Almost four million Australians have a disability. Each of them is a potential customer, client or staff member so providing them with the best access possible makes good business sense.
Easy access to your premises also benefits your delivery people, shoppers with heavy bags or trolleys, parents with young children in prams, people with temporary injuries or illness and older customers.
Improving access to your business also helps you to meet your legal responsibilities. Under discrimination law, people with disabilities should not be prevented from using public services, areas and facilities.
For example they should:
- be able to enter buildings and move freely inside
- have access to facilities like toilets and lifts
- not be confined to a segregated space or the worst seats
- have access to all customer and client information.
A man who uses a wheelchair could not find accessible toilet facilities in a large shopping centre. His complaint to the Commission was resolved when the centre management apologised and installed improved signage so the accessible facilities could be found more easily.
Businesses should make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities.
What is reasonable will depend on the size of your business, the difficulty and cost of making adjustments, whether they will work, and health and safety factors.
The federal Australian Human Rights Commission has building guidelines for improving disability access to businesses. For more information, visit www.humanrights.gov.au.
You can also improve disability access with your policies and customer communication, or by giving extra help to disabled customers.
A DVD rental shop required a driving licence as identification for new members. The policy excluded people with disabilities who were unable to drive and therefore had no licence. The shop could have accepted other forms of identification to avoid a complaint of disability discrimination.
By law, all assistance (guide) dogs for seeing, hearing or mobility, must be allowed to accompany their owners, even into eating areas.
You need to make reasonable adjustments to any practice, policy or procedure which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a person with a guide dog to obtain your goods, facilities or services. For example, you should specify that guide dogs are exempt from any 'no animals allowed' policy.