Businesses, landlords and service providers have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to make their premises accessible from 1 September, as an amendment to the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013 comes into force.
Two years ago disability became a protected characteristic under the law so anyone adjudged to be discriminating against someone with a disability could face a claim of indirect discrimination at the Jersey Employment and Discrimination Tribunal.
The law imposes a duty to take steps to make reasonable adjustments to physical features of premises, where it places a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who do not live with a disability.
Under the law, a person is considered to have a disability if they have one or more long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment, which can adversely affect a person’s ability to engage or participate in any activity. Given this broad definition, it is estimated that a third of Jersey residents have a disability as defined under the law.
Edward Drummond, partner at Bedell Cristin in Jersey, said that an immediate accessibility review is needed: “The new law comes into effect soon so an immediate review of policies and physical features should be undertaken as soon as possible. A physical feature includes the design or construction of a building, its entrances, exits and access points, a fixture, fitting or furnishing or any other physical element or quality – so this is wide-reaching legislation”.
Edward continued: “An access audit of the business or premise is a useful first step. This will determine the current accessibility of the premises and point out which areas of facilities management require improvement. This is an important and necessary legislative step, which will make Jersey a lot more disabled-friendly, so the law needs to be followed.”
Any cost of reasonable adjustments must be borne by the employer, landlord or service provider, and not passed on. But, should a claim be filed, the tribunal will consider aspects such as the extent to which the substantial disadvantage was reasonably foreseeable, the effectiveness of any potential steps taken to prevent or remove the substantial disadvantage, the practicality of such steps, the associated costs, as well as the characteristics and resources of the business.