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Specific types of adjustments businesses should consider include: improving access routes; redecorating premises to provide better contrast to someone with a visual impairment; providing appropriate or additional training for staff who may come into contact with customers with disabilities; acquiring or using modified equipment, e.g. a telephone with text display for use by deaf customers.

“Don’t assume that the DDA doesn’t or won’t apply to you” is the message from the lawmakers but the rules are, however, open to a certain amount of interpretation. “The Act requires only that ‘reasonable’ steps should be taken to remove physical barriers to premises, or provide an alternative method of making the service accessible,” said Alyson Rose of the Disability Rights Commission. “Obviously it is not our aim to drive small companies out of business,” she explained. “We just want people to do what they can.

Naturally, we would expect a large, wealthy company like one of the London auction rooms or a big fair venue to take greater measures than the average antique shop.”

She stressed that investing in improved access and – more importantly – in customers’ needs, could pay big dividends. “There are 8.6 million disabled people in the UK, with an annual spending power of nearly £50bn,” Ms Rose said. “Not all disabilities are visible, and you may find many of your existing customers have special needs.

Dealers should talk to their customers to find out how they can best help them.”

One wheelchair-user dealer has added his support to the campaign: “As a disabled person myself and one of millions who will benefit from the changes, I hope this will not be seen as more bureaucracy for the sake of it,” he said. “Providing ramped access should not be too difficult for most people. That’s ‘reasonable’. It would be a pretty mean court which found a company guilty for not having lifts, hearing loops or braille catalogues etc.”
He added that he hoped most dealers would work with the new rules: “There is a strong economic argument for increasing your client base by providing accessible facilities, so I hope people make the necessary alterations within the spirit of the law and not because of a threat of litigation hanging over them.”

The DRC has a website dedicated to the new rules and their implications,