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Departments: Disabled

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 15 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer of 30 October 2007, Official Report, column 1316W, what reasonable adjustments the Department has made in accordance with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, broken down by building; what each such adjustment cost; and if he will make a statement. (163914)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has carried out all the reasonable adjustments to our UK premises identified as required to meet the needs of the disabled under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995. However, given that the many individual adjustments formed part of general programmes of building upkeep, and that 19 years has elapsed since the Act was passed, the level of detail requested by the hon. Member could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The whole of the FCO’s UK estate has been assessed for ease of accessibility in relation to disabled users. The assessments recommended a number of reasonable adjustments, which have been carried out over the last 12 years. These include voice announcements and Braille/raised buttons in lifts, converting goods elevators to passenger use, installing wheelchair lifts, providing portable ramps, stairwalkers and evacuation chairs. We have moved kitchen equipment and lowered counter tops in tea points where necessary and provided vibrating pagers linked to fire alarm systems or security guards. Other examples of changes made include specialist furniture, new signage, replacement floor surfaces for easier access and contrasting strips on step edges, and adjusting working hours of disabled staff.

Overseas, posts are aware of the principles of the DDA and have been instructed to review disabled access, make information about accessibility available, and where possible make improvements. Where access is limited, posts seek alternative ways of providing accessible services.

We work closely with the FCO disabled persons’ representatives and when local circumstances change we conduct further assessments.