination Act allows service providers to make
disabled customers or service users feel particularly welcome and indeed
do more for them than they would for other customers. For more details
about improving access to your service for disabled customers see Part 5.
Reasonable adjustments
The duties placed on service providers towards disabled people are
anticipatory. This means that service providers need to consider the
requirements of disabled people in general and not the individual
requirements of each disabled customer that may come to use their
service. Disabled people’s needs should be considered in advance, rather
than waiting until a disabled person wants to use the service you offer.
For example
A leisure centre installs a textphone in its reception to ensure that deaf
and hearing impaired customers are able to contact the centre
regarding opening times, exercise classes or other facilities. The
leisure centre advertises the textphone on brochures and its website.
It is important to note that disabled people are a diverse group with
different requirements, which service providers need to consider. Service
providers must take reasonable steps to change any policiespractices
or procedures 
within your service if they make it impossible or
unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use your service.
For example
A restaurant has a policy of not allowing dogs onto its premises. A
customer arrives with an assistance dog and a reasonable adjustment
is made to this policy, allowing the dog in the restaurant.
Service providers also need to take reasonable steps to provide auxiliary
aids and services 
that would enable or make it easier for disabled people
to access their service. This could include providing one to one
assistance for disabled people.
For example
A petrol station decides that an assistant will help disabled people use
petrol pumps on request and places a prominent notice on all of the
petrol pumps advertising this additional service.
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Or it could be the provision of equipment or information in alternative
For example
A customer with a visual impairment would like to open a savings
account at his local bank, but wishes to find out more information about
the account. The bank provides information about its accounts and
services on audiotape to enable customers with visual impairments or
reading difficulties to access such information.
Physical features
Where a physical feature makes it unreasonably difficult or impossible for
a disabled person to make use of a service offered to the public, the
service provider will have to consider:

removing the feature, or

altering the feature so it no longer has that effect, or

provide a reasonable means of avoiding the feature, or

provide a reasonable alternative method of making the service 
available to disabled people.
A physical feature is defined under the DDA as ‘anything on the premises
arising from a building’s design or construction or the approach to,
exit from or access to such a building; fixtures, fittings, furnishings,
equipment or materials and any other physical element or quality of
land in the premises…whether temporary or permanent
’. This includes:

steps, kerbs, stairways, exterior surfaces and paving 

parking areas

building entrances and emergency exits 

internal and external doors, gates

toilet and washing facilities 

public facilities (telephones, counters, service desks etc.)

lighting and signage


floor coverings
For example – Removing physical features
Display units at the entrance of a small shop restrict the ability of
wheelchair users to enter the shop. The owner decides that, without
any significant loss of selling space, the units can be removed and
repositioned elsewhere in the shop.
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For example – Altering physical features
A prayer group holds meetings in a building entered by steps. The
room in which the prayer meetings are held has a narrow entrance
door. To ensure the meetings are accessible to people with mobility
impairments, the group installs a permanent ramp at the front entrance
and widens the door to the room.
For example – Avoiding physical features
A museum is accessed by a flight of stairs at its front entrance. The
building is listed and has not been able to obtain consent to install a
ramped entrance. A side entrance for staff use has full access and
always open. The museum arranges for people with mobility
impairments to use this entrance.
For example – Alternative method of making the service accessible 
A small self service fruit and veg shop has goods displayed on high
shelving, separated by narrow aisles. It is not practicable to alter this
arrangement. To ensure all goods are accessible to disabled
customers, on request, a member of staff locates the goods and brings
them to the till.
Although the Disability Discrimination Act does not require a service
provider to adopt one way of meeting its obligations in relation to the
physical environment, the focus of the DDA is on results. Where there is
a physical barrier, service providers should aim to make their services
accessible to disabled people. Good practice would be to remove or alter
a physical feature where possible. Removing or altering barriers is a
much more inclusive way of making reasonable adjustments, ensuring
that the service is available to everyone in the same way.
What is reasonable?
When making adjustments for disabled people under the DDA, the law
requires service providers to do what is ‘reasonable’ in all of the
circumstances. What is reasonable for an organisation or business to do
will depend on a variety of factors, including:

the service being delivered

the size of the service provider

finances and resources available 
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the extent of any disruption caused by the adjustment

the amount of money already spent on reasonable adjustments
What may be reasonable for one service provider to put in place may not
be reasonable for another. In considering what is reasonable, service
providers must consider a range of options and think ahead to what
adjustments could be made in the future, if not at present.
If a service provider decides it is not financially possible to put an
adjustment in place right away, the service provider should plan for the
future and look at what can be put in place over a period of time.
For example 
A small beauty salon has a step at the front door and limited space
inside. The owners employ only one beautician and have already put
handrails by the front step and lowered the height of the entrance bell.
They have met their local access group and drawn up a list of changes
that need to be made over a period of time. Immediately they decide to
remove the large mirrors in the foyer as they confuse people with visual
impairments. They have also decided that when they redecorate they
will improve the colour contrast and other facilities such as door
handles, signs and facilities in the toilet.
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3. Justifying discrimination under the DDA
Under the Disability Discrimination Act, there are a small number of
limited circumstances in which it can be justifiable to discriminate against
disabled people. The reasons for the treatment must be genuine and
must relate to one of the following issues:

health and safety 

incapacity to contract

it would no longer be possible to provide the service 

the nature of the business would be fundamentally altered

there is a greater expense in providing a special service for a disabled 
Health and safety
If serving a disabled person or making an adjustment for a disabled
customer would endanger the health and safety of anyone, including the
disabled person, it may be justifiable to treat the disabled person less
favourably or not make the adjustment. The reasons must be genuine and
based on fact, not assumptions made about disabled people.
For example 
An amusement park operator refuses to allow a person with muscular
dystrophy into a physically demanding high speed ride. Because of
their disability, the person uses walking sticks and cannot stand
unaided. The ride requires users to brace themselves using their legs.
Therefore, the refusal is based on genuine concerns for the health and
safety of the disabled person and other users.
It should be remembered that each disabled person is an individual and
blanket policies about certain types of disabilities should not be used.
There must be a balance between protecting against the risk and
restricting disabled people from using the service. Disabled people are
entitled to make the same choices and to take the same risks within the
same limits as other people.
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Incapacity to contract
The DDA does not require a service provider to contract with a disabled
person who is incapable of entering into a legally enforceable agreement
or giving an informed consent. If a disabled person is unable to
understand a particular transaction, a service provider may refuse to enter
into a contract.
For example
A person with a learning disability wishes to buy a new television on a
hire purchase agreement. After discussing the agreement fully with the
disabled person, the owner of the electrical store genuinely believes
that the person does not understand the full details of the contract and
what they are entering into. On this occasion, the service provider
decides not to enter into a contract with the disabled person.
It is important to remember that although a customer may not be able to
understand a complicated transaction, they may have no difficulties with
more simple transactions and these should not be refused. Unless a
service provider has clear evidence to the contrary, a service provider
should assume that a disabled person is able to enter into any contract.
No longer being able to provide the service
A service provider can refuse to serve a disabled customer if they
reasonably believe it is necessary to do so because otherwise the service
provider would be unable to provide the service to other members of the
public. Refusing the service to a disabled person is only justifiable if other
people would be effectively prevented from using the service at all.
For example
A theatre manager could refuse entry to a performance to someone
with tourettes syndrome who shouts and swears, if this would make it
impossible for others to follow the performance.
However, it should be stressed that it is not justifiable to refuse to serve a
disabled customer because other customers would be put out or delayed
because it took a longer time to serve a disabled customer.
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Nature of the business being fundamentally altered
Service providers are not under a duty to make reasonable adjustments, if
doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the business or service
being delivered.
For example
A nightclub with low level lighting would not be required to adjust the
lighting to accommodate customers who are partially slighted as it is
likely that this would fundamentally change the atmosphere and
ambience of the club.
Greater expense for a specialist service
While a service provider can not charge a disabled customer more for the
same service or goods that are supplied to other customers, it is possible
to justify charging a disabled person for specialist or tailor made services.
This is only justified where the higher charge reflects the additional cost or
expense of meeting the disabled person’s specification.
For example
A disabled customer orders a bed which is specifically made to
accommodate their disability. The store charges more for this bed than
it does for a standard one, as the specially made bed costs more to
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4. Key issues for specific services 
At present, under the Disability Discrimination Act, the use of any means
of transport is excluded, for example taxis, hire cars, buses, coaches,
trains, aircrafts and ships. Therefore, there is currently no duty on
transport providers to ensure that these are fully accessible to disabled
However, it is important to note that transport providers are not wholly
exempt from the DDA and the services connected to or the infrastructure
surrounding transport is covered by the DDA. This means that there is
still a duty to avoid discrimination against disabled people and to make
reasonable adjustments, for example, accessible timetables, booking
facilities, waiting rooms, airports, ferry terminals and bus and train
For example
There is no duty under Part III of the DDA to ensure that a ferry is
accessible for a wheelchair user to travel on. However, if a wheelchair
user is refused service at the buffet bar in the ferry terminal, because
of their disability, this is likely to be unlawful.
Specific regulations also exist in relation to public hire taxis and the
carriage of assistance dogs. It is unlawful for licensed public hire taxis to
refuse to carry or to make any additional charge for disabled passengers
who are accompanied by an assistance dog. A driver who fails to comply
with this duty may be guilty of a criminal offence and subject to a fine.
The Disability Discrimination Act is being extended to cover more aspects
of transport in the future, in particular regulations to make means of
transport accessible to disabled people. It is anticipated that all buses will
have to be fully accessible by 2017 and all trains by 2020. A detailed
Code of Practice on Transport and the DDA will be produced by the
Equality Commission in the near future. For up to date details on these
and other forthcoming changes to the DDA, please contact the Equality
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Educational institutions, that is schools, colleges and universities, have
specific duties towards disabled people under the Special Educational
Needs and Disability Order (NI) 2005 (SENDO)
. SENDO places duties
on schools, colleges and universities not to treat disabled pupils and
students or prospective pupils or students less favourably and also to
make reasonable adjustments to all policies, procedures and practices to
ensure that a disabled person is not at a substantial disadvantage.
For example
In anticipating the needs of disabled students, teaching staff in a
college of further and higher education produce all their handouts in
electronic form thus ensuring that they can easily be converted into
large print or put into other alternative formats.
For further information regarding the duties regarding schools, please see
the Disability Discrimination Code of Practice for Schools and for
information regarding the duties for Further and Higher Education, please
see the Disability Discrimination Code of Practice for Further and
Higher Education
, both of which can be obtained from the Equality
While SENDO covers the provision of education and associated services,
schools, colleges and universities still have duties under the Disability
Discrimination Act in relation to any services that are provided to the
public. This includes open days, parent’s evenings, fund-raising events,
plays or musical performances.
For example
A deaf parent, who is a sign language user, is attending a parents
evening for their child. They request that the school arrange and pay
for a sign language interpreter to attend the meeting. This is likely to
be a reasonable adjustment under Part III of the DDA.
There are specific rules for the provision of insurance in relation to the
Disability Discrimination Act. Insurance companies have to distinguish
between the different risks presented by different people and set their
premiums according to the type and degree of risk.
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In some circumstances, the fact that a person is disabled may be a
relevant factor in deciding whether to provide insurance services, including
life assurance. The Disability Discrimination (Services and Premises)
Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 
deal with such circumstances.
Disability-related less favourable treatment in the provision of insurance
can be deemed justified if all of the following conditions are satisfied:

it is in connection with insurance business carried out by the service 

it is based on information which is relevant to the assessment of the 
risk to be insured

the information is from a source from which it is reasonable to rely

the less favourable treatment is reasonable having regard to 
information relied on and any other relevant factors.
For example
Where there is evidence that a person with a terminal illness has a
limited life expectancy, it may be possible for an insurer to refuse to
provide life insurance to that person.
Information which is relevant to the assessment of risk to be insured
includes actuarial or statistical data or a medical report. The information
must also be current and from a reliable source. Insurers cannot rely on
untested assumptions, stereotypes or generalisations about disabled
For example
An insurance company would not be able to charge a blind person a
higher premium for home contents insurance because they thought
there was an increased risk of accidental damage, unless there was
reliable evidence to support that opinion.
Selling, letting or managing premises
It is also unlawful to discriminate against a disabled person in relation to
the selling, letting or management of land or property and there are duties
under the Disability Discrimination Act for:
•  Estate agents
•  Accommodation agents
•  Councils
•  Housing associations
•  Hostel owners
•  Private landlords
•  Property developers
•  Property management agencies
•  Property investment companies
•  Banks and building societies
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The DDA makes it unlawful for anyone selling, letting or managing
property or premises to discriminate against a disabled person:

in the terms on which they offer to dispose of those premises

by refusing to dispose of those premises 

in their treatment of the disabled person in relation to any list of
persons in need of premises of that description

in the way they permit the disabled person to make use of any 
benefits or facilities

by refusing or deliberately not permitting the disabled person to make 
use of any benefits or facilities or

by evicting the disabled person or subjecting them to any other 
For example
A tenant of a house has recently been diagnosed with AIDS. The
landlord gives the tenant one weeks notice to quit the house, although
the tenant is not in arrears of rent or otherwise in breach of tenancy.
This is likely to be unlawful.
The duties for those involved in letting and managing are being extended
in the near future to include the duty to make reasonable adjustments to
policies, practices and procedures for disabled tenants or prospective
For further details regarding the DDA and the selling, letting and managing
of premises, please see the Code of Practice Rights of Access Goods,
Facilities and Premises
, Part 9, which can be obtained from the Equality
Commission or contact the Commission directly.
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5. Improving access for disabled customers 
Service providers are more likely to comply with their legal duties under
the DDA and minimise the risk of legal action being taken against them if
they implement anti-discriminatory policies and practices. This will
improve access for disabled customers and service users and make your
business or organisation open to a greater number of customers/service
There are a number of practical steps that service providers can take to
improve access for disabled customers and some key areas for
consideration are detailed below. This is not an exhaustive list and it is
recommended that service providers refer to the Code of Practice Rights
of Access Goods, Facilities and Premises for further details.
Developing a disability policy
In order to improve access and to prevent discrimination, service providers
should establish a disability policy. This should outline the business’ or
organisation’s commitment to meeting its duties under the DDA. It should
be endorsed at the highest level and communicated to all employees and
All employees and agents should be aware that any conduct which
breaches the anti-discrimination policy will not be tolerated. Complaints
procedures should be easy for disabled people to access and should be
designed to remedy issues effectively. In developing any disability policy, it
is recommended that service providers talk to existing disabled customers
about the service that is being provided and what improvements could be
All policies, procedures and practices should be monitored and reviewed
by service providers to ensure that they are inclusive of disabled people,
paying particular attention to policies regarding:

emergency evacuation

equipment, IT systems and websites

information provision and communication

service standards.
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For example
A town hall has procedures for the evacuation of the building in the
event of a fire or emergency. Visitors are required to leave the building
by designated routes. The town hall modifies the procedure (with the
agreement of the local fire safety officer) to enable visitors with mobility
or sensory impairments to be evacuated safely.
Training for staff
In order to assist staff in meeting the needs of disabled customers and to
avoid discrimination, service providers should look at providing disability
equality and awareness training for all employees. Such training would be
particularly relevant for ‘front line’ staff or those dealing directly with
customers either face to face or over the telephone. It should cover topics
such as language and etiquette and the DDA. Many disability
organisations based in Northern Ireland can provide free training for
service providers, for further details see Part 7.
For example
As part of an in-house training day, a bank arranges for someone from
a local disability organisation to come and deliver disability awareness
training to staff, including language, etiquette and improving access for
disabled customers.
Physical features
Improving physical features and access to premises is a key way for
service providers to improve the overall service they deliver to disabled
customers. A good starting point when assessing the physical features of
premises is to conduct an access audit. An access audit establishes how
well a particular building performs in terms of access and ease of use by
a wide range of potential users, including people with mobility and
sensory impairments and people with learning disabilities.
An access audit is usually divided into two main stages: gathering
information and making recommendations. Ideally, both activities should
be carried out by the same person or team, who will bring their technical
knowledge to the auditing process. In order to meet best practice when
assessing access requirements of disabled people, it is useful to refer to
British Standard 8300:2001, ‘Design of buildings and their approaches
to meet the needs of disabled people – Code of Practice’.

Page 19

While it may not be reasonable for a service provider to make significant
and costly changes to physical features all at once, service providers
should be planning for the future and developing an access plan to make
improvements over time.
Sign language interpreters
Service providers may need to provide either a British or Irish sign
language interpreter as an auxiliary service to a deaf or hearing impaired
customer. It is estimated that there are around 3,000 British Sign
Language (BSL) users in Northern Ireland and approximately 1,000 Irish
Sign Language (ISL) users. An interpreter is someone with the necessary
qualifications and accreditation and only a fully qualified interpreter should
be used to interpret for a deaf person.
Due to the nature of the anticipatory duty on service providers, service
providers should ensure that access arrangements have been fully
considered with regard to deaf or hearing impaired people’s needs in
advance and should consult with deaf people or local deaf organisations.
For example
A GP refers a deaf patient to a consultant in a hospital for further
examination. In the referral letter the GP writes that the patient is deaf
and that the hospital will need to arrange an ISL/English interpreter.
The GP tells the patient about this note.
Service providers should be aware of the notice period needed for
booking an interpreter and the fact that, due to the shortage of qualified
interpreters in Northern Ireland, it can be very difficult to book interpreters
at short notice. It is important to give deaf customers the opportunity to
let you know that they may require an interpreter and there should be
mechanisms to do this, for example information on booklets or posters
about requesting an interpreter.
The DDA does not permit the additional cost of arranging and providing
an interpreter as part of a service to be passed on to the deaf person.
Such costs should be part of the service provider’s general expenses and
running costs. As with any reasonable adjustment, service providers may
have to consider whether it is reasonable for them to provide an
interpreter, based on the nature of the service, its size and resources.
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For further information and advice about sign language interpreters,
please see the Equality Commission publication ‘Guidance on providing
British Sign Language/English and Irish Sign Language/English
interpreters under the Disability Discrimination Act’.

Assistance dogs
Disabled people often use assistance dogs for a variety of reasons, guide
dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, dogs to assist those with
mobility difficulties or dogs to assist people with medical conditions such
as epilepsy. They are easily recognisable by the harness they wear and a
special tag on their collars.
Assistance dogs are highly trained and skilled dogs that are used to assist
disabled people in a variety of situations. Because of their skills and
training, the Institute of Environmental Health Officers has stated that
assistance dogs are exempt from the usual hygiene rules that apply to
dogs, including those which relate to areas where food is being served.
Service providers should not refuse entry to their services to any disabled
customers who may be accompanied by an assistance dog. This is likely
to amount to discrimination under the DDA. Service providers should also
make reasonable adjustments to any policies, practices or procedures that
make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for assistance dog users to
make use of the goods, facilities or services in question. This may mean
not enforcing a no dogs policy or amending a no pets policy to ensure
assistance dogs are exempt from the policy.
For example
A butcher changes their no pets policy to allow a customer who is blind
and has a guide dog to bring their dog into the shop.
For further information regarding assistance dogs, please see the Equality
Commission’s publication ‘Assistance dog owners – your rights,
Employers & service providers – best practice
Information provision
When looking at improving access for disabled customers, service
providers should look at the way in which they provide information to
customers or service users. Information should be accessible to all
customers, including those with visual impairments, learning disabilities or
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specific learning difficulties. Service providers should offer to provide all
of the information they make available to customers in a range of
alternative formats, including large print, Braille, electronic or audio.
Service providers should also look at their websites and ensure that they
are accessible to disabled customers, in particular that they are
compatible with screen reading software.
For example
A hotel details on the first page of its new brochure that it is available
on request in a range of alternative formats. The hotel makes
arrangements with a local disability organisation to produce the
brochure in large print, Braille and audio should any requests be made.
Adopting a flexible approach
Many of the adjustments that disabled customers or service users may
require will cost little or nothing and may only really involve some
additional time or assistance from staff; for example, extra time to read
and explain written forms for someone with a reading difficulty. Service
providers should endeavour to adopt a flexible approach and think
creatively about the way in which they serve disabled customers to meet
their needs.
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6. Legal redress 
Making a complaint under Part III of the DDA
If a disabled person feels that they have been discriminated against by a
service provider, they have six months to make a complaint under the
Disability Discrimination Act. Complaints under Part III of the DDA are
heard in a County Court and if a disabled person wins their case, they
could win compensation for financial loss, injury to feelings or both. Any
DDA complaint made against a service provider can result in bad press
and can be damaging to the business.
Many disabled people will discuss any difficulties they may have
accessing a service with the service provider directly, either face to face,
over the telephone or via a letter. Service providers should deal with any
complaints as promptly and effectively as possible and most service
providers already do this as a matter of course.
Service providers may wish to seek assistance or advice from a trade
association or their own legal adviser. Service providers can also contact
the Equality Commission for information and advice about their duties
under the DDA or one of the many disability organisations listed in Part 7
for detailed information about meeting the needs of disabled customers.
Cases/Settlements in Northern Ireland
Service providers should take their responsibilities under the DDA
seriously and endeavour to meet the needs of disabled customers as far
as possible. Failure to do so could result in a successful DDA complaint
being made. Below are the details of some recent legal cases under Part
III of the DDA in Northern Ireland:
Example one
A Chinese restaurant refused entry to a disabled customer who was
accompanied by her hearing dog. A member of staff told the customer
that they were too busy to take her and her friend for dinner. However,
while discussing the situation with the member of staff other customers
where shown to free tables. The case settled before going to the
County Court. The disabled person was awarded £1,000 for injury to
feelings, an apology and the restaurant had to undertake a review of all
of its policies, practices and procedures and provide disability
awareness training for all staff.
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Example two
A solicitors firm refused to provide a deaf customer with an interpreter
when they requested an interview with their solicitor as the firm would
not agree to cover the costs of providing the interpreter. The deaf
person made a complaint under the DDA to the County Court. The
Judge held that the company had failed to make reasonable
adjustments for the person and that it should have been more proactive
in this duty. The deaf person was awarded £750 in compensation.
Example three
A golf course refused permission to a disabled person who was a non-
member with mobility difficulties to use his own motorised golf buggy
on the course when playing a round of golf. The club said that it could
not do so for health and safety reasons. This case settled before going
to court but as a result of the case the golf course agreed to implement
a policy whereby a buggy and driver will be provided for use by
disabled non-members, free of charge.
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7. Further information 
A number of Codes of Practice exist to support the DDA and SENDO and
for a more detailed explanation of the disability discrimination law, these
publications should be consulted. These Codes of Practice can be
obtained free of charge from the Equality Commission:
Disability Code of Practice: Employment and Occupations
Disability Code of Practice: Trade Organisations and Qualifications

Disability Code of Practice: Rights of Access: Goods, facilities,
Services and Premises

Disability Discrimination Code of Practice: Further and Higher

Disability Discrimination Code of Practice: Schools
A number of other publications about the DDA and SENDO are available
free from the Equality Commission looking in more detail at topics such as
employment, access to goods, facilities and services, education and the
provision of sign language interpreters.
All publications are available in alternative formats on request.
Publications can also be downloaded from our website, which can be
found at
Useful contacts 
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Equality House
7 – 9 Shaftesbury Square
Tel: 02890 500600
Fax: 02890 248687
Textphone: 02890 500589
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British Standard 8300:2001
“Design of buildings and meeting the needs of disabled
people – Code of Practice”
Tel: 020 8996 9002
Fax: 0208996 7001
Centre for Universal Accessibility
School of the Built Environment
University of Ulster at Jordanstown
BT37 0QB
Tel: 02890 368505
Fax: 02890 366875
Email: x.xxxx@xxxxxx.xx.xx 
Albany House
73 – 75 Great Victoria Street
Tel: 02890 231211
Textphone: 02890 234391
Fax: 02890 240878
Email: xxxxxxx.xxxxxxx@xxxx.xx.xx 
Disability Action
189 Airport Road West
Tel: 02890 297880
Fax: 02890 297881
Textphone: 02890 297882
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Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID)
Wilton House
College Square North
Tel/Textphone: 02890 239619
Video Phone: 02890 438534
Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)
40 Linenhall Street
Tel: 02890 329373
Fax: 02890 278119
Segal House
4 Annadale Avenue
Tel: 02890 691351
Fax: 02890 640121
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Page 28

Howcan we help?
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland can give advice and
information on the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 through training,
telephone and textphone advice, booklets and leaflets or we can meet 
with you.
For further information, please contact us at:
Promotion and Education Division
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Equality House
7-9 Shaftesbury Square
Belfast BT2 7DP
Telephone: 028 90 500 600
Textphone: 028 90 500 589
Fax: 028 90 248 687
ISBN 1-903941-39-3
March 2006