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Disabled Access

Debenhams confirms commitment to making problem older stores accessible for disabled people

Debenhams has signed a formal agreement with the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) to provide disabled access in all its retail stores in England.

The formal agreement commits Debenhams to have in place suitable means for disabled customers to access previously inaccessible mezzanine floor areas in its stores within three months from the date of the agreement (July 25th 2006). Debenhams will deliver a written report to the DRC on the measures it has implemented.

It follows the legal action taken against Debenhams by Greg Jackson, a 43-year old wheelchair user, in July 2005. Mr Jackson had been denied access to the mezzanine section of the menswear department in its Derby store which could only be reached via a set of steps. His case was supported by the DRC.

This represents the first formal agreement undertaken by a major retailer since the introduction of Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in October 2004.

Mr Jackson commented on the new agreement:

"I'm very happy today because now I can visit my local store to buy clothes and receive the same service as other shoppers. 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."

Bert Massie, Chairman of the DRC, said:

"The formal agreement signed by Debenhams to resolve Mr Jackson's case is very important because it underlines the extent of the responsibilities for large retailers regarding what is reasonable under the requirements of the DDA. Debenhams now has a centrally managed action plan to provide independent access in all of its stores in England where disabled people, including Mr Jackson, experience difficulty getting up to mezzanine floor levels. This sends a strong signal to all high street retailers that it's unacceptable to provide a second class service for disabled people. We are not second class citizens."

A Debenhams' spokesperson said:

"We have today confirmed in a statement to the Disability Rights Commission Debenhams' continuing commitment to providing disabled access to products situated on all floors in its stores throughout the country.

In particular Debenhams has provided access platforms to the mezzanine floors in its Derby store and will resolve all issues of accessing mezzanine floors for its disabled customers in a further 17 stores with similar access issues at a cost of more than £300,000".

County Court proceedings issued by Mr Greg Jackson (represented by the Disability Rights Commission) will not now be pursued.