Up until 1995, it is safe to say that the law in Britain did nothing to protect disabled people against discrimination. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was revolutionary in that it was meant to make it illegal to discriminate based on one’s disability. However, disabled people either cannot afford or do not want the headache of taking a company to court so discrimination just continues. I have lost count of how many shops/cinemas/bars/theme parks that have been guilty of not making “reasonable adjustments” and I just end up having to accept that the idea of total equality is a fantasy.
The main problem with the DDA and it’s successor, the Equality Act 2010, is that there are numerous loopholes or ‘excuses’ that can be used so that a company can discriminate without technically breaking the law. For example, the age of a building was often given as a reason for inaccessibility, which is difficult to argue with. Especially as I live in a historic roman City and quite a few of the buildings are listed (protected by English Heritage). This means that an adaptation such as the installation of a lift is not permitted under any circumstances. Fair enough.
However, there is no legitimate excuse for a brand new building not to be fully accessible. I will use a couple of local leisure centres to illustrate my point. One was opened in 2012, shortly after the London Paralympics. The other has only been open for a month. Both should be able to cater for disabled customers and on the surface they do but not all of the facilities are accessible. It’s like saying that all new build houses are disabled friendly just because there is no step in the front door and completely disregarding other needs such as an accessible bathroom. Oh wait, some people actually think that.
At Westminster Lodge, I can get down to the Hydrotherapy Pool via a lift but there is no way of me using it. Surely, this should have been thought of back when it was designed. There’s a similar issue with the new Batchwood Sports Centre. There is a lift to take me up to the gym but no accessible machines. A distinct lack of thought and consideration was again evident. All I am asking is when an architect draws up the plans for a new building, they take into account disability because there is simply no excuse for inaccessibility nowadays.