It is to be hoped that the Disability Discrimination Act will produce the desired results of sensible and sensitive integration for all. To expect sudden results has to be optimistic.
In the early Seventies I was involved in the selection of products for exhibitions on equipment for people with disabilities at the Scottish Hospital Centre. The range and selection of products I encountered was remarkable. Few if any would have been chosen for their appearance, nor many for their performance. Most were provided by established suppliers to the healthcare industry or by charities doing their best.
In an attempt to provide worthwhile information we spent time sourcing products suitable for a wide range of disabilities available on the open retail market. We came up with a collection of products for domestic use that then met many of our criteria.
This was a long time ago, but while there are improved provisions in public places for certain disability groups, attitudes, I suspect, have not changed. Taps, door-handles, plugs, cooker controls and so on are still difficult for the fit and healthy to use – how many people can really read and understand their central heating controls, or tune a radiator thermostat?
I fully realise that the Disability Discrimination Act relates to the workspace, but I suspect that it will take more than legislation to change attitudes, be they of employers, designers, and in some cases, people with disabilities themselves.
Gerrard & Medd