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DHSS Improves Access 22 November 2004

The Department of Health and Social Security is taking the lead in ensuring compliance with aspects of the UK Disability Discrimination Act, in anticipation of its introduction on the Isle of Man next year.

The Department was the first Isle of Man Government Department to have a formal disabled access (building) audit programme in place.

The Department's disabled access improvement programme, in place since June 2000, seeks to assess each building for access using a comprehensive set of questions. Questions include an assessment of aspects of health and safety, floor surfaces, entrance and egress, lift suitability and directional signage. Following the assessment process, recommendations are made and graded in order of priority for action.

The Department has had a long-standing commitment to local groups representing customers with a disability. Working closely with representative groups over the years has resulted in a number of improvements to customer service, including the availability of main DHSS publications in large print and audiotape on request and an in-depth consultation process when planning Noble's Hospital, Braddan.

Minister Steve Rodan MHK said:

"The dignity of disabled people needs to be at the heart of providing any service. People with varying degrees of disability form a significant part of the population of the Isle of Man. Because of the nature of the Department's work a number of people with a disability will require our services and access to buildings. This pro-active, planned approach to measuring accessibility will give more confidence that buildings will stay accessible, though their layout and use may change over the years."

David Killip, Chief Executive Officer said:

"Access is not just about movement around buildings, it includes providing public information and services in ways that suit the needs of as many customers as possible; whether young, old, able bodied or with a disability. To truly provide the best service that we can, to the people of the Isle of Man, we need to consider the needs of all customers. By assessing access to and within our buildings, we aim to not only identify areas which may cause problems for customers with a disability but take the necessary action to ensure that all customers can access services easily and in a way that suits their particular needs. The audit process will ensure that the Department applies recognised accessibility standards to its buildings, whilst assuring the public of a commitment to those members of the community with a disability."

Jim Hoskisson, Disabled Access Officer and his team complete audits. The Access Office acts as a Liaison to ensure that the standards used are those that are accepted both here and in the UK as representing both the need to comply with Building Regulation Legislation and to ensure that Best Practice Options are highlighted.

The Department of Health and Social Security has 79 buildings in various locations across the Isle of Man. To date, over 40 properties have been assessed and reports, to include any recommendations, provided to managers. When considering whether physical improvements should be made to a building, groups need to consider what is 'reasonable'. Where the provision of information on audiotape or of a sign language interpreter would enable disabled persons to make use of a service, it is the duty of the provider of that service to take such steps, as it is reasonable in order to provide that service.

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