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More disability laws threaten architects

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Letters

Under the heading 'Delays to disabled access' (aj 10.9.98), you carried my report on the government's plans for implementing the access-to-buildings provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act.

The government's dominant concern, I suggested, was to placate militant disability activists; it wanted no barriers to be put in the way of their getting the access 'rights' they demanded, and relatedly it did not mind how alarming the outcome could be for building owners and their architects.

Kim Franklin's Legal Matters column (aj 26.11.98) confirms my fears, with a catalogue of some of the more dismaying effects that the Disability Discrimination Act threatens us with. And the prospect has become yet more disturbing. The Queen, in her 24 November speech to Parliament, announced that the government would in the coming session be introducing a bill to establish a Disability Rights Commission. Under its authority, disability activists will have complete control over the operation of the Disability Discrimination Act, including its access-to-buildings provisions.

Building owners and their architects will not, we may now assume, be allowed to know what they should do to keep on the right side of the law. The course that would have given them that right, the reformation of the Part M building regulation so that compliance with it was deemed to satisfy the Act's requirements, is not on the agenda. Gone now, it seems, is the trust that the government will act decently.

Does the government genuinely believe that what it apparently now plans to do is morally defensible? If it does, perhaps one of its ministers could write and tell us why.

SELWYN GOLDSMITH

London SW11

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