Customer Service Manual - Part 11 : The Disability Discrimination Act 1995

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The Disability Discrimination Act 1995

Introduction

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) was introduced on 2 December 1996. The Act made it unlawful to harass, victimise or discriminate against, people with disabilities.

Under the DDA we must not discriminate, even unintentionally, against customers with disabilities by offering them a poorer standard of service. Accordingly the VOA has produced a guide to the DDA Positive about Disable People accessed from the staff section of the Human Resources homepage via Diversity and Equality. See the section on customer service issues in particular

In April 2005 the Disability Discrimination Amendment Act 2005 (DDA 2005) was passed by Parliament, which amends or extends the existing provisions in the DDA 1995. The DDA 2005 places a general statutory duty upon the Valuation Office Agency in carrying out its functions and requires the Agency to comply with the specific duty to promote disability equality. In particular have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination; promote equality of opportunity, good relations and positive attitudes.

Other sources of information

This subject is included in this Manual specifically in relation to Customer Service issues, more comprehensive information about the Act is available on the Intranet:

  • Take a positive and pro-active approach with people with disabilities – guide to the DDA (Diversity and Equality homepage via HR)
  • Equality Duty (Diversity and Equality homepage via HR)
  • Staff Training and Development Strategic Plan.
  • Code of Practice on ethnic and disability monitoring. (Diversity and Equality homepage via HR)
  • Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) Audits by Steps.
  • IR Welfare Officer’s Code of Ethics and Practice.
  • Instruction / Circular that referred to DV caseworkers trained in carrying out audits under the Act

The DDA covers various issues, which affect us all and tie in with some sections of the Customer Service Manual. This section has been linked to related subjects where possible – for instance “making reasonable changes to any policies, practices or procedures that would otherwise make it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use the service” (eg providing leaflets in an accessible format, such as on audio tape, in Braille or on computer disk) see section on special needs

What if a disabled customer wants to make a complaint?

If a customer feels that they have been discriminated against or harassed because of their disability, they may make a complaint to the Diversity and Equality Manager. If they remain dissatisfied, they can take their complaint to the Adjudicator. Furthermore they can ask a Member of Parliament to refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Heath Ombudsman. They can also take court action to seek damages to help make up for loss or for injury to their feelings. Action can be taken through a County Court in England and Wales or Northern Ireland or the Sheriffs Court in Scotland.

Alternatively if a customer is unhappy with the service they receive from the VOA they can complain to the officer in charge and take this through the VOA The Complaints Procedure As already mentioned disabled people also have the right to take a case to county court (in England and Wales) or Sheriff Court (in Scotland) for injury to their feelings if they have been discriminated against.

Your responsibilities

You have a responsibility to ensure that:

  • Where a customer, who is disabled, identifies a particular need, you will do your utmost to meet that need.
  • you can communicate with and get information to visually or hearing impaired customers in a variety of formats
  • you do not make it unreasonably difficult for a customer to access your service or to get around the public areas
  • if your service is inaccessible, there are alternative ways of dealing with disabled customers
  • you do not ask a customer to supply documentary evidence which a disabled person might not be able to supply (for example a driving licence).

CEO (HR Diversity and Equality) will help you provide a good service to customers with disabilities.

The DDA guide Positive about Disabled People sets out:

  • Customer's needs
  • Employee’s responsibilities with case studies
  • Local Customer Service ‘Officers’ responsibilities with case studies

Special Services checklist

The following is a checklist of the services, which will help us to fulfil our obligation under the DDA. All offices should aim to meet these standards of service.

  • The Customers with Special Needs‘ section explains how to use, Braille, large print and audio cassette or CD ROM, formats to write letters to blind and partially sighted customers. All staff in day-to-day contact with customers should be aware of this guidance.
  • The Charter Statement is available in large print, audio and videocassette formats. Contact your Group Customer Service Manager to obtain a copy.
  • Any modernisation or refurbishment system should make provision for induction loop systems to amplify sound for hard of hearing customers. There should also be a private interview room which may help customers with hearing difficulties by providing a quieter environment. If a private interview room is not available a room elsewhere in the building should be made available.
  • Some customers may express the wish to communicate through British Sign Language (BSL). The DDA requires service providers to "take such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances of the case" to accommodate them.
  • If offices are not accessible to taxpayers with mobility problems alternative arrangements should be made. This might include having an interview room on the ground floor of your building or making a home visit.
  • Where refurbishment is being undertaken offices should ensure that access for disabled people is considered. Advice on how to make offices more accessible for disabled customers can be provided by Accommodation Officers.
  • You should aim to see all customers, whether or not they have a disability, who call at the office within 5 minutes.
  • If a customer, with disabilities, asks for a home visit by a member of staff and the matter cannot easily be dealt with over the telephone or in writing this service should be provided. Because of the nature of our work this can often be incorporated with our inspection of the property but in some circumstances it may be necessary to make an additional visit.
  • The person carrying out the visit should be sufficiently knowledgeable and experienced to provide the assistance required. Staff should follow the normal procedures and safeguards as when carrying out normal inspection duties. The customer should always be asked if he or she wishes to have a friend or relative in the home during the visit.

Also see ‘Customers with special needs’ section of this manual

Co-ordination

The DDA applies to both staff and customers. We recommend that Customer Service Managers and Accommodation Officers and our staff work together to ensure that knowledge and expertise about the needs of people with disabilities are shared.

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