Life under lockdown ‘can be used to improve accessibility’

30th Mar

Ian Streets, managing director of About Access, said a slowdown or even shutdown of construction sites presented the ideal opportunity to review project plans and designs, particularly to ensure they meet accessibility regulations and guidance.
Ian, who is based in Anlaby, near Hull, and advises businesses and other organisations across the UK and internationally, said a downtime could also be used to review the accessibility of premises, products and services as part of a move to broaden the customer base.
He said: “The design principles apply to any development from a new apartment block to an office complex, a sports stadium to a retail and leisure centre, theatres and cinemas, historic buildings including their grounds, private and public car parks and public realm. The design should be checked in detail before it is – literally in some cases – set in stone, because the costs of remedial work can quickly become exorbitant.
“By acting sooner rather than later and by involving an accessibility consultant in the discussion with your architects and designers, you can improve access to and around your premises in readiness for a return to normal. Businesses can begin that recovery even when their doors are still closed.
“There is growing awareness of the opportunities to remain productive when many activities are at a standstill – remote training sessions for staff working from home, updating marketing materials in readiness to raise profile or contacting clients to provide reassurance ahead of a return to normality. Property, indoors and outdoors, should be included in that thinking, regardless of the business sector.”
Among the issues identified from design appraisals conducted by About Access in the past are plans for an education centre that didn’t include an accessible toilet and the creation of an emergency exit that was too narrow for wheelchair users.
Ian said: “In each case our findings helped clients to save money. We can also help a business examine the extent to which accessibility features in its strategic planning and show how to think at a higher level about providing services, and we can do all of that remotely.
“These are some of the issues that should be addressed by any business, not just to comply with the provisions of the Equality Act but also to make premises, products and services as accessible as possible. The current situation provides the perfect opportunity to act while sites are idle, and to enable contractors to get to work as soon as you are able to let them into your property rather than face further delays.”

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