Small store owners have been praised by Disability Direct for their efforts in complying with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The praise comes after high street retailer Debenhams became the first trader to be sued under the Act, which came into force in October 2004, for failing to improve physical access at one of its stores in Derbyshire.

Greg Jackson, a 43-year-old wheelchair user, is suing the retailer because he has been denied access to a section of its menswear department by a set of stairs and was felt embarrassed when he was forced to ask store staff to bring him clothes down from that section.

The consumer has received support from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and the independent organisation

Disability Direct, which called the company’s actions unacceptable and highlighted the work of small businesses in complying with the Act.

Disability Direct chief executive Amarjit Raju said: “From the amount of complaints we have received it seems to be the bigger stores which have failed to comply with the law, while smaller companies appear to be making much more of an effort to improve access.”

Under part 3 of the DDA all service providers must alter, adapt or remove physical barriers that make it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to receive fair treatment.

In a statement Debenhams said: “We’re looking again at the issues raised, and will continue to work with groups like the DRC to resolve them satisfactorily.”