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October 26, 2004

Thousands Face Court Action - Survey

From: Scotland on Sunday - Edinburgh,Scotland,UK - Oct 26, 2004

By Ben Pindar, Community Newswire

A major new survey published today by a national charity for the deaf has revealed that thousands of businesses across the country are under threat of court action under the new Disability Discrimination Act.

The Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) has carried out a nationwide review of small to medium-sized businesses and has discovered that a month after the new regulations came into force a staggering 75% firms have still not made any changes.

The findings mean thousands of businesses are at risk of court action under the new disability legislation which came into force on October 1.

Although 58% of businesses questioned were aware of the implications of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), an improvement on similar research carried out a year ago by RNID, few had taken any practical steps to accomodate deaf and hard of hearing customers using their services.

Dr John Low, RNID chief executive, said: "RNID expected to see small businesses make significant changes in order to meet the requirements of the new disability legislation.

"This research shows there is much that remains to be done to encourage small businesses to make the simple, cost-effective changes necessary to embrace the needs of disabled customers."

To help tackle the problem the RNID has launched a new scheme which will provide businesses with free deaf and disability awareness training and free fact sheets on how to comply with the new legislation.

The charity, which represents nine million people, is also empowering deaf and hard of hearing consumers by providing them with DDA Business Cards to hand out to those businesses they feel need a helping hand adjusting to their new duties.

More than 340,000 cards have been distributed so far, advising on simple deaf awareness techniques as well as directing businesses to free RNID information on how to comply with the DDA.

Stephen Alambritis, from the Federation of Small Businesses said: "Whilst there is high awareness amongst FSB membership, many more small businesses need to come up to speed on how to comply with the DDA.

"We welcome the way in which the RNID is tackling the problem and the DDA Business cards are particularly helpful."

The RNID say businesses can help deaf and hard of hearing people by installing a permanent induction loop for hearing aid users, supplying a pen and paper to help ease communication, reducing background noise, training staff in deaf awareness and by improving lighting to help lipreaders

For further information on products and services for deaf and hard of hearing people contact RNID's Information Line on 0808 808 0123 (freephone) or 0808 808 9000 (textphone) or email