Property developers urged to consider accessibility

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 19 Mar 2018

PROPERTY developers and designers are being urged to look again at accessibility following the publication of updated guidance aimed at making buildings more disability inclusive. 

The new British Standard (BS 8300) applies to a wide range of commercial and administrative buildings and gives guidance on features ranging from steps and handrails to toilets and car parks. 

The document recommends rather than requires, but an accessibility expert based in East Yorkshire warned that it should not be ignored.

Ian Streets, managing director of About Access, said: “The provisions of BS 8300 are purely for guidance and there are no penalties for failure to adopt them. But, in the event of a claim for discrimination, a business that can demonstrate adherence to BS 8300 will be on more solid ground than one which cannot.

“The proactive way to look at the document, and the view which is being adopted increasingly, is that improvements to accessibility are a good thing. 

“They make your premises easier for all people to visit and, if you’re a business, that will generally mean more customers spending more money.

“The spending power of disabled people and their companions is known as the ‘purple pound’ and, in 2017, it was calculated at £249bn per annum. If disabled customers can’t park in a suitable space they will spend their money elsewhere and the businesses which cannot accommodate them will lose out.” 

Part one looks at the external environment in greater detail than before. For example, different types of street furniture, increased information for way-finding signage and directions for which routes are accessible and step-free. 

Its guidance may apply to permanent visitor attractions and temporary external events, public art space, refreshment areas, water features, trees, planting and soft landscaping. 

Part two includes guidance on internal features such as how handrails start and finish, the position of nosings on steps and the gradient of ramps.

The guidance surrounding accessible bedrooms in hotels has been amended and student accommodation has now been added. Another key area that has been addresses is parking. 

The document recommends that larger developments offer a range of parking spaces for a variety of specific uses, such as separate parent/guardian and child parking and larger bays for vehicles including camper vans, minibuses and cars with caravans or trailers. 

It also suggests that the use of designated accessible spaces should be monitored regularly by the provider of the parking to limit misuse by non-disabled motorists. 

Mr Streets: “Everyone, including disabled and older people with particular access requirements, should be able to access and use a building, place or space easily, comfortably and independently, including being able to escape in the event of fire or other emergency.

“BS8300 influences a great deal of design work. It is for refurbishments as well as new-build and is one of the benchmarks that is used when it comes to auditing buildings for accessibility. When looking at accessibility, you should not just consider the needs of wheelchair users. There are people with other impairments – people who are partially sighted and blind, who have hearing impairments, cognitive impairments or poor manual dexterity.”

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