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Goldsmith shows the way forward

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On reading Selwyn Goldsmith's latest book with excitement at its integrationistic, simple, logical and intensely practical approach to access in the built environment, I am at a loss to understand the stance adopted by Barrie Evans in his review (aj 20.11.97). He announces that Mr Goldsmith 'joins the universal-design camp' in a somewhat accusatory way as though this is to be deplored.

How can he object to a philosophy which advocates that legislation should provide access to all sectors of the population, including the physically disabled? Disabled people have long struggled against what they perceive as a segregationist view of them and their needs. The existing Part M perpetuates the divisive nature of 'special for-the-disabled' provision, and the dda sets the 'apartness' in tablets of stone.

In his book Mr Goldsmith, with unarguable clarity, recognises the immense commonality of the needs of the physically disabled, parents with children, the encumbered and all hampered or precluded from using public buildings by architecturally imposed obstacles. Although severely disabled himself, he recognises that all other groups of society have their access needs too, and his creed is that access provision should be all-embracing.

The current vogue for 'rights' for single-issue groups does only disservice to the 'beneficiaries' by virtue of the inherent and implicit barriers such separate 'rights' impose between them and the rest of the world. We need more coming together and less separation of groups whose interests are frequently in conflict.

Mr Goldsmith's line is that what will suit the generality of society will, according to his proposed norms, be inclusive of disabled people and not exclude them from being 'normal' by saddling them with the 'special' label. The Goldsmith path must be the future way for architects and legislators.



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