Strengths of the disability discrimination act

The United Kingdom’s Equality Act superseded much of the Disability Discrimination Act as of Oct. 1, 2010. Some of the DDA’s benchmarks continue to be enforced, however, assuring that workers and consumers have equal access to workplaces, advancement, education and property ownership. As it was written, the DDA provides the government with an arsenal of tools that allow it to mandate accessibility across several platforms.

Written Broadly

Rather than attempting to catalogue disabilities that property and business owners must accommodate, the DDA mandates that any person who has a substantial physical or mental impairment must be able to navigate in public life. This defines any impairment that lasts at least a year and interferes with activities such as eating, using public spaces, navigating public areas and shopping. Additionally, the measure is proactive: Business owners can’t plead that they don’t serve disabled clients as an excuse not to make required modifications on their property.

Allows for Flexibility

The DDA mandates that property and business owners make reasonable alterations to improve the accessibility of their premises, although it grants landowners a wide range of choices about how to make the necessary accommodations. Businesses or land owners may choose to merely remove an impediment from their property, such as removing a door frame that is too narrow to allow wheelchairs to pass. They may make physical alterations to their building, such as by adding ramps or handrails, or provide access to their service by an alternate means, such as by incorporating secondary entrances. Additionally, business owners may rearrange their business’ layout to remove the obstacle from the flow of traffic, such as by rearranging cubicle walls to eliminate an uneven space in the main walkway.


Although the law initially exempted businesses with less than 15 employees from its requirements, those exceptions have been phased out. Additionally, listed buildings aren’t exempt from DDA requirements, even when there are restrictions about how the historical property may be modified.

Bottom-Line Enforcability

Employers who are found to discriminate based upon physical handicaps may be held financially liable if an employee files a claim against them. The law doesn’t set a maximum amount of damages the employee may receive in compensation for a claim.

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About the Author

Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.

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