Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
Often referred to as the DDA, the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 has three main parts:
- Part I covers the scope of the Act and what is meant by disability, and who would and would not be covered by the Act.
- Part II covers the employment of disabled people, and has been in force since 1996.
- Part III covers access to goods, facilities and services and came into force in 2004.
The DDA defines a disabled person as someone with “physical, sensory or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term effect on ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.
Duties of service providers
The DDA places a duty on all providers of services to the public not to refuse service, not to provide a worse standard of service and not to offer a service on worst terms to disabled people than to non-disabled. The DDA allows service providers flexibility when planning access for disabled people, including “reasonable adjustments” or an alternative way to provide the services. DirectGov provides links to the codes of practice related to the DDA Act.
The DDA and people with sight loss
Anyone who cannot see to use standard print even when wearing corrective spectacles is a disabled person within the terms of the Act.
Libraries should consider the following aspects of the DDA in relation to their services to blind and partially sighted people:
Reasonable adjustments or an alternative service must be provided. For example, revolving doors can be as much of an obstacle for people with sight loss as for wheelchair users. It is vital to include compliance with the DDA in the design brief for all new buildings and refurbishments.
Equality of service
Information about the services, including catalogues should be available in alternative formats appropriate to the nature of the sight loss.
Equal terms of service
If someone with sight loss can only access the best possible range of reading through audio this service should be provided on the same basis as standard print books (i.e. free of charge). For example, if an A3 photocopy is required to enlarge the same information contained on an A4 page of standard print, the charge should be the same as for an A4 copy.
Policies, practice and procedures
It would be unreasonable to require someone with severe sight loss to:
- sign a library registration card
- deny access for people with their guide dog
Communication with people with sight loss (including overdue notices) should be made in an appropriate format or by telephone/email as agreed with the customer.
There is a wide range of equipment, auxiliary aids and adaptive technologies for people with sight loss. With the wide availability of assistive technology it is possible for even the smallest library to make computers accessible to people with sight loss.
The points above are indications of how the DDA could be interpreted and are not professional legal advice. In case of doubt, complaints or dispute, services should seek professional legal advice.