Counting Cost of Easy Access; Laws to Reduce Discrimination against Disabled People Will Hit Businesses in the Pocket, Warns JOHN McEACHRAN

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WHILE its appeal to 21st century businesses may be fading, and many of its terraced buildings are reverting to homes, the West End is still very much one of Edinburgh's main business districts.

But these buildings, already thought by many to be unsuitable for offices, are set to have their problems magnified when the final parts of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 come into force from 2004.

The Act introduces new laws aimed at ending the discrimination that disabled people face. It gives them new rights of access to goods, facilities and services as well as in employment and in buying or renting property.

Derek King, of property agents DM Hall, said: "A series of measures have come into force since 1999. One, notably, requires providers of services - such as accountants, recruitment agencies and insurance brokers - to make reasonable adjustment for disabled people, including the provision of extra help, or making changes to the way they provide their services.

"From 2004, service businesses will have to consider making reasonable adjustments to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access.

"Unlike the employment provision of the DDA, there are no exemptions for providers of services on the basis of their size, so all businesses in the New Town and elsewhere will have to think hard about how they are going to comply with the regulations."

The guidelines to the Act dictate that if a physical feature of premises prevents a disabled person from using that service then the company must take reasonable steps by either altering the inaccessible feature or finding an alternative method of making the service accessible, to allow disabled people to use the service easily. …