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Wednesday, 1 April

Disabled Access Recommendations - Government Responds

Accessible Building

It has taken the Government a little under a year to publish its response to the 'Building for Equality, Disability and the Built Environment' report produced in 2017 by the  Women and Equalities Committee (WEC).

The 2017 document highlighted the challenges facing disabled people in accessing homes, public spaces and other buildings. The overall consensus was that the Government must take action to lead the charge in improving access and inclusion in the built.

The government agrees and has detailed a number of provisions and tactics designed to address the issues raised. The Response says strategic leadership and greater coordination is needed across Government in order to join up the different parts of the jigsaw, including planning, the building regulations, the Equality Act, Disabled Facilities Grants, ways for disabled people to find accessible housing and facilities and the activities of other Government Departments, such as the Department for Transport.

 

Involve the disabled

The Government agrees also that it is important that this group makes use of external expertise and the experience and knowledge of disabled people and other stakeholders to ensure that it has identified key issues and effective solutions. To help monitor and review progress, therefore, the Government proposes to convene a panel of built environment experts, access experts and disabled people to seek their views and input.

The Response says: 'Engagement with disabled people is happening at the local level and there is good practice that shows what can be achieved when people are engaged meaningfully. However, all too often engagement is experienced as an afterthought or a mechanistic process with little effect on the outcome.

'Reliance on the minimum standards of the building regulations is not sufficient to secure an inclusive built environment.

'The model of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games shows what can be achieved when ambitions are set high - and British Standards provide a clear statement of what those ambitions should be'.

 

BS 8300:2018 Design of an Accessible and Inclusive Built Environment revised.

Recently, the BSI produced a revised standard which aims to give users of buildings an environment that works for as wide a range of people as possible – including disabled people, the elderly, and children.

BS 8300 now comes in two parts: Part 1: External environment – code of practice and Part 2: Buildings – code of practice. Part 1 primarily covers access in and around the external environment and the approaches to buildings; part 2 provides guidance on access within buildings, including the facilities that should be provided inside buildings. Both parts of BS 8300 supersede the 2009 version of this standard, which has been withdrawn.

Part 1 gives recommendations for the design of the external built environment, including the approaches to buildings, to accommodate as wide a range of users as possible. It is applicable to external features adjacent to a building, such as parking spaces, access routes, and the entrances to buildings. Other aspects of the external environment, such as street design, landscaping, and public facilities, are also covered by part 1 of this standard.

Part 2 gives recommendations for the design of buildings to accommodate users with the widest range of characteristics and capabilities. It is applicable to entrances to buildings, including outward opening doors and windows, and interiors of buildings such as entrances and reception facilities. 

In response to concerns that Part M of the Building Regs is not based on the latest BS8300 code of practice, the Government has confirmed that the BRAC (The Building Regulations Advisory Committee) is already reviewing the guidance as necessary, along with other key stakeholders such as the Department for Transport.

Further key points included clarification that planning guidance will be strengthened by the revised National Planning Policy Framework (due to be published in summer 2018), to include aspects of inclusivity, and greater support for expertise in inclusive design for planning departments, enabled through increased fees and the recent 20% uplift in actual planning application fees.

Picture: The standard for designing accessible buildings and facilities has been revised to be more inclusive

Article written by Brian Shillibeer

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