First Major Retailer being Sued

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Debenhams will become the first retailer to be sued under the Disability Discrimination Act for failing to improve physical access to goods and services within its Derby store.

Mr Jackson, a 43 year old wheelchair user is suing the retailer because he has been denied access to a section of the menswear department in the particular store, which can only be reached via steps. Mr Jackson commented :

“It’s unacceptable that Debenhams are refusing to make any adjustments for disabled people. Improvements to access the menswear section in the Derby store would be relatively cheap and simple to make. Instead, I’m in the embarrassing situation of having to ask for clothes to be brought down to me by a shop assistant, which means it’s impossible to browse properly and places pressure on me to buy. It also emphasises and draws attention to my impairment and so I feel like I’m being singled out because of my disability.”

The high street retailer has 123 stores in the UK and Ireland and annual profits last year totalling £300.5 million, have failed to make improvements to the menswear section in Derby despite several requests from Mr Jackson dating back from January 2004.

The Disability Rights Commission is supporting Mr Jackson in his case. Bert Massie, Chairman of the DRC said:

” An independant report for the DRC shows that some 20 Debenhams stores pose similar access barriers to those found in Derby. This is unacceptable. Debenhams has had many years to make these changes; yet, unlike their competitors, there is no centrally managed plan to make access improvements that would meet their legal duties. Instead they appear satisfied in doling out a second class service to disabled customers.

Buesinesses that make their services open to all are benefiting from fair access laws and from disabled shoppers who have a disposable income estimated at £80 billion a year. Bad access is bad for business.”