SKILL (the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities) was concerned to read that colleges were worried that the new Disability Rights in Education legislation might "affect classes run in venues such as village and church halls which may have access problems" ("Disability law could hit community venues", July 27). As Skill sees it, the purpose of the new legislation is to enhance access for disabled students and not to reduce it for all learners.
This is not a grey area. Venues which colleges rent such as village and church halls are already covered by Part 3 (Goods and Services) of the Disability Discrimination Act and therefore should already, in their own right, be beginning to address issues of physical access.
In order to ensure compliance with the new Disability Rights in Education legislation (Part 4 of the DDA), it would be appropriate for colleges to carry out an accessibility audit on the community venues they currently use. If some of the venues are not accessible and, in the same locality, there are venues to rent which are accessible, it would be expected that they would take the more accessible option.
In some instances, it might be the case that a particular venue they use is inaccessible but is the only site that could be used. In such instances, one would expect the college to put pressure on the owners of the venue to enhance its accessibility, but certainly not expect that the new legislation should be used as a reason for closing down the entire educational provision.
Liz Maudslay Policy director, Skill 4th floor, Chapter House London