Equality body calls on retailers to do more for disabled customers during corona crisis
The retail sector is being told to take swift action to ensure that disabled people are not left unable to shop for food and essentials during the coronavirus crisis.
In an open letter, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has told the British Retail Consortium (BRC) that it is dissatisfied with the response to its original letter, highlighting concerns that a large number of disabled people in the UK, who fall outside the government’s high risk groups, are facing additional barriers to essential shopping.
The EHRC has outlined the BRC’s failure to acknowledge the legal obligations on retailers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. It also reveals it is reviewing over 300 claims against major supermarkets, collated by Fry Law, for failure to consider the needs of disabled people and make adjustments to allow people to shop for essentials.
Claims include a wheelchair user who was refused support in reaching items placed on high shelves; and visually impaired customers who have been refused the support of a sighted guide.
Other common issues include inaccessible websites and long-queues which can cause problems for people with mobility issues and chronic pain conditions.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:
“We have all been inspired and moved by the kindness displayed during the pandemic by friends and strangers. But disabled people have the right to live independently, and that includes shopping for food and essentials. Otherwise, too many people will fall through the gap. The extraordinary challenges facing the retail sector do not negate its legal duty to consider the needs of disabled people and make small, reasonable changes to accommodate everyone fairly.
“We look forward to hearing more from the BRC and will continue to consider how best to use our legal powers to address this pressing issue.”
The EHRC is Britain’s national equality body which safeguards and enforces the laws that protect people’s rights to fairness, dignity and respect. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, it has been working hard to uphold the nation’s shared values of justice, freedom and compassion and is committed to championing the rights of the most disadvantaged in society during and after this time of national emergency.
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