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Disability access policy

Introduction

The Equality Act (2010) defines that a person has a disability if:

"(a) A person has a physical or mental impairment, and (b) the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-today activities".

Using this definition, disability affects people who use a wheelchair, are blind or visually impaired, deaf, have epilepsy or diabetes, but also those who have a much wider range of conditions, for example, facial disfigurement, dyslexia, learning difficulties, heart disease, depression and other forms of mental illness.

Disabled People's International sees the above as defining 'impairment' and have used a different definition of disability since 1981: "Impairment is the loss or limitation of physical, mental or sensory function on a long term and permanent basis. Disability is the loss or limitation of opportunities for people with impairments to take part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others due to physical and social barriers."

"Impairment is the loss or limitation of physical, mental or sensory function on a long term and permanent basis. Disability is the loss or limitation of opportunities for people with impairments to take part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others due to physical and social barriers. "

By this definition, it is not someone's impairment which creates barriers for them in accessing the world at large, it is the way that society often fails to respond to their needs.

The Equality Act requires all service providers including Voluntary Action Barnsley to plan ahead to meet the requirements of their disabled service users.

Where necessary and reasonable, service providers must adjust the way they provide their services so that disabled people can use them.

There are estimated to be around 8.6 million disabled people in Great Britain, and over 6 million carers and they have considerable collective spending power. One in four families in the UK has a disabled person within them.

Adjustments for disabled people may also benefit other customers (and staff) enabling service providers to improve their overall level of service, gain and keep more customers.

Discrimination is often unintentional or unwitting and most often stems from a lack of awareness about disability and equality issues.

It may also result from mistaken assumptions or decisions based on speculation, generalisations or stereotypes. Many people adopt learned behaviour towards disabled people as children and never challenge themselves to change that. Do not assume that you could not cope with serving a disabled person or that a particular service would be of no interest or benefit to a disabled person.

Disabled people are not all alike - disability does not discriminate and anyone can become a disabled person at any time. This means there isn't 'one way' of treating all disabled people. Many people who are regarded as 'disabled' under the Equality Act may not see themselves in this way. Asking people about any access needs they might have, or about the options you can provide, may be more useful than asking people directly if they are a disabled person.

The dignity of a disabled person must be respected when services are provided. Discrimination against disabled people often involves treatment which would be regarded as humiliating if accorded to other people. Disabled people are entitled to be consulted about how they might be served. Unfounded assumptions about what is best for them should not be made or acted upon. Disabled people are entitled to make the same choices and to take the same risks within the same limits as other people. If in doubt, ask the disabled person themselves and let them choose.

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Good practice and reasonable adjustments

We have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people to enable them to access services. We may be initially unaware that any disabled people have had difficulty in accessing our services. We do not assume this necessarily means that we do not need to make adjustments.

We regularly review the effectiveness of adjustments and act on the findings of that review. The best solution is often the simplest and most practicable. Listening carefully and responding to what disabled people really want helps us find the best way of meeting disabled people's requirements and expectations.

We will review the way we deliver our services to the public to discover whether there are any less obvious or unintentional problems of access for disabled people. We will carry out periodic disability audits of our premises and business including all areas of provision - including marketing, programming, governance and consultation, physical access, employment practices and customer care issues.

We will seek the views of disabled customers and disabled staff. We believe that disabled people know best what hurdles they face in trying to use the services provided. They can help identify difficulties in accessing services and might also suggest solutions involving the provision of reasonable adjustments. Local and national disability groups or organisations of disabled people have extensive experience which we can draw on. It is not possible to anticipate every difficulty which a disabled person might have in accessing or using services. Therefore we should be flexible in our approach as an organisation. We should try to anticipate the types of problems which could arise and should make every effort to know who our customers are.

If we become aware of the requirements of a particular disabled person who uses or seeks to use our services we will take a reasonable temporary step immediately, even if this is not the best long term solution.

Staff should be generally aware of the requirements of disabled people and should appreciate how to respond appropriately to requests for a reasonable adjustment. They should know how to provide an auxiliary service and how to use any auxiliary aids which we might have. We encourage staff to acquire additional skills in dealing with disabled people, for example, communicating with hearing impaired people and those with speech impairments.

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