The 'rights for the disabled' Disability Discrimination Act is applauded by John Penton, and in his review of my book Designing for the Disabled: The New Paradigm (aj 18.12.97) he expresses disappointment with my dislike of it. His belief is that it will serve better than the Part M building regulation as a vehicle for making buildings accessible to disabled people, and in support of his case he imagines, it would seem, a stream of irritated disabled people taking building owners to court and common law being applied. A great strength of the dda, he supposes, would be its capacity to establish a body of acceptable practice by judgements being built up over time.
The dda is modelled directly on the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the letter from Gersil Kay of Philadelphia (aj 8.1.98.) is pertinent. The ada, he reports, has created unbelievable problems; without specific rules it is a nebulous creation that always gets interpreted differently; helpless buildings have been dreadfully treated on account of it, and it has been a bonanza for litigation lawyers. We are duly warned: without effective preventative measures, the dda will generate similar trouble in Britain. Regulatory control is essential, a reformulated Part M building regulation being in my view the only viable instrument. It would cover such alterations to existing buildings as had an accessibility component, and detailed proposals for its operation are set out in my book.