Letter: Cost of legislation for the disabled

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article on the rights of people with disabilities ('Disabled 'under attack from Tory right wing' ', 31 August) covers some important ground, but fails to address properly the issue of the cost of a Disabled Persons Rights Bill. The Institute of Directors, and the Government, placed the highly emotive figure of pounds 17bn on implementation of Dr Roger Berry's private member's Bill. This figure is calculated by adding up the costs of providing access for disabled people to public transport, buildings, etc, if the alterations were made all at once all over the country, and included such things as replacing all railway rolling stock and putting text-telephones into every public phone box in the UK.

This method of calculating costs is flawed, because it fails to recognise that proposed legislation calls for gradual and reasonable accommodation of disabled people's requirements; no one is interested in placing an undue burden on businesses, or creating a backlash.

More importantly, there has not been analysis of the benefit to the economy of ending the exclusion of millions of disabled people. For example, when the US Attorney Robert Mather visited Britain to lecture on the Americans with Disabilities Act, he described it as 'pro-business'. In the US, small businesses have discovered that installing a text-telephone for deaf people can lead to increased orders and business because their services or products are accessible to that segment of the market. There has not been an undue burden on business, and nor has there been a rash of litigation under the Act.

The opponents of comparable legislation in Britain base their objections on inflated costs of achieving total access for disabled people overnight. Surely it is better to begin the process slowly and surely, rather than put it off indefinitely.

Yours faithfully,

STUART ETHERINGTON

Chief Executive

Royal National Institute

for Deaf People

London, WC1

31 August

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