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ACCESSIBILITY Accessing improvements


The lack of access into commercial and public buildings is still a key issue affecting disabled people in the UK. Christian King of Kee Systems looks at the current regulations and explores how premises should be built or upgraded to improve disabled access


ccording to the ‘Facts and Figures 2018’ report published by The Papworth Trust on Disability, there are 13.3 million disabled people living in the UK, making up around 20 per cent of the overall population. The report also states that the most commonly reported accessibility difficulties for disabled people in accessing goods and public services are shopping (20 per cent), cinema, theatre and concerts (15 per cent) and pubs and restaurants (14 per cent).


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This was illustrated further in March, when a dispute between a restaurant owner in Cambridge and a disabled woman was settled outside of court after a step prevented her from entering the restaurant. The case was taken to court and the restaurant owner agreed to cover the woman’s expenses and provide a donation to a charity to acknowledge the distress that she experienced. The owner also – and more importantly – improved the wheelchair access to the building. This is just one of many examples of disabled people not being able to access public buildings.


Laws tackling the discrimination and inequality against disabled people in the UK have existed for a number of years. These regulations state that “reasonable steps” need to be taken to ensure disabled people are not at a disadvantage when accessing commercial and public buildings. However, it seems that buildings are still not being built or upgraded to meet the required standards.


What is reasonable will depend on all circumstances, including the cost of an adjustment, the potential benefit it might bring to visitors, the resources a client has, and how practical the changes are. The Equality Act 2010 requires that property owners must think ahead and take steps to address barriers that impede disabled people. Previously – under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) – adjustments to premises had to be made


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Architects should aim to have handrail systems installed from which children, the elderly, the disabled and even able- bodied adults can benefit


only where it would otherwise be ‘impossible or unreasonably difficult’ for a disabled person to access the property. Under the Equality Act, adjustments must be made where disabled people experience a “substantial disadvantage.”


A common solution can involve taking out physical structures like steps and replacing them with ramps, or simply providing handrails to aid wheelchair or other disabled users. In these cases, the precise obligations set out in ‘Building Regulation Approved Document M’ specify that handrail heights on all building


ADF MAY 2019


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