By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of
Constructing Excellence in the North East
There’s been a lot of focus on
inclusivity and diversity in terms of the construction workforce, but when it
comes to creating inclusive and accessible buildings, it’s down to the industry
to make sure this happens.
Developers, designers and
owners of buildings have a responsibility to ensure that the built environment
is accessible to everyone. This includes:
• Wheelchair users, people with walking difficulties
• Pushchairs and children
• People with sight or hearing impairments
• Elderly people
• People with co-ordination or respiratory problems
There is a lot to consider
when designing a building; energy efficiency, materials, costs etc are all huge
factors but they must also consider whether it will be comfortable for the end
users. Despite a strong framework of legislation and standards, we still don’t
always get it right. I don’t think the error is on purpose, it’s just a case of
not everyone understanding what is required.
Construction clients are not
always up to date with current legislation, often asking for the project or scheme
to be Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant, when the DDA hasn’t existed
for a number of years. These days, buildings and projects need to adhere to the
Equality Act 2010. There’s no one size fits all approach to equality, but the
Equality Act 2010 is about reasonable provision of access and means different
things when applied to different situations. Therefore the finished project
needs to meet the needs of the future user to be compliant.
Part M of the Buildings
Regulations, Access to and Use of Buildings, sets out legal minimum
requirements for works to buildings or new buildings. Whereas previous versions
of the Regulations focused on the specific needs of people with disabilities,
the current edition promotes an approach to inclusive design that reflects the
needs of all people. It’s the absolute minimum that we should be adhering too
and while many think it restricts design and imagination, I would have to
disagree. As long as you’re meeting at least, the minimum standards, with a
little imagination we can still go a long way.
Network Rail has a specific
Built Environment Accessibility Panel, to ensure their building works, stations
and amenities across the country are as inclusive as possible. The panel of experts,
at least half of whom have disabilities, work as volunteers with Network Rail
to assess and plan accessible places. The idea is a good one and one that I
think our industry would benefit from. Everything requires a little quality
control and when the end result is such an important one, I think it would be
definitely worth the time and effort.
For more information
on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive,
Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.