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Has disability lobby gone too far?

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Political correctness and natural human sympathy seem to have prevented anyone from taking a critical look at the broader issues of proposed legislation in respect of disabled access in domestic dwellings. Perhaps, to redress the balance, I could make a few points:

Public buildings by their nature are for all. Therefore it is reasonable that, where possible, they are constructed to give easy access to everyone.

Private domestic dwellings are an entirely different matter. Democracy is - though in these days of pressure groups it seems to have been forgotten - majority rule. This legislation seeks to impose design and construction requirements or limit choices within the private home, which for the vast majority of the population is entirely unnecessary, on the basis that at some time a person with disabilities which totally prevent them from rising from their wheelchair - in any case a small percentage of the proportion of the officially disabled - may visit the house unaccompanied, or wish to purchase it and live alone.

I have owned three houses over 25 years and as a fact, not discrimination or prejudice, have never been visited by anyone with this condition. This probably applies to the majority of households. I have a change of level in my living room for spatial and design reasons, and 610mm bathroom and cloakroom doors because the planning is very tight. Under new legislation I understand that neither of these would be permitted.

The consequences of this legislation are unquantified. Already a volume house builder has predicted the legislation will add about £1000 to the building cost of his homes, and so for economic reasons, he will no longer build small one- and two-person starter dwellings. That is hardly in the wider interests of young people and new households.

Inconvenience, discomfort and limited freedom are not the lot of only the officially disabled. As we all know, ergonomics and the Metric Handbook are designed for the 'average' man and woman, of whom there are comparatively few. I am 1.95m (nearly 6'5') tall. There is not a theatre and few cinemas where I can sit other than at an angle in an aisle seat. Beds are not long enough, cars are cramped, stylish shoes don't come in size 12, work surfaces and basins are too low; I bump my head on the doors and beams of old buildings, and social intercourse at parties is uncomfortable - and when a teenager acutely embarrassing - because females tend to be very much smaller and prefer Pierce Brosnan lookalikes who are about 5'11'. That's life.

Over the years, Selwyn Goldsmith and his colleagues have done pioneering and valuable work, but like all one-issue campaigners don't seem to know when the reasonable begins to become the unreasonable and the demand for rights for a 'disadvantaged' minority group actually begins seriously to infringe the rights and liberties of the majority and produce unforeseen and highly undesirable consequences.

Where does the riba stand on this matter?


Newton, Cambridge

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