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The 'disability lobby' still has a way to go

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Your correspondent Christopher Maguire has missed the point in his letter about the so-called disability lobby (AJ 15.1.98).

Regulations of all sorts 'impose' performance criteria on the design of homes such as sound insulation, thermal insulation, hygiene and even glazing. These requirements apply regardless of any majority objection because they are in the long-term interests of home owners and government alike.

The same is the case with the proposed access requirements.

One in four households has a disabled member, usually someone elderly. The elderly as a proportion of households are increasing. The consequences of this demographic change are not lost on the government. The cost of aids and adaptations to alter housing not suited to the disabled or elderly occupants exceeds £350 million each year - over half the cost of the Millennium Dome! Add to this the disruption, waiting time and wasted organisational resources, and most would agree that this situation is unsustainable.

The cost of designing accessibility into homes at the outset is nothing in a quality home, but might be £1000 in a very small one. Perhaps that's why very small homes are to be exempted. The advantages of accessible homes will extend to a wide range of occupants, including younger children, pregnant mothers and elderly people - not just wheelchair users.

The role of architects is more properly to take on these new requirements as a design challenge rather than to rail against them. I hope the RIBA agrees.

DR DAVID BONNETT RIBA access consultant SUSAN SCOTT-PARKER Chief executive, Employers Forum on Disability.

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