ABTA has said it is “disappointed” with members’
lack of knowledge about the Disability Discrimination Act which
comes into force next month.

Newman Street denied it had failed to educate agents properly on
the new legislation, which means retailers who fail to act could
face paying tens of thousands of pounds in compensation to disabled
people.

In a straw poll of 20 agents conducted by Travel Weekly,
retailers were asked what date the act comes into force, what it
means and what the consequences are if they fail to adapt to
legislation.

Just six out of 20 agents knew the act comes into force on
October 1, and six knew the act requires them to make “reasonable”
adjustments to their shops to ensure disabled people can have
access to their facilities and services. But, more worryingly, only
two knew they could be sued if they did not make the adjustments to
premises as required by the act.

ABTA head of consumer affairs Keith Richards said agents’
lack of knowledge was “not a comforting thing”, but said they had
been informed through information packs, mailouts and seminars as
far back as five years ago.

“Until a new law actually comes in, the tendency is to put off
acting upon obligations – by which time it’s often too
late.”

He added changes were not necessarily costly and agents could
get help from local disability groups.

“Over the summer months agents may have been in survivor mode
and the requirements of the act were not top of the agenda –
but they must be now,” he said.

Further guidance is available from disability compliance
consultant In Your Stride.

There are 10 million disabled people in the UK with a spending
power of £48 billion, according to director Chris Grace.

“There are practical business benefits to making the changes
– it is not just catering to a small section of the
population,” he said.

A manual for the hospitality industry costs £45 and is
available from the website inyourstride.com or
tourismforall.org.uk.