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Thursday, August 06, 2015

It's still an Issue

When the Disability Discrimination Act was announced hundreds of Access Consultants suddenly appeared and major Companies felt the fear of not complying. Consultants were pulled in and audits carried out resulting in huge reports with minute detail of barriers and other hurdles that needed adjusting to increase access.

Now most architects have taken the access issue on board when designing new buildings, mainly because they have to show it has been a consideration in new build and have had to provide an access statement.

It is strange, however, that many didn't include any consulting with disabled people to see what they needed or in fact wanted. The very group that the legislation was aimed at to improve their access and indeed quality of social life. Unfortunately the result has been mixed. Many organisations have taken steps to implement some recommendations, a few have implemented everything but many have taken no action at all. In fact I recall calling on a store that was part of a national chain and talking to the manager to see if they had ben audited. His answer was "We aren't going to bother. If we are sued then we will make changes before getting to court" And that seems to have been a common reaction.

So has the whole issue died away and disabled people are putting up with bad access? I think in general that access is "so so" but certainly not good. In buildings with front steps many Companies bought ramps but I've seen many gathering dust in cupboards. Users generally shie away from these barriers and just go elsewhere if they can. Some have told me its too much bother that they will just get on with life.

But is this good enough? Shouldn't we still be looking at existing buildings and seeing what can be done. Much involves little or no cost, maybe a new procedure. And if adjustments cannot be made at a reasonable cost then alternatives can be introduced. Although there is a legal obligation isn't this equally a moral issue? Shouldn't we be looking after everyone in our society.

If you feel an access audit would help you and would increase the footfall in your business call me. I work pragmatically and always consult with disabled users wherever possible. Sometimes access can be improved with a bit of imagination and creativity.