How The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Changed Britain
The world as we know it is constantly evolving, especially in today’s social climate.
This is thanks to greater knowledge and awareness of issues, that may not have been given the attention is needed in the past.
As such what would have been acceptable in the world one moment may not be the next.
For better or worse this sort of change is what keeps pushing the world forward. Be it science, technology, politics or our very social structure itself.
One area in which our society has changed for the better is in the world of mobility.
Not the developments in mobility equipment itself. Rather how we have made great efforts, to make the world as accessible as possible.
Today the sight of easy access buildings, flat floors and disability access is common.
It may be hard to think of now but turn back the clock 25 years and things were quite different.
There was very little in the way of disabled access back then. Buses and trains had small cumbersome steps to enter the vehicle and many buildings having almost no wheelchair ramps or access.
It’s almost staggering to think that such a time existed, considering how far we have come since then.
Things began to change in 1995 when the first real measures were put in place to make Britain accessible to all.
This would take the form of the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.
This made it ‘unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities’.
The act would span a variety of sectors including employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport.
The first of these changes was to provide greater access to buildings and amenities, for those with disabilities.
Then 4 years later in 1999 the first amendments were made to the act. The amendment made it a mandatory requirement for businesses and public services to provide suitable mobility access.
Suddenly all buildings had wheelchair ramps, from huge banks all the way down to small local cafés.
Public areas also now had accessible amenities. From park tables being raised higher to allow for wheelchairs. We also started to see smooth walkways and pathways to make travel less bumpy for mobility equipment users.
With the passing of the Equality Rights Act 2010, all new buildings must have suitable disability access from day 1.
This includes all new buildings in the following sectors
• goods and services like shops, banks, cinemas, hospitals, council offices, leisure centres
• associations and private clubs.
Yet, it is public transport where we saw the impact of the act the most. Before the act many methods of public transport were hampered by poor access. This made it difficult for those with mobility difficulties to get around without a car. Since the introduction of these acts there has been a significant change.
For instance, 99% of bus models in operation in the UK today offer excellent disability access.
Most buses that pull up now have flat floors and adjustable suspension to lower the height of the bus. They also usually have a pull-out access ramp to make it even easier for wheelchair and scooter users. Inside there are designated spaces designed to accommodate those using mobility equipment.
New developments have also permitted Mobility Scooter users to travel by bus. This can be done with a permit or through the CPT scheme.
To board a bus with a mobility scooter you must comply with the following regulations.
· Your scooter must be a class 2 registered unit
· Must be no more than 60cm wide and 100cm long
On very rare occasions will you see an old configuration of bus in active service on UK roads. Most of these units have been retired or converted to meet new transport regulations.
On the other hand, train travel has been slower in adopting to these new regulations. This is due to the time it takes to build new models, with the standards being much higher than buses.
As a result, travelling by train could be a hit or miss situation. Most train operators running on UK lines now have a fleet that abides by these regulations.
All new trains in operation today can accommodate a wheelchair that is 700mm wide and 1200mm long. Along with this they are designed with flat floors and feature dedicated spaces for wheelchairs.
But some operators still run older models and modify them to meet modern standards.
The modified units offer a more limited number of wheelchair spaces with oldest units only being able to accommodate a 550mm wide wheelchair.
Despite this all operators are required to ensure all trains are equipped with an access ramps or have a flat floor. This allows for easy wheelchair and walker access even on older units.
Yet, for scooter users’ things get a bit more complicated. This is namely due to the size and variety of scooters on the market.
This can lead to problems such as not being able to , or even boarding the train.
The main concern is that a Mobility Scooter user will not be able to manoeuvre safely inside the carriage. Whats more despite having access ramps, the scooter may exceed the weight limit. This means the passenger would not be able to board safely.
Many rail operators recommend that you do not attempt to board with a Mobility Scooter. Instead they recommend using a lightweight travel wheelchair when using their service.
The requirements can vary from operator to operator. We recommend you look at their websites for more information.