Appoint an Access Officer and Access Team

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Access Officers

Section 26 of the Disability Act 2005 says:

Each head of a public body […] shall authorise at least one of his or her officers (referred to in this act as “access officers”) to provide or arrange for and co-ordinate the provision of assistance and guidance to persons with disabilities in accessing its services.

Some public bodies appoint one access officer to help customers with disabilities to access their services, buildings, and information. Some public bodies appoint one access officer to help customers with disabilities to access their services, another access officer to help customers with disabilities to access their buildings, and another access officer to help customers with disabilities to access their information. Choose the model that best suits your customers’s needs and your staff’s expertise.

Section 26 (2) of the National Disability Authority’s Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies says:

Each public body is required to have at least one officer authorised to act in the capacity of “access officer”. That officer is responsible, where appropriate, for providing or arranging for and coordinating assistance and guidance to persons with disabilities accessing the services provided by that body.

A public body can achieve this by:

  • Considering the skills necessary for the role of access officer;
  • Considering how many officers are required in relation to the services provided by the body (the act requires at least one officer);
  • Authorising at least one officer to fulfil the role of access officer as defined in the act;
  • Ensuring that this officer is adequately trained and appraised of duties and responsibilities (it is important that training adequately equips the access officer to both:
    1. (a) deal with integration and access in the particular setting for which he or she is appointed and
    2. (b) devise and drive or support the implementation of strategies to address these matters where practicable and appropriate);
  • Ensuring that this officer can be made readily available to persons with disabilities wishing to access services provided by the public body and to staff requiring their advice and support;
  • Ensuring that this officer has regular contact with senior management and that he or she is adequately resourced and supported in his or her role;
  • Promoting the appointment and availability of access officer(s) and how they may be contacted, so that the general public is made aware of them and knows how to avail of their assistance.

Training

Access officers may need training to make sure that they know how to help customers with disabilities to access services, buildings, or information. Very few companies offer specific “access officer training” in Ireland. You should search the web for providers. The National Disability Authority do not recommend any private companies.

Access teams

An access team can help an organisation to improve the accessibility of its services, buildings, and information, by:

  • Consulting customers with disabilities
  • Identifying and prioritising the work that needs to be done to improve accessibility
  • Sharing what they learn about accessibility among themselves and with other staff

An effective access team will:

  • Include at least 1 member of staff from many sections of your organisation on the team
  • Include at least 1 member of staff who works with
    • services
    • Buildings
    • Information
  • Include at least 1 senior manager or director
  • Have regular meetings that follow an agenda and end with everybody knowing what they have to do and when they have to do it
  • Regularly consult customers with disabilities and disability groups, to make sure that their work is having maximum impact.

Tips for appointing an Access Officer and Access Team

  • Provide training for your Access Officer.
  • Include members of staff from a number of departments, functions, and levels of seniority on your Access Team.
  • Arrange regular meetings for your Access Team so they can share their knowledge.
  • Invite customers with disabilities and disability groups to meet your Access Team.