The programme described the recent case of two women, one wheelchair bound, who visited shops in Bristol that didn’t have access ramps on their doorsteps and subsequently made multiple claims against them.
Over 100 small retailers were visited by the couple, the majority of which were unable to offer assistance before the couple left the scene.
Two months later dozens of small businesses received letters from claim firm Knoland Legal citing failure to comply with the DDA and causing 'significant distress' to the woman.
The programme alleged that the disabled woman was 'recruited' while she was in hospital. This disturbing example of how the new laws are being interpreted was screened on BBC's Watchdog programme this week, which commented that businesses could be hit with £100,000 fines.
Phase III of the Disability Discrimination Act, introduced in October 2004, stipulates that all businesses have to make reasonable alterations to their premises to overcome access barriers. However, consultancy firm Croner argues that while failure to provide a ramp could be in breach of the law, it does not mean that it should automatically lead to a disability discrimination claim. The key phrase in the legislation is 'reasonable alternations', which for many small businesses may not extend to access ramps, lifts or major adjustments to the shop, office, or worksite.
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