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Baseline Survey of the Measures in Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Relating to the Provision of Goods and Services
Meager N, Evans C, Tackey N D, Williams M
This summary was published as the Department for Education and Employment’s Research Brief No. 64.
The study was commissioned by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE), Department of Social Security (DSS), and the National Disability Council (NDC) and carried out by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES).
Characteristics of providers
Industrial sector and size
Nearly one-third of establishments in scope of the provisions of the DDA (Part Ill) were in the retail sector, whilst hotels and restaurants, business services; health and social work and ‘other services’ accounted between them for a further half of those in scope. Reflecting this, 85% of establishments were in the private sector, 10% in the public sector and 6% in the voluntary sector.
Most establishments were small (70% had fewer than 10 employees), and although half of them were part of larger organisations, nearly 60% had fewer than 20 employees in total (and would therefore, for example, be currently exempt from the DDA’s employment provisions).
Despite the small average size of these establishments, some had significant customer volumes, with one in five reporting 1,000 or more customer contacts per week.
Contact with customers and disability awareness
Most establishments (90%) had mainly face-to-face contact with their customers, but significant minorities had postal or telephone contact (sometimes as well as face-to-face contact); and nearly half (46%) had some off-site contact with customers.
85% of establishments said they were aware of having disabled customers or clients, although only 21% reported having disabled employees.
Over two-fifths (41%) had carried out a major refurbishment in the last five years.
Providers’ understanding of disability
The survey confirmed that service providers were most likely to regard customers as having a ‘disability’ if they had mobility problems, problems associated with lifting or dexterity, and sensory impairments (especially visual impairments). People least likely to be regarded as having a ‘disability’ included long-standing conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy or heart conditions, and severe disfigurement.
Similarly, awareness of particular impairments amongst customers was skewed towards more ‘visible’ conditions. 85% of establishments reported having customers with mobility problems, 80% customers with hearing impairments; 720% customers with speech impairments; and 71% customers with visual impairments.
More than half of establishments aware of having customers with mobility problems, visual impairments and learning difficulties stated that the service provided would differ in some way from that provided to other people. In most cases, the difference related to providing the same service, but in a different way, to ensure that the service could be provided.
Current provision and accessibility
Those who had made arrangements
Just over half (57%) of establishments reported that they made some arrangements or adjustments to help disabled people use their goods or services. Such arrangements were most commonly found among establishments in public administration (86%) and health and social work (85%) (Figure 1); among larger establishments, and among establishments which are branches of larger organisations.
The commonest types of arrangement were wheelchair/access features, along with the provision of various kinds of additional assistance to disabled customers. Less common were specific adjustments related to particular impairments (eg sensory impairments).
Those establishments which had not made any adjustments (nearly half) were asked why. 70% of these claimed that no arrangements were necessary, or that they believed that all their goods and services were already equally accessible to all customers (Figure 2).
Those who had not made any special arrangements
Source: Baseline Survey of the Measures in Part III of the DDA
Use of audits and staff training
Despite this, most of these establishments (84% of those who had not made any special arrangements) had not undertaken any assessment or audit of the accessibility of their services to disabled people compared to 69% for all organisations.
Most establishments (73%) in scope of the DDA (Part III) provided no training on disability issues to staff dealing with disabled customers, rising to 87% for those who had not made any special arrangements for disabled customers.
Consultation with disabled customers
Most (70%) establishments in scope of the DDA (Part III) were not covered by a formal (written) policy on the provision of goods and services to disabled people.
Over half (55%) of establishments in scope of Part III of the DDA said they had not consulted and did not plan to consult disabled customers about accessibility issues. Further, nearly 60% of establishments said they had not sought information or advice on accessibility issues from external bodies or agencies, and had no plans to do so.
Recent changes in provision and accessibility
Respondents (57%) who claimed to make special arrangements or adjustments for disabled customers were asked whether they had made any changes during the year prior to the survey (the first provisions of Part III of the DDA were implemented about six months prior to the survey). Fewer than one-quarter (23%, or 13% of the whole sample) had made changes in the past year. This implies that where changes had been made, they were more likely to be part of an ongoing process of improvement, than a specific response to recent legislation. However, sectors in which few establishments had made changes had a higher proportion who had made them in the last year, suggesting the possibility of a ‘catching-up’ effect.
Monitoring the impact of recent changes
Most establishments having made recent changes (59%) did not, and had no plans to, monitor the impact of the changes. When asked, more generally, about the perceived impact of the changes, for customers and the business, one-quarter (24%) said they had not noticed any impact, but nearly one-third (31 %) claimed greater customer satisfaction. One-quarter (24%) felt that accessibility had increased, and 18% claimed a growth in the number of disabled customers.
Consistent with earlier evidence, most (74%) of those who had not made any changes in the last year (note these were establishments which had made some changes, but not in the past year) claimed that this was because their service was already fully accessible. However, 22% of those establishments explained that this was because there was no customer pressure or business need to do so. Hardly any of these establishments (6%) cited cost as a reason for not having made recent changes.
Planned changes to provision and accessibility
Despite the significant proportion of establishments which said they had not made changes to accessibility, only 14% said they were planning such changes.
Establishments which had already made some changes are considerably more likely than those who had not, to be planning further changes. These ‘improvers’ were more likely to be in the public, health and ‘other service’ sectors as well as the distribution sector, whilst ‘catchers-up’ (those who had not made changes but were planning to) were most likely to be in the distribution sector and ‘other services’. ‘Improvers’ were over-represented among large establishments, and ‘catchers-up’ among small ones.
Over half of those planning to make changes intended to do so within the next year.
The dominant reason (60%) given by those not planning to make changes was that they believed their services were already fully accessible to disabled people. Establishments which reported having already made changes (71%) were more likely than those which had not (55%) to say they were not planning any further changes, because they believed that their services were already fully accessible. A second important reason given was that there was felt to be no external pressure from customers to make changes (25% of those not planning changes said this). Again, very few mentioned cost concerns (6% of those not planning changes gave this as a reason).
Awareness and impact of the DDA
Those aware of the DDA
Four-fifths (80%) of establishments in scope of the DDA (Part III) reported that they were aware of the Act (this includes those aware of it by name, and those aware of the existence of the legislation, but not what it was called).
Establishments which were more likely to say they were aware of the legislation were those who:
The main sources from which establishments first heard of the Act were:
Extent of detailed knowledge of the DDA
Among those establishments which had heard of the DDA, detailed knowledge of the main obligations of Part III was relatively sparse (figure 3), and concentrated on those three obligations which came into force in December 1996.
Would the DDA have an effect?
The vast majority of establishments, around nine in ten, did not believe that the obligations of the DDA (Part III) currently in force, would have an effect on them. Public sector and larger establishments, and those reporting having already made improvements to access were slightly more likely to anticipate an effect on them from the current obligations of the DDA.
The proportions believing that the future obligations of the DDA (to change policies, practices and procedures; to provide extra help and services; and to remove or alter physical barriers) would affect their establishment were somewhat higher, but it was still the case that the majority (between three-quarters and four-fifths in respect of each of these obligations) did not anticipate an effect.
About the study
The research included a literature review; initial interviews with disability organisations, service providers and other ‘experts’; a representative national telephone survey of 1,500 establishments providing goods and services to members of the public; and in-depth follow-up interviews with a small sample of establishments. Fieldwork took place in Spring and Summer 1997. The survey provided, for the first time, a comprehensive national picture of service provider establishments covered by Part III of the DDA.
Baseline Survey of the Measures in Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Relating to the Provision of Goods and Services, Meager N, Evans C, Tackey N D, Williams M. Research Report RR64, Department for Education and Employment, 1999.
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