Major Store Chain Heads Off Discrimination Prosecution
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 24, 2006
DERBY, ENGLAND--A major department store chain has avoided becoming the first business to face criminal prosecution under the Disability Discrimination Act for failing to be accessible to shoppers with disabilities.
According to a statement released Tuesday by the Disability Rights Commission, Debenhams has agreed to spend about £300 million ($550 million US) in the next few years to improve access at its 18 retail stores in England. In particular, it will make its mezzanine floor areas accessible to wheelchair users by the 3rd of October.
"I'm very happy today because now I can visit my local store to buy clothes and receive the same service as other shoppers," said Greg Jackson, 44, who filed the initial complaint against Debenhams in July of 2005. "That is all that I wanted and by using the DDA and with this agreement it is what all disabled people can expect in future."
Jackson issued the complaint after what he claimed were several unsuccessful attempts over 18 months to have the Derby store operators make its menswear department accessible to him and other wheelchair users. He said at the time that he was often in the "embarrassing situation" of having to ask store personnel to bring clothes down to him. He also said he felt like he was being singled out because the experience drew attention to his disability.
Debenhams' agreement with DRC is the first of its kind since the most recent provisions of the law went into effect in October 2004. The agreement keeps the retail giant from having to face a lengthy criminal investigation and potential prosecution.
Debenhams has 123 stores in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
"Debenhams confirms commitment to making problem older stores accessible for disabled people" (Disability Rights Commission)