July 24, 2014

Disabled access law – the effects on farmers

Photo credit: Amanda Slater https://www.flickr.com/photos/pikerslanefarm/

The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal to discriminate on disability and imposes duties to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people have access to the same services and opportunities as everybody else.

The impact of the Equality Act on farmers will depend on the specific circumstances of their farm, in particular on the extent of the access that members of the public have on the farm. This will affect any adjustments needed (if at all) a farmer will have to make to comply with the provision of the Act.

Examples of how this could affect a farm

• Farm shop

If a farmer provides services to the general public, e.g. runs a farm shop on the farm, they must make adjustments to make sure that everyone, including disabled people, can have access to the services they offer. What the farmer will be required to do will vary according to a number of factors, including the size of the enterprise and its resources. Reasonable adjustments can include changes to a physical feature (e.g. installing a ramp to access a building where stairs used to be) or provision of aids to assist those with sight or hearing impairments.

• Rights of way

If the farmer doesn't provide any services to the general public but there are public rights of way crossing the farm, the farmer should review the access and routes of the public footpaths and consider whether any improvements are needed. There is no obligation to remove or replace existing and functioning structures. However, farmers have a general responsibility to maintain the structures serving public rights of way in good condition. If when maintaining these rights of way, any structures (gates, styles etc.) need replacing, all the new structures will have to comply with the Act to allow access by all.

• Working farm with no public services or rights of way

In this case as the farm is not open to the public and there are no public rights of way over the land there may be no obligations at all under the Act.

The duty to provide reasonable adjustments is not absolute and might have to be balanced with other obligations, such as that to ensure that access gates are secure and cannot allow livestock to escape (as this might lead to liability for the farmer).

If you would like more advice on how to make sure your farm, business or land comply with the Equality Act 2010 or would like to speak to our team on any other farming matter email [email protected] or call 0800 027 2276.

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