Guide to the Equality Act
The Equality Act was passed in October 2010 replacing the Disability Discrimination Act (1995)
The Equality Act aims to protect and prevent disability discrimination. It is supported and enforced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission with the remit to develop the law, educate business and service providers and investigate, conciliate and take legal action in cases of discrimination.
Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably than they would other people, for a reason relating to their disability without justification, e.g.
- Refusing or deliberately not providing a service which it offers to others.
- Providing a lower standard of service.
- Offering a service on worse terms.
Service providers are also under an obligation to:
- Take reasonable steps to change practices, policies and procedures that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use their services.
- Take reasonable steps to provide auxiliary aids or services that would enable or make it easier for disabled people to use their services.
- Take reasonable steps to provide an alternative method of making their service available to a disabled person where a physical feature of the service provider's premises makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use the service.
From 1st October 2004, service providers have been taking reasonable steps to remove or alter physical features of premises, which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service, or to provide a reasonable means of avoiding the feature.
Service provision applies to all departments and aspects of a theatre, gallery or museum's work including the content, like a play or exhibition, the box office, restaurant, gift shop and so on and every individual involved in delivering service is responsible for complying with the Act including touring company members resident in a venue on a temporary basis.
It is unlawful to not make "reasonable adjustments" to the way services are provided to ensure it is not impossible or "unreasonably difficult" for a disabled person to use goods, facilities and services.
Reasonable adjustments are not defined in the Act and will vary depending on the type of service, the size and resources of the theatre, gallery or museum and the effect on the disabled person. Nevertheless the Government's code of practice recommends that service providers plan ahead and establish "a positive policy on provision of goods, facilities and services which ensures inclusion of disabled persons and which is communicated to all staff". This includes regular monitoring of access policies, disability awareness training for staff and consultation with disabled people to ensure evolving improvements.
Again the Act does not define "unreasonably difficult" but the recommendation is that providers should "take account of whether the time, inconvenience, effort and discomfort entailed ... would be considered unreasonable by other people if they had to endure similar difficulties".
Auxiliary aids and services
Different venues and situations will require particular solutions, but these are some frequently used auxiliary aids for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing:
- Phone relay and email booking facilities
- Qualified BSL interpreters and lip speakers
- Induction loops
- Front of house staff equipped with pen and paper
- Clear English for written information
- Visual fire alarms