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Chambers housed in the Inns of Court are struggling to comply with new laws introduced last month which govern the treatment of disabled people.
The new laws, which form part of the Disability DiscriminationAct1995 (DDA), mean employers and service providers are now required to treat disabled people identically to able-bodied people or face litigation.
The legislation applies equally to those providing a service from a listed building, such as barristers in the Inns of Court. Such providers have to get planning permission in order to make necessary changes, but cannot use the fact that their building is listed to avoid fulfilling requirements.
MajorGeneralDavid Jenkins, the under-treasurer for Grays Inn, which owns four squares around Holborn, said: [The proposed changes] are going to cause us great difficulties. I have a management committee meeting soon at which Im going to ask for a new lift [at the Inns main office] and seek to open discussions with English Heritage and Camden Council [about the impact of the legislation].
English Heritage recently produced new guidance on improving access to historic buildings, providing suggestions for owners to allow disabled entry without damaging the buildings fabric.
Robin Allen QC, joint head of Cloisters Chambers and specialadvisertothe Disability Rights Commission, said of the new legislation: There will for certain be litigation. A lot of people have had their heads in the sand for a long time about it.
Any business that provides a service to the disabled must now make reasonable adjustments to allow full physical access. If a business fails to do so, the disabled person inconvenienced can claim for breach of the DDA.
The laws are the final stage of implementation of the DDA,whichhasbeen introduced gradually over the past eight years.