Make your buildings more accessible

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Audit your building

Get an accessibility expert to audit your building’s accessibility every 3 years, or more regularly if necessary. You could ask a colleague who is very familiar with one of these documents to audit your building's accessibility, or you could find an expert outside your organisation:

That will give you prioritised advice about accessibility problems in your building and practical advice on how to solve those problems. A good accessibility expert will often be able to suggest affordable solutions. The National Disability Authority’s Guidelines for Access Auditing of the Built Environment describes the structure of an access audit report that is comprehensive and useful. You can ask an accessibilty expert to use that structure for your report. As soon as possible after the audit, develop an implementation plan for addressing each issue that the report identifies, according to the issues’ priorities.

Develop an Access Handbook

The National Disability Authority’s Access Handbook Template defines an Access Handbook as an internal document for the use of management, maintenance personnel and new staff; and which all staff should be aware of. It says the purpose of an Access Handbook is to provide a simple way of listing and explaining the features and facilities of a building, which must be maintained and/or improved in order to ensure access for everyone. Develop and Access Handbook that includes:

  • Background information on accessibility
  • How to get to the building, including information about local public transport and its accessibility
  • Information about accessible facilities, such as:
    • lifts
    • Accessible toilets
    • Accessible parking spaces
  • Guidelines for accessible signage
  • Management responsibilities
  • A maintenance audit template
  • Evacuation plan for emergencies.

Staff who work in the relevant areas should refer to—and update—your Access Handbook while working.

Maintaining accessibility in buildings

Outside the building

Make sure that parking spaces for people with disabilities are accessible. Check:

  • That parking spaces and drop-off points are kept clear for people who need them
  • The surface and lighting around the building and on the paths that customers use to get to the building.
  • That the main entrance door is correctly designed, and that at least one entrance is accessible if the main entrance is not accessible.

Ramps and steps

If any public service areas have slopes that are steeper than 1:20, make sure that both steps and ramps are available, and that they are correctly designed.

Steps and lifts

Steps

Avoid putting steps within a floor in a building, where possible. Where steps are necessary, provide a ramp or platform lift as appropriate.

Lifts

Provide accessible lifts in all new buildings that have more than one floor.
Make sure that the lifts are designed to best practice guidelines.
Check the lifts’ operation regularly.
Keep the lifts clear.

Corridors and doors

Check that:

  • Corridors and routes are not obstructed by deliveries, machinery, or anything else
  • Doors are kept open where possible
  • Doors that are closed are easy for customers to open
  • Doors are wide enough for all customers.

Signs

Public buildings should have signs to let your customers understand where they need to go. The signs should:

  • Be designed according to best practice guidelines
  • Have Braille or raised lettering wherever possible
  • Have writing that is large enough for your customers to read
  • Use appropriate symbols
  • Not be ”home made“
  • Be placed where your customers will:
    • Be able to see them easily
    • Not walk into them.

Reception areas and waiting rooms

Public service reception areas and waiting rooms should be designed, and maintained, to best practice guidance.
Provide correctly designed seats. A mixture of types and sizes of seats is best. Some customers may need to use arm-rests, and some may find arm-rests awkward.
Provide an induction loop system in at least one accessible meeting room.

Intercoms, queuing systems, ticket offices, information desks

Consider how you will inform customers that they are next in line. Remember that some customers might not be able to:

  • Read visual information
  • Hear audio information or intercoms
  • Reach tickets or intercoms that are very high, very low, or awkward to reach
  • Understand complicated language or jargon.

Plan the location, output, and language of your intercoms, queuing systems, ticket offices, or information desks carefully.

If your intercom, queuing system, ticket office, or information desk is inaccessible to some of your customers, your staff can help by speaking—or giving written information—to customers.

Toilets

If you provide toilets for the public, provide toilets that customers with disabilities can use. Follow best practice guidance carefully.

Provide an alarm system in your accessible toilets, and test it regularly to make sure that a member of staff will help somebody in an emergency.

Make sure that accessible toilets are not used for storing cleaning equipment, deliveries, or anything else.

Provide sanitary bins in accessible toilets, and put them where they will not obstruct wheelchair users.

Interior design

Light

The light in your public buildings should be distributed evenly. There should be no large variations in lighting levels and the light should not be too bright or too dark. Avoid glossy, shiny and polished surface finishes and keep reflections, shadows, and glare to a minimum.

Visual contrast

Use differences in colour and colour intensity to create visual contrast. That will help customers with vision impairments to:

  • Distinguish between walls and floors
  • Distinguish between door backgrounds and fittings
  • Avoid hazards
  • Find their way around the building.

BS 8300:2009+A1:2010 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. Code of practice has information about visual contrast.


Tips for making your buildings accessible

  • Audit your building’s accessibility every 3 years.
  • After each audit, develop an implementation plan for addressing each issue that the report identifies
  • Create an Access Handbook, based on the NDA’s template.