Sunday, 14 February 2010

This controversy is not about access for the disabled

The forthcoming vote on whether to demolish those parts of the lift thusfar constructed is not about access to the Combination Room by the disabled. Whatever the outcome of the vote access to the Combination Room for those unable to use the stairs will be secured.

It is true, of course, that it is the University's obligations under the Disability Discrmination Act 1995 that led the Old Schools to decide to build the lift. But the Disability Discrmination Act does not require the University to build this lift in this place. The Act only requires (s. 21) the making of adjustments that are reasonable in all the circumstances of the case to secure access for the disabled. This leaves the University with a wide choice of methods whereby it complies with the Act. There are several alternative sites for the lift none of which are as intrusive as the one chosen. The wording of the Grace on which the Regent House will vote is as follows:

That all construction works for a lift into the Regent House Combination Room be removed and the building returned to its former state, and that the Council report, as soon as convenient, to the Regent House with proposals to secure reasonable access to the Combination Room and associated rooms for those unable to use the stairs.

So if the vote is carried the Council will be obliged to report on the alternative ways, equally convenient for those unable to use the stairs, in which access may be secured without despoiling the room. And one will be selected. Everyone is sensitive to the need to make good decisions about disabled access, but that is no reason to support bad ones.

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