THE CHURCHES MAIN COMMITTEE Circular 1999/4 DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT 1995 Rights of Access for Disabled People Goods, Facilities and Services INTRODUCTION 1. Increasing access is central to the churches' mission of bringing people closer to God. The purpose of this Circular is to provide guidance for churches as to how to become more accessible to disabled people, in accordance with new (and forthcoming) duties covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The "duty of reasonable adjustment" affects an providers to the public of goods, facilities and services (hereinafter described as "service providers" and " services") and includes churches. It is due to come into effect in two stages. This paper outlines the initial stage, which comes into force on 1 October 1999, and the second, covering changes to the physical fabric of a building, which is due to come into effect in 2004. The implementation of the changes offers churches a unique opportunity to take the lead in promoting the inclusion of disabled people in their communities. Ignoring the duties is not an option. Equally, the new duties will benefit everybody, including older people and young families for whom poor access can be a challenge and sometimes a disincentive to attend church. Investment in improving access now, even in advance of duties relating to physical features, due in 2004, may be the most cost-effective approach. Minimising improvements to access is a false economy which win cost churches more in the longer term. Good practice, as outlined in this Circular, will help maximise the benefits of the new duties. For the guidance which follows, the Committee is indebted to several experts, including a member of the National Disability Council who takes a special interest in the implications of the new legislation for churches. THE DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT (DDA) 4. The DDA makes it unlawful for service providers, landlords and other persons to discriminate against disabled people in certain circumstances. A disabled person is someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has an effect which is substantial, adverse and long-term, on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Physical or mental impairment includes a sensory impairment. Hidden impairments are also covered by the Act. An effect is substantial if it is more than minor or trivial. An effect is long-term if it has lasted (or is likely to last) for at least a year, or it is likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected. Discrimination against a disabled person occurs in two possible ways. One way is when a service provider treats the disabled person less favourably - for a reason relating to a disabled person's disability - than it treats (or would treat) others to whom that reason does not (or would not) apply; and cannot show that the treatment is
justified. The other way in which discrimination occurs is when a service provider fails to comply with a duty imposed on it by section 21 of the DDA (a duty to make "reasonable adjustments") in relation to the disabled person; and cannot show that the failure is justified. 7. The duties on service providers are being introduced in three stages: since 2 December 1996, it has been unlawful for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably for a reason related to their disability; from I October 1999, service providers have to make "reasonable adjustments" for disabled people, such as providing extra help or making changes to the way they provide their services; and it is intended that, from 2004, service providers will also have to make "reasonable adjustments" to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access.
From 1 October 1999, in accordance with the second stage, churches (“as a service provider offering services to the public") have a legal duty to take such steps as it is reasonable for the service provider to have to take in all the circumstances of the case in the three situations described immediately below. Churches may have to: change a practice, policy or procedure which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use other services; provide a reasonable alternative method of making their services available to disabled people where a physical feature makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of them; provide an auxiliary aid or service if it would enable (or make it easier for) disabled people to make use of their services.
The duty to provide a service by a reasonable alternative method is only one element of the duty in relation to physical features. The Government intends that the other elements of the duty (which will require a service provider to remove or alter a physical feature of its premises or to provide a reasonable means of avoiding the physical feature) will not come into force until 2004. However, it makes sense now for churches (as service providers) to plan ahead by taking any opportunities which arise, or bringing forward plans, to make alterations to their premises to benefit disabled people before 2004. IMPLICATIONS FOR CHURCHES
The third stage of implementation of the duty of reasonable adjustment, affecting physical features, is due to come into effect in 2004. This is designed to allow churches and other service providers to plan and, where possible, incorporate those plans into current projects (eg as part of a refurbishment programme). There is therefore nothing to prevent churches going beyond the duties to be introduced on 1 October 1999 , in advance of 2004.
However, in recognition that all churches will want, as a minimum, to meet the October 1999 duties and their current duties, the following section offers some guidance and examples relevant to churches in two parts. The first looks at the existing duty (since 2 December 1996) not to treat disabled people less favourably for a reason related to their disability; the second looks at the new duty (from 1 October 1999) of service providers to make "reasonable adjustments" for disabled people, such as providing extra help or making changes to the way they provide their services. It is important to note that these examples are illustrative only. They should not be treated as complete or authoritative statements of the law. REFUSAL OR NON-PROVISION OF SERVICE
A church cannot refuse to provide (or deliberately not provide) a service to a disabled person which it offers to other people, unless the refusal (or non-provision) can be justified. Example A party of disabled children is on a visit to a church. Without giving any explanation, the minister refuses to allow the children to enter the church, even though it is usually open to other visitors. This is a refusal of service and is likely to be unlawful. STANDARD OR MANNER OF SERVICE
A church must not offer a disabled person a lower standard of service than it offers other people or serve a disabled person in a worse manner, without justification. A lower Standard of service might include segregation of disabled church-goers or being offhand or rude towards them. Example The church warden tells a person with a severe facial disfigurement that he must sit in a pew at the back of the church, out of sight of other church-goers, despite there being space in other pews. This is likely to be against the law. TERMS OF SERVICE
A church should not provide a service to a disabled person on terms which are worse than the terms offered to other people, without justification. Worse terms include charging more for goods or imposing extra conditions for using a service (except in certain circumstances, "where the service is individually tailored to the requirements of the disabled customer"). Example A person who has Usher syndrome (and who, as a consequence, is deafblind) is booking a place on the parish pilgrimage to Lourdes. The parish secretary, who is organising the trip on behalf of the church, asks her for a larger deposit than she requires from other parishioners. The secretary believes, in her church capacity and without good reason, that because of her disability, the disabled parishioner is more likely to cancel her holiday. This is likely to be against the law. MAKING CHANGES FOR DISABLED PEOPLE: THE SERVICE PROVIDER’S DUTY TO MAKE REASONABLY ADJUSTMENTS
The duty to make reasonable adjustments (which comes into effect on 1 October 1999 is a cornerstone of the DDA and requires service providers to take positive steps to make their services accessible to disabled people. This goes beyond the initial duties of avoiding treating disabled people less favourably for a disability-related reason. It requires churches to make reasonable adjustments if it is impossible or unreasonably difficult for the disabled person to make use of the services they would normally offer to the public. Although the DDA does not define what it means by "reasonable steps” to be taken (to make reasonable adjustments), the following are some of the factors which might be taken into account when considering what is reasonable whether taking any particular steps would be effective in overcoming the difficulty that disabled people face in gaining access to the goods, facilities or services in question; the extent to which it is practicable for the service provider to take the steps; the financial and other costs of making the adjustments; the extent of any disruption which taking the steps would cause; the extent of the service provider's financial and other resources; the amount of any resources already spent on making adjustments; the availability of financial or other assistance.
Example Holy Communion is given generally at the altar steps where church-goers stand, after having queued in the aisle. A disabled person wishes to receive Communion. He experiences great pain if he has to queue in the aisle and stand at the altar. Other church-goers would not have to undergo similar discomfort in order to receive Communion. Thus, the church's queuing policy makes it unreasonably difficult for the disabled person to use the service. Consideration will have to be given as to how the queuing policy could be adjusted so as to accommodate the requirements of such disabled church-goers. 17. It is unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person in failing to comply with a duty to make reasonable adjustments when the effect of that failure is to make it impossible or "unreasonably difficult" for the disabled person to make use of services provided to the public. The Act does not define what is meant by "unreasonably difficult". However, when considering if services are unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use, service providers should take account of whether the time, inconvenience, effort or discomfort entailed in using the service would be considered unreasonable by other people if they had to endure similar difficulties (see example above). CHANGING A PRACTICE, POLICY OR PROCEDURE WHICH MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE OR UNREASONABLY DIFFICULT FOR DISABLED PEOPLE TO MAKE USE OF THEIR SERVICES.
Over time, a church will have established a particular way of providing its services to the public. Its practices including policies and procedures) may be set out formally or may have become established informally or by custom. A church might have a practice which - perhaps unintentionally - makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of its services. In such a case, a church must take such steps as it is reasonable for it to have to take, in all the circumstances, to change the practice so that it no longer has that effect. This may mean waiving the practice or amending a policy to allow exceptions or abandoning it altogether (see example above). Often such a change involves little more than an extension of the courtesies which most service providers already show to users of their services.
In principle, the terms, "practices, policies and procedures", relate to the way in which a service provider provides its services and cover: what a service provider actually does (in practice) what a service provider intends to do (its policy) how a service provider plans to go about it (its procedure)
Example A church has a policy of not allowing guide dogs onto its premises. The church warden has been told to prevent anyone with a guide dog from entering the church. The "no guide dogs" is enforced in practice by this procedure. PROVIDING A REASONABLE ALTERNATIVE METHOD OF MAKING SERVICES AVAILABLE TO DISABLED PEOPLE 20. When determining what is a reasonable alternative method of making their services available to disabled people where a physical feature makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of them, churches have to consider all the circumstances of the case. The factors which might be considered are outlined in paragraph 16 above. The DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION (SERVICES AND PREMISES) REGULATIONS 1999 make provision for various things to be treated as physical features. A "physical feature" includes: any feature arising from the design or Construction of a building on the premises occupied by the service provider; any feature on those premises or any approach to, exit from or access to such a building; any fixtures, fittings, furnishings, furniture, equipment or materials in or on such premises; any fixtures, fittings, furnishings, furniture, equipment or materials brought onto premises (other than those occupied by or on behalf of the service provider) in the course of (and for the purpose of) providing services to the public;
any other physical element or quality of land comprised in the premises occupied by the service provider.
All these features are covered, whether temporary or permanent. A building means an erection or structure of any kind. Example The church bookshop is located in an old building with a narrow entrance at the top of a flight of stairs. The shop is willing to serve disabled people by bringing goods to the customer at the entrance of the building. This is likely to be a reasonable step for the shop to have to take. PROVIDING AN AUXILIARY AID OR SERVICE TO ENABLE (OR MAKE IT EASIER FOR) DISABLED PEOPLE TO MAKE USE OF SERVICES 21. The duty to provide auxiliary aids or services require the service provider to take such steps as it is reasonable for it to have to take in all the circumstances of the case to make its services accessible to disabled people. What might be reasonable for a large service provider (or one with substantial resources) might not be reasonable for a smaller service provider. The factors which might be considered are outlined in paragraph 16 above. The DDA gives two examples of auxiliary aids or services: the provision of information on audio tape and the provision of a sign language interpreter. It is important to recognise the distinction and appreciate the difference which the provision of each can make in facilitating access. The examples given are: Example of an auxiliary aid A building society provides information about its savings accounts on an audio tape. A customer with a visual impairment can use the audio tape at home or in a branch to decide whether to open an account. This is an auxiliary aid. Example of an auxiliary service A social services department has a member of staff able to communicate with deaf clients using British Sign language. This is an auxiliary service. A further example relating to churches might be: A cathedral with limited resources provides guided tours. It investigates the provision of a radio microphone system for healing aid users to accompany the tour, but after careful consideration it rejects that option as expensive and impracticable. Instead, with very little effort or cost, the cathedral decides to provide good quality audio taped guides (with an option of plug-in neck loops) which can be used by persons with hearing aids who want to follow the guided tour. This is likely to be a reasonable step for the cathedral to have to take. 23. The reasonableness of the Service provider's response to disabled people's requirements will inevitably vary with the circumstances. The kinds or factors which may be relevant are described in paragraph 16 above. Ultimately, how effectively a service provider is able to meet reasonably the individual requirements of disabled people will depend largely on how far it has anticipated the requirements of its
disabled customers. Many things that seem impossible at the time might have been accommodated relatively easily if prior thought had been given to the question. 24. It is good practice to include disabled people in the process of considering what reasonable adjustments should be made. For people with hearing disabilities, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include one or more of the following: written information (such as a leaflet or guide); a facility for taking and exchanging written notes; a verbatim speech-to-text transcription service; non-permanent induction loop systems; subtitles; videos with sign language interpretation; information displayed on a computer screen: accessible Websites; textphones, telephone amplifiers and inductive couplers; teletext displays; audio-visual telephones; audio-visual fire alarms (not involving physical alterations to premises); qualified sign language interpreters or lip speakers.
Example A church fits a temporary induction loop system in its church hall (although there is nothing to prevent it being a permanent system, in advance of the 2004 duty relating to possible changes to physical features). This ensures people who have reduced hearing and use hearing aids are able to communicate effectively with other people when the room is crowded and there is background noise. However, this does not help profoundly deaf people. The church asks the volunteers staffing the refreshment area to take time to communicate by using a pen and notepad to discover what the customer wants and to give information. The volunteers are also shown how to speak, looking directly at people to allow those who can lip-read to do so. These are likely to be reasonable steps for the church to have to take. 25. For people with visual impairments, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include one or more of the following: readers; documents in large or clear print, Moon or Braille; information on computer diskette; information on audiotape; telephone services to supplement other information; spoken announcements or verbal communication; accessible Website; assistance with guiding; audiodescription services; large print or tactile maps/plans and three-dimensional models; touch facilities.
It is important to remember that, as with other forms of sensory impairments, visual disabilities are of varying kinds and degrees. Service providers need to consider what is/are the most appropriate auxiliary aid(s)or service(s) to provide.
Example A parish church is reviewing the accessibility of its newsletter for people who are partially sighted or blind. Given its size and limited resources, the church decides it is not practicable to make its newsletter available in Braille. However, the church decides to change the print size and redesign the newsletter's appearance. This makes it more accessible to its partially sighted church-goers but does not assist those who are blind. It therefore also decides to arrange for the information to be put on audio tape (for example, by a volunteer in the parish), to be publicised as available on request. These are likely to be reasonable steps for the church to have to take. GOOD PRACTICE 26. The importance of preparing for improving access now cannot be overstated. A minimum compliance approach is a false economy. In contrast, a good practice, maximise-the-impact approach is a sound investment. Churches are more likely to be able to meet their duty to make reasonable adjustments under the DDA if they: audit physical and non-physical barriers to access for disabled people; make adjustments and put them in place; provide training to "staff” (for example, church wardens and parishioners involved in the running of parish activities) which is relevant to the adjustments to be made; draw the adjustments to the attention of disabled people; let disabled people know how to request assistance; and review regularly 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 churches find the best way of meeting disabled people's requirements and expectations - in accordance with both the duties of the DDA and their shared mission to help all people, disabled and non-disabled, "access" God. VALUE ADDED TAX
Much of the work done on providing aids for disabled people (eg installation of induction loop systems, toilet facilities, chairlifts) is zero-rated for VAT. Details are contained in our booklet "VAT and the Churches" (paragraph 15) and in the Customs and Excise VAT leaflet 701/7/94. The Churches Main Committee in its response to the consultative document on the Review of Charity Taxation is urging that all work carried out to improve access to services etc for disabled people should be zero-rated. FUNDING
There is no specific central source of funding for expenditure incurred by churches on providing aids for disabled people. It is worth approaching local authority Access Officers who may be able to point to grants available for this work. USEFUL READING AND CONTACTS
There is a growing body of helpful literature.
"Valuing Difference: People with Disabilities in the Life and Mission of the Church" (£2.99, published for the Catholic Bishops' Conference by the Dept for Catholic Education and Formation, 39 Eccleston Square, London SWIV 1BX, Tel. 0171-630 8221) deals helpfully with many aspects of church life. "Widening the Eye of the Needle: Access to Church Buildings for People with Disabilities" (£7.95, published for the Council for the Care of Churches by Church House Publishing, Gt Smith Street, London SW1P 3NZ, Tel. 0171-898 1000) is particularly concerned with structural changes to church buildings. Both contain useful "access audit check lists", and the first also contains a list of useful publications and points of reference. Churches Action on Disability (Director, Martin Pope, 50 Scrutton Street, London, EC2A 4XQ, Tel. 0171-452 2085) is concerned with all aspects of the churches' work for disabled people. RNID's helpline 0870-605 0123 gives advice on suitable equipment, training, provision of interpreters, etc. FURTHER GUIDANCE 31. Further guidance on the implications of the 2004 duties will be given in due course, when the legal requirements become clearer. This will deal with such matters as the provision of disabled toilet facilities, the building of ramps for wheelchairs and the handling of church features which may create problems for those who, though not needing wheelchairs, cannot move easily. It will also advise on the interaction with the church's own system of control, such as the faculty jurisdiction.
Telephone: 0207-898 1878/1861 September 2001 Fax: 0207-898 1798 email@example.com
Circular 2001/5 THE CHURCHES MAIN COMMITTEE Disability Discrimination Act 1995 - Rights of Access for Disabled People Goods, Facilities and Services Third Stage of Implementation (from the year 2004) Physical Features of Premises
1. Our booklet (Circular No 1999/4) gives guidance on the duties imposed on "service providers" in carrying out the first two stages laid down in the 1995 Act, ie (from December 1996) to treat disabled people no less favourably for a reason related to their disability, and (from October 1999) to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, such as providing extra help or making changes to the way services are provided. The third stage (to take effect from 15t October 2004) is to make reasonable adjustments to the physical features of premises to overcome physical barriers to access. 2. Our booklet (para. 31) promised guidance on the third stage as the requirements became clearer. Since 1999, the Government have made Regulations and, with the National Disability Council, have issued a Code of Practice, clarifying the post-2004 requirements. 3. The following cover the main points likely to be of concern (i) Who rank as "service providers"? A service provider is someone who provides goods, services or facilities to the public or a section of the public, whether or not a payment is made. Services provided by charities, voluntary organisations and places of worship are specifically covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. But education, (eg youth services) and services not available to the public ( eg private clubs) are excluded. Examples of services given in the Act, which are likely to be relevant to churches are Access to and use of any place which members of the public are permitted to enter; access to and use of information services; and facilities for entertainment, recreation or refreshment. It is the service provider who is liable for compliance with the Act. In the case of churches, this will ordinarily mean the church responsible for the building in question. (ii) What is a physical feature? The term includes the following any feature arising from the design or construction of a building on the premises occupied by the service provider; any feature on those premises or any approach to, exit from, or access to, such a building; any fixtures, fittings, furnishings, furniture, equipment or materials brought on to premises (other than those occupied by the service provider) by or on behalf of the service provider in the course of (and for the purpose of) providing services to the public; and my other physical element or quality of land comprised in the premises occupied by the service provider .
Where a physical feature (eg one arising from the design or construction of a Building or the approach or access to premises) makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled persons to make use of such a service, it is the duty of the provider of the service to take such steps as are reasonable in order to remove the feature; alter it so that it no longer has that effect; provide a reasonable means of avoiding the feature; or provide a reasonable alternative method of making the service in question available to disabled people. (iii) What is "reasonable", in relation to costs, etc? For what constitutes "reasonable", see paragraph. 16 of our booklet. Financial considerations can only be part of a fully reasoned case for carrying out adjustments in a particular way. Justification would be required if, by not carrying out an adjustment, a disabled person is treated differently from any other person. On the other hand, while :very church should be encouraged to have eg toilet facilities which are accessible to disabled people, there may well be considerations ( eg availability of land, access restrictions, other legal obligations ), which would in a particular case justify not installing such facilities. Ultimately, what is reasonable can only be truly tested in the Courts. (iv) What if "reasonable" adjustments might cut across other legal obligations, etc? Nothing in the Act overrides the need to obtain any other statutory consent, including planning permission, listed building consent (or approval by the appropriate denominational body where the Ecclesiastical Exemption applies), scheduled monument consent, fire regulations approval or building regulations approval. Most of these statutory controls apply to church buildings in one way or another. (v) Should churches carry out "access audits"? These would serve as useful starting points and could highlight areas for improvement. The audit could be carried out fairly easily, and the bodies referred to in paragraph 30 of the booklet (in particular, CHAD Churches Action on Disability) could give advice.
Telephone: 0207-898 1878/1861 September 2001 Fax: 0207-898 1798 firstname.lastname@example.org