Accessibility Audits | The Context
Accessibility audits play a key role in promoting equality and inclusion in the modern public environment.
Access for those with disabilities is more than just the physical environment. It includes how we communicate, how we behave and how we treat disabled people.
Accessibility Audits | Learn More
What is an Accessibility Audit?
An accessibility audit is a means of assessing features of an environment (building or external area) and services in terms of accessibility. Although now well established, access audits remain an evolving concept and may mean different things to different people.
When conducting an access audit, disability access consultants can assess whether the environment and method of service delivery meet the needs of existing and potential users.
It is also a process through which potential barriers to access may be identified, alongside suggested improvements. in a way that enables people responsible for a site, building or service to move on to the next step of planning and implementing change.
Are Accessibility Audits valuable?
The purpose of an accessibility audit is to establish how well a building performs in relation to access and ease of use by a wide range of potential users, including people with mobility, cognitive and sensory impairments.
Accessibility audits are valuable for the following reasons:
- To identify necessary adjustments in the service provided to disabled customers to meet the requirements of current provisions of the Equality Act 2010, the Disability Discrimination Act/DDA), BS8300, and Part M of the Building Regulations.
- As the first “reasonable step” to disabled access indicated in legislation, in recognising the possible obstacles, and devising solutions, to avoid possible litigation by way of providing a worse or experience /service to a disabled customer.
- To consider existing management and organisation of a building and its services, to help achieve maximum accessibility.
- As part of a future Access Action Plan, enabling incorporation of reasonable adjustments on future refurbishment, regular maintenance and budget planning for substantial capital costs.
- To help gain consent for alterations, extensions and new builds in compliance with Part M of the Building Regulations.
- To assist application for Lottery, National Heritage and other public funding.
Accessibility Audits | What to Audit
The elements covered in an access audit depend on the type and nature of the environment. It goes without saying, buildings and their sites vary significantly, and therefore no two audits will be the same.
With that said, there are common themes to what will be surveyed during an accessibility audits. Let’s look at just some of them briefly:
Websites and Online Services
Nowadays, there are very few organisations that do not have an online presence of some kind. Many provide services or functionality for purchases, bookings etc. on via their website.
The way websites are designed and structured can significantly affect accessibility. Website accessibility audits may form a standalone aspect of a project, depending on the nature of the organisation.
In any case, it is usually highly valuable to align your site with best practice guidance as part of an accessibility audit.
Pre-visit & Use Information
Publicity and marketing materials that provide information about your business should be made accessible to all users. This information may be electronic or in printed form, and is usually one of first pieces of relevant information for your building or service.
Where the information is integral to building/site use and relating to wayfinding, an accessibility audit should cover it.
Depending on the nature of the site involved, the availability of public transport links may need to be considered.
For example, the proximity of bus, tram & rail set-down points and suitability of the associated access routes should be evaluated as part of the accessibility audit.
Providing suitable cark parking spaces in close proximity to building access is a key aspect for the external environment.
In venues such as visitor attractions, leisure and entertainment venues, the provision of spaces for larger vehicles may also be relevant. Detailed aspects such as surfacing, signage, gradients and lighting would be an important elements of suitable parking provision.
To access buildings and associated site features, path routes from external spaces provide an essential function. It’s important to understand the common routes of travel for all users of the building and/or site.
An accessibility audit should cover all features of a pedestrian route network, to include the overall layout, gradients, level changes, path widths, rest areas, surfacing, lighting and signage/wayfinding.
A key aspect of the pedestrian routes is the use of external ramps and steps. Accessiblity audits should include a detailed review of the dimensions and configuration of these critical features.
Entrances and Exits
The location, design and accessibility of entrances and exits should be audited as part of a thorough accessibility audit. As with most features of accessibility audits, there is usually much more to an entrance or exit than meets the eye.
Elements such as facade design, call points, surfaces, door types, thresholds, use of glazing and physical dimensions all come into play. Any of the aforementioned aspects can have a dramatic impact on the user should be subject to assessment.
The design, size and position of doors is another integral part of accessibility audits.
This includes the suitability of handles, locks and other door furniture, which all influence the usability of each door and heavily influence the overall accessibility of the building.
Horizontal & Vertical Circulation
When we talk about horizontal and vertical circulation, we are looking t the main layout of corridors, passageways, aisles and lobbies.
Of course, it also includes the movement of people ‘vetically’. In other words, the upwards and downwards movement via ramps, steps, lifts and platforms.
Toilets and Sanitary Facilities
The toilets and any associated sanitaryor changing facilities should be included in an access audit. Due to the nature of use for these areas, there are very prescriptive standards that are typically used as the benchmark for an audit.
Again, the devil is in the detail here. What may seem like a small variation relating to a sink, toilet, transfer space, alert system etc., may translate into a considerable impact on user experience.
Even if the applicable design standards have been for adhered to, there are usually necessary changes/improvements that can be identified in the course of an audit.
Wayfinding & Signs
These are all essential components that contribute to the accessibility of a site or building. The purpose of an effective wayfinding system is to help orientate visitors and allow ease of navigation throughout the site, by means of guidance systems and signage.
Features to be considered in the design of such systems include location, communication methods (audio, visual, touch), with all key user types to be considered.
Means of Escape
The means and route of escape from a site or building in an emergency e.g. fire, is equally (if not more) important as the route of entry and should be evaluated in an accessibility audit.
Aspects to consider include the suitability of alarm systems, accessibility of exit routes and evacuation procedures.
We can’t cover all of the areas that we would look at in this post, but as you can hopefully see, an accessibility audit can be quite a complex process. If you would like to find out more about how Safeti can help you carry out an effective audit for your business, just drop us a message via the live Chat Tool or leave us a note using the contact form below.