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The Equality Act 2010 – one decade later

On the 1st of October 2010 the Equality Act was passed. We take a look at its history and the impact it's had over the last 10 years.

The Equality Act legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination law with a single Act making the law easier to understand, removing inconsistencies, and strengthening protection in some situations.

The Equality Act covers the same groups that were protected by pre-existing equality legislation: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity. These are called “protected characteristics”.

Discrimination or unfair treatment on the basis of these protected characteristics is against the law in almost all cases. The act provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and promote equal opportunities for everyone. It clarifies what private, public and voluntary sectors must do to ensure that people with protected characteristics are not disadvantaged.

Of the nine protected characteristics, disability is the only one that may require physical changes to a building or environment to avoid discrimination. These changes are called “reasonable adjustments” and may require removing or finding ways to avoid physical barriers and ensure good access.

In a sports environment, clubs have a duty to ensure disabled fans can access their stadia and enjoy the game alongside non-disabled people with access to the same facilities and services. The duty is anticipatory, meaning that a club should expect and be prepared for disabled people to attend but furthermore it is an evolving duty where more specific, additional changes may be reasonably required.

Level Playing Field has been campaigning for better access for disabled fans for twenty years and we have seen significant improvements in that time. However, we must not be complacent and there is still a long way to go to ensure all stadia and facilities are fit for purpose and that policies and practices are fully inclusive.

The Equality Act 2010 simplified discrimination law but does not specify what “reasonable adjustments” are, and so Level Playing Field offers support and advice to clubs in an attempt to mitigate any legal action and ensure clubs answer the access requirements of their disabled fans and visitors as a part of their obligation under the Act.

Providing Access Audits, Design Appraisals, Staff Training and help writing Access Statements and policy and procedural documents are all ways in which we can support clubs towards becoming more inclusive.

Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995

Introduced legislation to outlaw discrimination against disabled people. The DDA was limited in scope and the duty to treat people equally was subject to a ‘reasonableness’ caveat. The definition of disability is based on the medical model. It covered Disability (Part I); Employment (Part II), Access to goods, facilities and services (Part III) came into force in 2004; Buying or renting land and property (Part IV), Education (Part IV), Public Transport (Part V).

National Association of Disabled Supporters (NADS) 1999

NADS was established by a group of volunteer disabled football fans who were unhappy with the disparity between disabled and non-disabled fans when they attended a game.

Disability equality – activists 2000

Disability Rights Commission (DRC) established.

BS8300: Code of Practice 2001

Covered both domestic and non-domestic buildings and their approaches. The recommendations contained within the document are primarily for application to new buildings; they can, however, be used as a guide in assessing the accessibility of existing buildings.

Accessible Stadia Guide 2003

Published by Sports Ground Safety Authority the document provides guidance and minimum standards to help sports grounds (football focused) be more accessible to disabled fans.

Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 2004

Deadline for when Part III – Access to goods, facilities and services had to be implemented.

The Building Regulations 2000 Approved Document M – Access to and use of buildings 2004

Came into force in May 2004 and further extended the provisions of the regulations. Subsequent versions reflected any changes arising as a result of the Building Regulations amendments.

Part M to the Building Regulations require that people, regardless of disability, age or gender are able to gain access to buildings and use their facilities, both as visitors and people who live or work in them.

The DDA Amendment Act 2005

Extended anti-discrimination protection to land transport, small employers and private clubs, extended the definition of disability and introduces a public duty to promote disabled people’s equality and ‘involve’ disabled people.

Disability Equality Duties for public sector bodies introduced through the Disability Discrimination Act 2005.

The DDA Amendment Act 2005

Recommendation 4.3 of the report says that by 2010 there should be a user-led organisation, (similar to the Centres for Independent Living) in every locality.

The Equality Act 2010

The Single Equality Act is passed by Parliament days before the general election. The Act outlaws direct or indirect discrimination and harassment in employment, vocational education and the provision of goods and services, for a total of nine protected characteristics including disability. It also outlawed discrimination because of association with a disabled person or because of the perception that someone is disabled.

Level Playing Field (LPF) 2011

NADS changed name to Level Playing Field to reflect the work it was now undertaking.

Public Sector Equality Duty Act (PSED) 2011

Required public authorities, in carrying out their functions, to have due regard toward the need to achieve the objectives set out under s149 of the Equality Act 2010 to: Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act 2010; advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it; and foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

Accessible Stadia Guide Supplementary Guidance 2015

A light touch update of the existing guidance. To include Changing Places, amenity and easy access seats and removing sensory barriers.

Premier League Pledge 2015

In September 2015, all clubs pledged voluntarily to meet the Accessible Stadia guidelines by their self-imposed deadline of August 2017.

Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) “State of Play: How Accessible is Your Club?” report 2017

EHRC wrote to all Premier League clubs at the end of 2016 to enquire about their facilities and services for disabled fans and published this report.

EHRC “State of Play: Progress on Premier League Clubs’ Accessibility” report 2018

Following two years of investigation into all Premier League clubs, the findings were published. The investigation resulted in the most significant improvements for disabled fans in the history of the Premier League. Significantly, all clubs promoted to the Premier League would now have two years to meet Accessible Stadia and all clubs have to appoint a Disability access Officer.

Accessible Stadia Guide 2020

A project led by Level Playing Field and in consultation with stakeholders is started to rewrite the document.