Over two-thirds of disabled people are unlikely to pursue legal action against inaccessible services, new research uncovers
Commissioned by leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire, a new YouGov survey has revealed that disabled people doubt the effectiveness of powers under the Equality Act nearly one decade after it came into force.
Under the Equality Act, which took full effect in October 2010, a service provider has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure anyone can access their services. This includes making physical adjustments as well as making adjustments to any policies and procedures that could put disabled people at a disadvantage.
The survey, which polled more than 2,000 adults with a long-term health condition or disability, found that 71 percent of disabled people are unlikely to use the courts to challenge inaccessibility in their communities, despite experiencing widespread problems.
Furthermore, nearly a quarter of disabled adults polled said they experienced difficulties accessing key services where they live – such as GP surgeries, tourist attractions, supermarkets and concert venues – in 2018/19.
These new statistics suggest a lack of confidence in the Equality Act 2010, passed by the UK Government almost 10 years ago.
Additionally, cost, time and confidence in the legal process were all highlighted as deterrents for disabled adults who would not be likely to take action when it comes to holding establishments to account for their commitments to accessibility.
“I could not afford to bring legal action against a venue and, if the process became drawn out, I would be concerned about how my mental health would be affected,” one respondent explained.
When asked her thoughts on the legal process, Jane from Hertfordshire, who recently complained to her local supermarket about a lack of a mobility scooter at its store, commented: “I think very few people would feel able to take legal action. Many disabled people have negative experiences with obtaining and retaining benefits such as Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and are exhausted by the ongoing fight with authority. I would certainly complain, but that would be it.”
As the UK Government looks to reopen pubs and restaurants in late June, as well as ease shielding guidelines for clinically extremely vulnerable people from the 6th of July, Leonard Cheshire believes inaccessible facilities could risk isolating the disabled community further.
Talking about changes that need to be made to address this issue, Gemma Hope, Director of Policy at Leonard Cheshire, said: “Time and time again disabled people are made to feel like less valuable members of society, with a lack of access to local amenities threatening their independence and leading to feelings of isolation. No one should feel like they don’t have the freedom to visit their local doctor, supermarket or even pub.
“While pursuing legal action is an option, it really shouldn’t even have to get to that point. As government begins to make plans to come out of lockdown, disabled people must not be excluded from key services and facilities. We’ve worked with hundreds of organisations to make their practices inclusive. Others must up their game to make accessibility their priority.”
The charity recommends that anyone affected by the issues raised by this research should get in touch with the Citizens Advice Bureau for guidance.