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Access and The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 highlights service providers’ responsibility to ensure their services can be accessed by everyone. It outlines how reasonable adjustments should be made to account for those with disabilities, mobility impairment, and minorities. Even more importantly, it states that this responsibility should be anticipatory and proactive, not just reactive.

Why The Equality Act 2010 is important

The new Equality Act 2010 gives people from all walks of life, from ethnic minorities and pregnant women to those with disability and mobility problems, the ability to fight for the same service as others. However, many service providers are still failing to make the reasonable adjustments necessary to cater to these people, and many discriminated groups continue to make little to no complaint despite their right to do so.

While making official complaints and even taking on a court case can seem daunting to many, particularly those that already experience day to day struggles from a disability, standing up to discrimination is important. As well as receiving an admission of guilt, an apology and even cost damages for discriminating situations that can often also be embarrassing, enforcing changes in line with The Equality Act 2010 also improves services for others. It encourages awareness amongst service providers as well as ensuring access to others in the future.

 

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Enforcing The Equality Act 2010

If you’re already feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of standing up for your rights with The Equality Act 2010, here are some tips.

1) Think about what you want to achieve, as in many cases you’ll find you can handle the situation outside of court providing the service provider is cooperative. For example, often the situation means you simply want to achieve access where there was no reasonable access before. In this case gaining future disabled access is the goal rather than damages for any ill feeling from the situation, and this could easily be achieved with correspondence to the service provider.

2) You should then proceed to make a formal complaint before considering legal action. In a written letter, you should outline the situation clearly, including the problem, the solution you would like to see achieved, and details of how The Equality Act 2010 supports the solution you are seeking.

3) Be quick and timely with all your complaint proceedings both in and out of court. There is a six-month limitations period for you to start your court proceedings, and this time begins from the act of discrimination. As a rule of thumb, make sure you write and send your letter within seven days, and ask for a reply within another seven days.

4) Go online and do some research about the court process. There is lots of information online and court proceedings have been simplified over the years so people can take control of their own court cases. Think about how to word your forms, where to send them, what you want the court to order if you are successful (eg, a written apology, damages, and costs etc).

5) When you proceed with your court case you will be asked for evidence and witness statements. Remember that there is also discrimination by association. Friends and family with you at the time of discrimination have also been discriminated against, as they are unlikely to use the service without you.

6) Make sure your claim stays in the small claims tracker court. This means you won’t have to pay your retainers legal feeds, even if you lose your case.

7) Make sure that you consider whether you can afford to lose the costs of your case if you’re not successful. If you are successful, you’ll be able to win back the costs you have incurred. Currently, this includes:

  • The payment of an issue fee, roughly £200.
  • The court hearing feed, roughly £335.

While a court can rule a service provider has been discriminatory and reward damages to claimants, they can’t enforce reasonable adjustments. This means that service providers can’t be made to make their service accessible even after being found guilty.

Fortunately, it is often easy for service providers to make reasonable adjustments without incurring significant costs. For example, temporary ramps to provide wheelchair access at entrances and thresholds are an inexpensive and easy solution that requires minimum adjustment and set up. Often simply pointing service providers in the direction of a reasonable ramp supplier and informing them of their responsibilities can be enough to achieve the reasonable adjustments needed.

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