DCAN 11(Draft): Access for all - Designing for an Accessible Environment
4.0 Access Audits and Action Plans
4.1 Following the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) many businesses and organisations are now undertaking access audits and developing strategies to implement access improvements.
4.2 Undertaking a comprehensive access audit and using this information to prepare an Access Action Plan, will greatly assist in implementing the aims of the DDA.
4.3 An access audit is the first step in planning for the necessary ‘reasonable adjustments’ that an employer or service provider may need to make in relation to their DDA duties. It is more cost-effective to gain an overview of the barriers to and within a building, before beginning to implement access improvements.
An access audit is a means of examining an existing building and/or an area of the built environment, together with its services and the way it is used against predetermined criteria designed to measure its accessibility and ease of use by people with disabilities.
4.4 The process begins a systematic appraisal of a building measured against an agreed set of standards, such as those outlined in British Standard BS 8300: 2001: “Design of Buildings and their Approaches to meet the Needs of Disabled People”.
4.5 An effective access audit should involve a thorough survey of the building. Key issues to be addressed in the audit will be the use of the building, the location and mode of entry of the building, circulation within it, and escape from it. Other issues such as maintenance programmes and management procedures (for instance Health and Safety, and Means of Escape procedures) should also be considered. Staff and other users of the building, including people with disabilities ought to be consulted.
4.6 The audit should include not only assessment of the internal features of buildings, but also their external surroundings, and facilities for car parking and pedestrian routes. Public art or street furniture require the same consideration for access as other external features; for example colour contrast and tactile or non-slip surfaces.
4.7 To be effective the audit should embrace the needs of all disabled people and use the appropriate ‘best picture’ standards for its assessment.
4.8 It is important that the access audit is undertaken by people who have an understanding of the needs of all disabled people and where possible a knowledge of construction (see paragraphs 4.11 – 4.13).
Access Action Plan
4.9 The results of the audit will provide the information for an Access Action Plan to be developed. The plan will prioritise improvements and indicate where they might be included as part of routine maintenance and repairs. It should be viewed as a working document and it can act as a record of all ‘reasonable adjustments’ undertaken.
4.10 A comprehensive Action Plan will also take account of the need for staff training, to raise awareness and challenge stereotypical assumptions; and the need to review policies, practices and procedures which, along with physical barriers, can discriminate against people with disabilities.
4.11 Disability Action operates a comprehensive audit service, and through its Disability Access Officers can provide technical advice, information and training for the preparation of Access Action Plans. Further information on the services provided by Disability Action is available at www.disabilityaction.org
4.12 The National Register of Access Consultants is another resource for building owners and managers, which provides, free of charge, a database of reputable access auditors and consultants. Further information is available at www.nrac.org.uk
4.13 Some local access groups also carry out access audits further details can be obtained from Disability Action (see Annex A).