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Design for all debate on wider remit for Part M

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Selwyn Goldsmith's article (AJ 15.3.01) deserved more followup than it has received to date, especially his suggestion that 'convenience for all' design might be more demanding than design 'for the disabled'. How far can we satisfy disparate user needs and capabilities without resorting to duplication or special arrangements? There is a real need for an ongoing debate and I hope the AJ has the stamina to sustain it rather than just running the occasional article.

To pick up on one of Goldsmith's points - as a fairly tall person I have no problems with lift buttons at 900-1,100mm high. What I do have problems with are lift buttons cunningly designed to merge with their surroundings, usually with useless engraved numerals, often aggravated by their placement in a corner and by poor lighting.

These points are all addressed in the new BS8300 and I could quote other examples, making it easier to open doors fitted with door closers for instance.

Of course, such sensible guidance is contained within a specialist standard and the usual platitudes about everyone benefiting are now exhausted.

One way out is to engage now with the current debate over the revision of Part M. There is, just, a more radical possibility than simply revising it to take account of the new Building Standard and to respond to the Disability Discrimination Act by including all work to existing buildings. This possibility is that Part M, over time, might be incorporated in other Parts, whether new, greatly expanded or existing, all concerned with convenience for all as well as with health and safety.

The crucial issue is that all users should benefit both from the universal aspects of BS8300 and from a similarly detailed approach to all the other aspects of convenience for all design.

Stephen Thorpe, Threshold Architects, Sudbury, Suffolk

Initial responses to Goldsmith's article are printed in last week's 'Chatroom' (AJ 12.4.01) and letters continue to come in on the issue of access standards. We will run additional comments on this in forthcoming issues of AJ - Ed

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