I do not have disabled access or a ramp outside my shop because there is only a one-and-a-half inch difference between the level of the pavement and my shop entrance.
If people need to come into the shop with pushchairs or buggies there is a quite a bit of space on the side to leave them there. There has never been a problem with people leaving them there. I know lots of other retailers who have adapted their shops for disabled access but I do not have any customers in wheelchairs at the moment.
If a disabled customer came into the shop I would definitely help them out 100%. I would help them in and assist them around the shop.
We do have two customers who use mobility chairs and others with sticks and Zimmer frames and we help them open the door and load shopping into their bags or baskets.
All of our shelves are easy to reach. The highest shelf is about five foot but I would help anyone who could not reach an item.
The expense of converting my shop and adding an access ramp outside is therefore not really worth it.
I'm not situated on a main road or in a city centre and I think that is where there would be more need for disabled access. My shop is off the main road in a residential area.
James Lowman - Director of public affairs, Association of Convenience Stores
The law says they have to take “reasonable” steps to make their business accessible to disabled people. It is also worth saying that retailers have a responsibility to make their business accessible, not just their premises.
A lot comes down to what is reasonable. If my net profits every year are, say, £10,000 and physical changes to my shop would cost me £20,000 it could be argued that they would not be reasonable. It can often be that small changes alone are needed. You may have to put in ramps or perhaps install door bells lower down. You might have to stand 10 yards away from your shop and think what changes could be made. It could be a question of looking at shop layout to allow wheelchairs to get around properly.
Of course, people sometimes think disability equals wheelchair, but that's not always the case. You might have to explain to staff how to help people with hearing problems, for example. Training is extremely important in this.
Most cases can come down to attitude on the part of staff rather than physical changes. Often not making an effort to help winds up disabled people and makes them much more likely to go to litigation.
The Disability Rights Commission is there to make the legislation work and would be the definitive organisation to go to for advice.
Agnes Fletcher - Disability Rights Commission, assistant director of communications
We have a national helpline regularly taking calls from people providing services for independent shopkeepers as much as from retailers themselves. We did also produce an authoritative guide to the requirements of the law.
Problems disabled people have when using a shop include negotiating their way round, which is just a question of proper stock management as much as anything else. But it's not just about physical mobility impairments. It could be a matter of looking at colour contrast in stores or providing communication aids or hearing loops for people with visual or auditory impairments, for example.
An access audit is a very good first step, providing a second pair of eyes to spot issues that would cause problems for disabled people.
Training plays a very important role. The attitude of staff to disabled people could make all the difference to them being able to use and wanting to use services.
Assistance dogs are vital for people with visual impairment. Barring these dogs or making it difficult for them to gain access to shops would be illegal and would constitute discrimination on the grounds of disability.
It is important to stress that the law does not say that Harrods and a corner shop have the same responsibilities to make adjustments for disabled people. The law spells out responsibilities on the basis of size, resources and nature of the retailer.