The latest stage of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 came into force on Friday, requiring service providers to take 'reasonable steps' to ensure that they can be used by disabled people .

Disability rights minister Margaret Hodge said it was important to remove barriers that stopped people participating fully in society. Later stages of the act, requiring physical changes to buildings and premises, will be implemented in 2004. A report prepared for the NHS Executive this summer warns that removing all such barriers in the NHS could cost£540m, although the cost will be halved if planned maintenance and programmes are drawn up to take account of the act.