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The Disability Discrimination Act (Section 3) 20 years on: Has it been successful?
It is 20 years since legislation to make access to goods and services equal to both able bodied and disabled people became fully enabled. This paper seeks to establish if the last 20 years have seen significant improvement in access, and whether the terms of the legislation, now part of the Equality Act 2010, are being adhered to. The methodology employed is brief access audits of businesses trading within a shopping centre in North West England. The centre chosen was built pre-legislation, but was refurbished post-legislation. It should have been influenced by compliance with disability access legislation and also the impact of Approved document part M, of the building regulations. The centre had a good mix of independently run businesses, small local chain stores and national chain businesses. There was also a good mix of business types, from retail, catering, fast food, high street banks, and other service industry businesses, all offering goods and services to the public. The results of the audit showed the legislation had only a limited impact, and subject businesses ranged from reasonable levels of compliance to no evidence of any form of compliance. Additional feedback from disabled users was, however, positive.
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Simon Mclean is a Programme Director for Building Surveying at University of Salford, UK.