Making XXX Accessible

Standards and Procedures to Ensure that XXX Premises are Accessible to People with Disabilities

Andy Berry

andy@tof.co.uk

 

Standards and Procedures

What this Document is about

This document details the standards to be adhered to, and the procedures to be followed, to ensure that all properties used by XXX are made accessible.

The Aim

It is XXX’s aim to ensure that all premises used by XXX are fully accessible to people with disabilities. Where this is not achieved, for a particular part of a particular property, you must follow the exception handling and reporting procedures in Appendix III of this document.

You should note that the aim is for all premises (that is, offices and shops as well as locations where services are delivered) to be fully accessible (that is, accessible independently by a broad range of people with disabilities).

Who uses XXX’s Prmises?

Many people use premises occupied by XXX. Some spend most of their lives in them, some work in them and others just pop in from time to time.

Here’s a list of some groups of people:

You can’t just focus on one of these groups – premises must be accessible to everyone.

What ‘Accessible’ Means

Before you study the detailed requirements, you need a ‘gut-feeling’ as to what makes a building accessible. Just following the list of requirements may lead to a building that doesn’t feel right and is not truly accessible or occupier-friendly.

Don’t adopt a checklist mentality or consider just one group of people with disabilities. Just because you’ve provided a ramp with a shallower gradient than 1-in-15 doesn’t mean that you’ve got an accessible building.

Try and place yourself in the role of a user of the building – bearing in mind that you may just be visiting or spending your life in the building.

Take a tour around the building – asking yourself how a person with disabilities would access each area. Then, ask yourself what an occupier would do in a typical day and then imagine how a person with disabilities would do them.

Consider not just what they must do, but also what they may want to do.

For example:

Someone who works in an office may like to get out to the shops at lunchtime, make themselves tea or coffee, chat with colleagues and may smoke. They will need to use the toilet and may well need to move between offices or fetch stationery from the store cupboard.

Even better, seek the experience and expertise of people with disabilities as early as possible in the planning process.

An example of a ‘disabled toilet’ that may meet the regulations but is definitely not user- friendly is shown below:

Who should be Consulted?

Obviously, XXX staff who are disabled and our service users will be an invaluable source of information on what facilities they would like. Consultation with these groups of people should be regular and continuous.

Apart from these people, it may be worthwhile contacting some organisations with specialised knowledge of the needs of people with particular disabilities such as RNIB, Sense and Mind. Some other organisations such as CAE (Centre for Accessible Environments), Radar and RIBA have a special interest in accessible buildings.

However, a balance must be achieved between the need to find out best practise and the need to avoid a wide-ranging debate. It is probably a good idea to ask for literature and specific guidance.

Exceptions

There could be a temptation to save costs by not bringing all areas up to the same level of access for people with disabilities as the rest of the building.

You must always remember that this will only save money in the short-term since expensive modifications will be required as soon as a person with a disability requires access to an area with limited access.

If there are overriding reasons why a building should be used even though it is inaccessible (or even, partially inaccessible) you must follow the procedures outlined in Appendix III.

Leased or Owned?

You should seek to make all premises accessible whether they are owned by XXX or leased on short or long leases.

For properties on short leases, the cost of adaptation may be high relative to the benefit to XXX. In particular, you may be asked to reinstate the property at the conclusion of the lease to its previous non-accessible state. You must include these costs in any calculations of the lifetime cost of the lease.

With very short leases, you may find landlords reluctant to let XXX make any adaptations. If this happens, review whether the premises are needed or whether you can provide accessible accommodation elsewhere.

You should always consider:

  1. Although the case law is still developing, try arguing that unreasonable conditions by the landlord (such as the removal of fixtures and full reinstatement) breaches the DDA as they were only installed so you could give equal access.
  2. You could argue that the increasing demand for accessibility (partly as a result of the DDA) means that the premises will be more marketable if the adaptations are left in place. In some exceptional circumstance you may even be able to argue that adaptations have enhanced the value of the premises.
  3. If adaptations are funded by third parties (such as the Employment Service) always include the cost of reinstatement at the end of the lease in your estimate of the cost. Your aim should be that adaptations are fully funded over their entire lifetime.

A common problem seems to be that landlords argue that adaptations reduce the occupied area of the premises and thus their rental income. It seems that most landlords of shops are very sensitive to this. You should try and avoid negotiating higher rents to ‘compensate’ the landlord – instead you should remind them of the benefits in terms of marketability and compliance with the DDA.

Special Considerations

Recent experience has shown that the following issues need special consideration:

The Surrounding Environment

It is essential that the environment around any XXX building is safe, welcoming and as accessible as the premises itself.

As a minimum:

Other Issues

Although the aim is to make premises fully accessible, it is equally important that buildings "feel" like their intended use - and not institutions for people with disabilities. Achieving this compromise will not be easy but the principle of "everything should be usable by everybody - whether disabled or not" may help. You should always purchase ‘ordinary’ fixtures and fixings and definitely only install ‘hospital-type’ equipment where it is absolutely essential.

Remember that XXX has a responsibility to ensure that people using or visiting its premises are safe. You must ensure the premises complies with all Building Regulations and that all fixtures and fixings follow appropriate British and European Standards.

As essential as accessible premises are the following aspects of ensuring that people with disabilities can use buildings in safety and comfort:

 

Appendix I

Aspects of Accessible Premises

Types of Disability

Despite sentiments like "every person with a disability is an individual with different needs" it is possible to classify disabilities into groups. The classification that is most useful in this context is to look at the functional losses that disabled people have. Specifically:

Each of these groups needs different facilities in buildings. Fortunately, there are few conflicts between what each group needs - so a building that takes all the groups into account will be accessible to all.

Facilities for Disabled People

Facilities for Sensory Impairment

Facility

Features

Comments

Alarms

Visual (flashing lights) as well as auditory alarms.

 

Telephone System

Minicom compatible to all telephone points.

Light (when rung), amplifiers and hearing aid T-setting compatibility on all telephones.

 

Lifts

Braille lift buttons. Announcements of floor and door status.

Pay special attention to the timing of audible announcements.

Lighting

Bright non-glare lighting in all areas.

One way to accomplish a balance between costs of energy and the need for lighting is to install proximity detectors in little used areas. To be safe and effective, lighting controlled by detectors must be fast-start.

Colour Scheme

High contrast. Obvious difference in colour between walls and floors.

Dangerous areas highlighted and (where possible) protected by proximity alarms.

 

Signage

High contrast (for preference, yellow on black).

Clear typeface (such as Helevetta).

 

Layout

Consistent between floors.

No dead-end corridors.

Separate rooms in open plan areas for users of voice recognition systems and hands-free telephones.

 

Floors

Use tactile surfaces. Indicate staircase start and finish with identifiable surface.

 

Facilities for Intellectual Impairment

Facility

Features

Comments

Alarms

Large alarm buttons.

 

Layout

Simple paths through building.

 

Colour Scheme

Consistent use of colours. Each floor has a colour.

People with spatial difficulties find visual cues useful.

Signage

Simple language. Consistent use of colour.

Consider the use of Bliss symbols as logos.

Facilities for Mobility Impairment

Facility

Features

Comments

Toilets

Unisex toilets for people with disabilities on each floor.

Alarm buttons.

Toilet stalls wider than usual and doors to open outwards.

So that men can assist women and vice versa.

Lifts

Call buttons at correct height for wheelchair users. Sufficient space to turn wheelchair in lift.

Lifts must be usable in a fire or fire chairs must be provided.

 

Building Service Controls (thermostats, alarm panels, light switches, etc.)

All at a suitable height for wheelchair users.

 

Sockets (power, telephone, etc.)

All at a suitable height for wheelchair users.

 

Doors

All doors wide enough for wheelchairs. All doors should open both ways. Doors with closers should be capable of being locked open (with override from fire alarm). Door handles usable by wheelchair users.

Pay particular attention to avoiding heavy doors or ‘hard’ door closers.

Furniture

No sharp edges.

So that people who are unsteady will not injure themselves.

Layout

All corridors wide enough to allow two wheelchairs to pass. Sharp turns to be avoided.

 

Floors

Non-slip even if wet. Carpets to be compatible with the needs of those using walking aids.

 

Signage

All signs to be readable from wheelchair height.

 

Facilities for Other Impairments

Facility

Features

Comments

Toilets

At least one shower and bidet.

All taps must be easy to operate.

Install lever operated plugs in sinks.

For people who are incontinent.

Air Conditioning System

Capable of extracting dust, mites and humidifying the air.

For people with allergies and asthma.

Telephone System

All telephones capable of being used with headsets. Large button and hands-free (ideally, with hands-free dialling) telephones available.

For people with limited hand control.

Building Service Controls

Large, easy-to-set, controls.

 

Sockets (power, telephone, etc.)

Large, easy-to-grip, handles on all plugs. Possibly, fit sockets with large switches.

 

Doors

Large, easy-to-grip, door handles.

 

Staircases

Round (hand-sized) rails on both sides, extended below and above the start and finish of each staircase

 

 

APPENDIX II

Standards

As a minimum, you must comply with the accessibility standards laid down in the following documents:

All applicable Building Regulations (in particular, the latest release of Part M and local authority guides to building control)

All applicable British and European Standards (in particular, BS5619, BS4467, BS5776, BS6440)

All standards and guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (in particular, ‘Health and Safety in Residential Homes’)

All applicable guidance from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (in particular, ‘Accessible Thresholds in New Housing’)

‘Designing Lifetime Homes’ by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Publications of the Centre for Accessible Environments (in particular, ‘Designing for Accessibility’, ‘Access Audits’ and ‘House Adaptations’)

AND:

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 ‘DDA’ (and its associated codes of practise) says that you must not provide a lower level of service to people with disabilities. You must never expose XXX to risk of being held in breach of this Act.

 

Appendix III

Exception Handling and Reporting

Where you cannot ensure that a particular area of a building is accessible, you must follow the Exception Handling and Reporting procedure outlined below:

Review

Where you identify a problem with access, you must review the situation. You must consider what alternatives are available, their costs and benefits. At this stage, your objective should be to find a creative way round the problem, not look for justification.

Exception Reporting

If your review fails to identify a solution, you must complete an ‘Access Exception Form’. This has sections on:

Review by Senior Management

The Access Exception Form must be signed-off by a Director if the access problem means that an area of a building (or the complete building) is not accessible to people with disability. If the problem means that people with disability can use the building with assistance or by following a different route, then the Form may be signed-off by an Assistant Director.

Board Review

Every three months, a report summarising all access exceptions must be presented to the Board. Any common problems or trends must be noted and action to address these must be taken.