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20 March, 2007

Don't disable

The iconic red Routemaster London buses are still running after fifty years, though they've been withdrawn from service on all but a couple of 'heritage' routes in Central London, mainly for tourists.  As the BBC reports, certain people would like them to be banned outright, as they're incompatible with accessibility legislation.

I disagree; I don't believe special needs legislation should be abused to impose a lowest common denominator on everyone. I don't believe all TV broadcasting should be 'family friendly' just in case a child is watching (that's the parents' responsibility), and I don't believe national design icons should be banned because a relative minority can't use them. Should the Tower of London be torn down because it has steps?

I'm certainly not saying provision for the disabled should be neglected, but that can't be reasonably alleged here: a small number of Routemasters serve sections of two routes in addition to the normal low floor, wheelchair-accessible buses. There is a slight risk that the first bus to arrive at a given moment (only on those two specific routes) won't be accessible to all, but the next one will be.

Accessibility legislation is about improving quality of life for the disabled, and I fully support that (daily – I am a web designer, after all), but not by deliberately diminishing the quality of life of those without disabilities.

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