Recognising the commercial opportunity of dealing with one of the largest consumer groups in Europe
The compliance framework which governs disability and accessibility is very fragmented and made up of UK Acts of Parliament, European Law, planning regulations and UK case law. Navigating through the quagmire of rules and best practice guidelines is daunting. The Equality Act 2010 strengthened the governance framework for disability by aligning disability discrimination with other protected characteristics such as race, religion and gender. The old (now defunct) Disability Discrimination Act was a toothless piece of legislation which resulted in few (virtually no) successful legal actions. Even an experienced Estates Manager or HR professional with an interest in disability compliance would be hard pushed to name more than a handful of cases over the last 10 years. The Equality Act 2010 has changed everything. If you asked the same group of people how many cases relating to sex, race or age discrimination that they had heard about over the same period of time you would expect a very different answer. By strengthening the compliance framework the Equality Act 2010 has placed disability discrimination at the centre of the corporate risk management agenda.
There is however no need for panic or over-reaction, especially in relation to estates management. The Equality Act 2010 and other governing laws do not necessarily expect a building or facility to be fully compliant. What is deemed as a ‘reasonable’ adjustment to a building must be determined in relation to the relative cost of adaptation and other factors such as any protected listings on a building. What the law does expect is for you to have identified your problems, have prioritised action plans to deal with them and perhaps have some ‘work around’ solutions in place where there are serious obstacles to access. This is what Direct Enquiries provide.
Our nationwide team of highly trained Access Auditors will review an estate, identify any ‘red flag’ issues of immediate concern and propose a prioritised and costed action plan to deal with issues as part of a normal refit and refurbishment programme. The results are presented via our electronic Facilities Management reporting tool which can be updated as changes to the estate are made. We offer effective risk management, nationwide service level agreements and the most highly trained team of access professionals in the country.
Effective risk management underpins much of our work but to focus entirely on compliance drivers ignores a very important set of economic reasons to engage with the disabled community. In simple terms – disabled people are discerning customers with huge consumer spending power:
Most disabled people were not born with a disability. Two thirds of disability is acquired over the age of 16 and in our ageing population this figure is set to rise. If you add to the vast numbers of disabled people those with access problems, associated with age or because they are pushing a child’s buggy, then the size of the consumer group multiplies exponentially.
Direct Enquiries run a ‘family’ of information portals which combine to give unrivalled reach into this important consumer group. www.directenquiries.com, the Nationwide Access Register, has become the default reference source for disabled people planning shopping trips and leisure activities. Winning the opportunity to host the Mayor’s portals for the 2012 Games – www.inclusivelondon.com and www.inclusivebritain.com gives us even greater exposure via links on www.visitbritain.com and The Official London 2012 site. The family of sites is set to grow and we aim to double our current 12 million hits a month by the close of 2012.
The business case is as simple as it is compelling. It encompasses both effective commercial marketing and effective risk management. It is driven both by CSR and the need to find new revenue streams in an austere market. Our unique services help you combine these seemingly fractured agendas through one product set. Changes in the compliance environment mean you need to act. The challenge is to act with confidence: