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Law to include access for people with disabilities

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Minister for Disabled People Maria Eagle said that too many people had been unnecessarily excluded from too many services for too long.

"This Government believes in an inclusive society where everyone has the right to participate fully," Maria Eagle said.

"These regulations will ensure that disabled people have access to many services from which they have been unfairly excluded for far too long. Businesses have no need to be apprehensive about the changes. They will have to do only what is reasonable."

Service providers such as shops, restaurants, hairdressers, banks, local authorities and government departments will have to make reasonable adjustments to overcome physical barriers that continue to make access to their services impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people from October 2004.

The Minister for Disabled People reassured business that making the changes makes sense.

"There are over 8.5 million disabled people in the UK, with an estimated collective spending power in excess of £45 billion a year. It makes good economic sense as well as being right to attract as many of these customers as possible by improving access to services," she said.

The new rights build on the duty service providers currently have to make "reasonable adjustments" to the way they provide services.

A revised Code of Practice to be published by the Disability Rights Commission will explain the new duties and advise businesses and other service providers how to improve the way they serve disabled customers.

Bert Massie, Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission, said, "There are 8.5 million disabled people in the UK who are often excluded from participating in society because of the lack of access. A visit to the doctor or dentist, the shops, pubs or leisure facilities can be fraught with difficulty and, for some, impossible.

"These new rights will not only mean that disabled people can enjoy many of the freedoms and independence that non-disabled people take for granted, they will have a positive benefit for all – for older people, the parent with the pushchair to someone carrying heavy shopping. The DRC is here to offer help and advice for businesses and service providers so that they are ready for 2004."

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