It is now 9 years since the Disability Discrimination Act Part III came into force in 2004 laying out the rights of disabled people. And now in many cases it seems as if that legislation has been forgotten after the initial panic by businesses and the mass marketing by the suppliers of access equipment and access consultants. Suppliers were quick to bring out new products and heavily market existing ones: and quite rightly hat's what they do, find a market and promote heavily. Many Access Auditors wrote very detailed audits picking up minute detail that they listed as inaccessible and requiring an adjustment: and I feel they were often protecting themselves and not being practical, bringing extremely high costs with them. The Business was almost held to ransom with the Act being construed to suit. So many businesses just ignored he Act altogether. Others had audits carried out but took no action to implement the recommendations. Few were taken to court, most actions were settled out of court. I can recall carrying out an audit at a magistrates' court then being call as a witness by someone who could access the building to follow a particular case that was personal to them. And in most cases the Act died.
Now we have fallen into the pattern of new build being designed to comply with the Act and BSI 8300, which lays down and specifies accessible building features but many existing buildings remain inaccessible, although simple adjustments could be made that would make a huge difference.
Remember disability isn't confines to wheelchair users. In fact wheelchair users make up just a small percentage of disabled people. Remember, a disabled person as someone with "a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. This could be related to hearing or vision, learning difficulties, physical impairment that restricts movement or grip for example, shaking or involuntary movement and much more. The Act breaks disability down into 7 categories. And interestingly some disabilities may be brought on by specific circumstances, for example a shock such as a fire alarm sounding might bring on a hear condition or severe asthma.
If you are looking to employ someone who is disabled you might think about having a person audit carried out on their behalf. Or you may look to having a PEEP undertaken. This is a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan and is a requirement as part of your standard Emergency Evacuation Plan that every business must have for getting everybody out of the building if necessary, that's basically the emergency route signs you have around the building.
Good access for all does make sense, we are now in an age where equality reigns. Where disabled people are now looking for full lives and not spending their time at home. And in most cases access improvements are low cost and obvious. Its always best to ask any disable discuss access with disabled people as they are usually pragmatic and just want to get on with life.
I've been undertaking access audits for more than 10 years and have covered the UK. If you have a concern over accessibility in your business or employ disabled people contact me for advice at email@example.com