ACCESSIBILITY & EQUALITY INFORMATION
The Equality Act 2010 came into effect on October 1st 2010 and has replaced existing anti-discrimination laws with a single Act. As providers of goods and services, tourism businesses have obligations under the Equality Act 2010. The Act has simplified the law, removing inconsistencies and making it easier for people to understand and comply with it. It also strengthened the law in important ways to help tackle discrimination and inequality.
Tourism providers should treat everyone accessing their goods, facilities or services fairly, regardless of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, and guard against making assumptions about the characteristics of individuals. More advice can be found in the Summary guide for businesses who sell goods and services. (see pdf above).
Who is protected?
Equality legislation prohibits service providers from discriminating against or harassing customers or potential customers on the following grounds - called "protected characteristics":
- Gender identity
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Religion and belief
- Sexual orientation
What is discrimination?
Discrimination is not simply unfairness. The key is to provide the same service to all visitors which is sensitive to difference. Less favourable treatment happens when a service provider, on one of the grounds described above:
- refuses or deliberately fails to provide a service;
- provides a service of a lower standard or quality;
- offers a service on worse terms,
which it provides to members of the public or a section of the public. The most obvious form of discrimination occurs when a service provider refuses to serve a person or provides a lower standard of service because of a particular characteristic of a protected group. It applies to all organisations that provide a service to the public and anyone who sells goods or provides facilities, whether or not a charge is made for them.
It's about all businesses:
- Being welcoming to all
- Thinking through the visitor's experience in all its aspects to meet their needs
- Thinking about universal design wherever possible to make services usable by all
- Ensuring Poole's tourism product reflects world class modern standards of service, customer care and a welcoming environment
The following information concerns obligations with regard to disability only.
Disabled people must not be treated less favourably than others because they are disabled. Businesses also have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to help disabled people access their goods, facilities and services. The Act makes significant changes in this area, introducing the principle of indirect disability discrimination and clarifying the three requirements for making reasonable adjustments and the point at which the duty to make reasonable adjustments is triggered.
The Act also introduces a new form of discrimination, known as discrimination arising from disability. This occurs when a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something connected to their disability.
The law protects anyone who has, or has had, a disability; people who are mistakenly thought to be disabled; people who are linked or associated with a disabled person.
Direct Discrimination - must not treat someone less favourably because of the disability itself.
Discrimination arising from disability (NEW) - must not treat someone less favourably because of something connected with their disability e.g. refusing someone with incontinence.
Can non-compliance be justified?
Treatment can be justified and will be lawful if it can be shown that it is intended to meet a legitimate objective in a fair, balanced and reasonable way. This means that a service provider must strike a careful balance between the negative impact of a provision on the disabled person and any lawful reason for applying it.
Also, discrimination arising from disability will not be unlawful if the service provider can show that it did not know, or could not be reasonably expected to know, that the person was disabled. This means that:
Service providers should take reasonable steps to find out whether someone is disabled e.g. enquire as to whether anyone in the travelling party has any access needs.
What is 'reasonable' will depend on a number of circumstances, including the cost of an adjustment.
The Equality Act 2010 requires that service providers must think ahead and take steps to address barriers that impede disabled people. Providers should not wait until a disabled person experiences difficulties using a service, as this may make it too late to make the necessary adjustment.
1. Make 'reasonable' changes to the way things are done - such as changing practices, policies or procedures where disabled people would be at a 'substantial disadvantage' e.g. amend a 'no dogs' policy.
2. Make 'reasonable' changes to the built environment - such as making changes to the structure of a building to improve access e.g. fitting handrails alongside steps.
3. Provide auxiliary aids and services - such as providing information in an accessible format, an induction loop for customers with hearing aids.
Can non-compliance be justified?
A service provider cannot legally justify failing to provide a reasonable adjustment. The only question is whether the adjustment is a 'reasonable' one to make.
Visit Tourism for All for Information specifically related to people with disabilities.
The Equality and Human Rights Commision have provided some useful advice for businesses. It has general information at the start and then is broken down into sectors plus advice on responsibilities for staff and much more: