It has been some time now that building regulations have been in place to make new buildings accessible to those with impaired hearing or sight, and those with limited mobility.
It is nearly a decade since the Disability Discrimination Act was enforced, which requires service providers to adjust their premises to eliminate features that may pose obstacles to disabled people.
Buildings are all different and situated in different environments, with different organizations within. This allows all of them to have their own distinct offerings, hence individual assessment will be necessary when accessibility is to be improved, John Newton, a partner at Tuffin Ferraby Taylor says.
Disabled access could be as simple as making use of different colors to aid those who are visually impaired. This will allow the individual to discern between the door and the wall. Reception desks could be lowered to allow wheelchair users to access it or the lighting and signage could be offered in a clearer manner. Building owners looking to improve access should give due consideration to what their goals are as unrealistic targets may never reach fruition.
It is wise to commence by consulting with an access consultant to do an audit and employ a professional project manager to handle the process. The skills required by this consultant include an understanding of the types of disabilities affecting those who make use of the building, along with building surveying knowledge to understand the costs and the feasibility of the requirements.
This can become a complex process as accessibility is not limited to wheelchair access. There are several disabilities that have to be considered and solutions found for their specific requirements and needs.
At a recent project completed at the regional headquarters of RNIB/CIB in Cardiff, the assessment included making it easy for use by visually impaired and blind people. Different colors were used, along with Braille signage and textured flooring. To make it easy for those with other disabilities, a passenger lift was installed to make it easy for wheelchair users.
This particular building is set to be used as an example for other organizations to indicate how accessibility in existing buildings can be improved and can be viewed by appointment.