Access to the Built Environment
What is the "built environment"?
The built environment covers not only buildings, but also other parts of the environment such as;
- The routes between buildings
- Pedestrianised shopping precincts
- Concourses (large open areas / squares)
- Pavements and footpaths (street furniture – lampposts/street lighting)
- Man-made elements in the countryside (all categories of footpath / highway and associated gates; styles; bridges etc.)
- Open urban spaces, like Cardiff Bay area or Swansea Marina (called the "public realm")
- Historic buildings or monuments
- Temporary structures, like outdoor events or concerts
- Public parks and gardens
- Transport links and infrastructure
What affect does it have?
Disabled and non-disabled peoples’ lives are affected by the built environment in a number of ways, sometimes without even realising, it affects everything we do. If the built environment is inaccessible this leads to the creation of access barriers in carrying out everyday activities. For example barriers encountered when going to the shops, staying at a hotel or when using a nature trail path. Access barriers exclude disabled people from becoming fully inclusive members of society.
Both external and internal access must be well thought-out along when creating an access barrier free built environment. Internal concourses such as lobbies must be given the same attention as the more obvious door entry into the building. Planners/designers must be aware of this before undertaking new building projects.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act replaced the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in October 2010. The new Act coverage is similar to the DDA but this Act has been significantly extended. The Equality Act provides rights for people not to be directly discriminated against or harassed because they have an association with a disabled person. This can apply to a carer or parent of a disabled person. In addition, people must not be directly discriminated against or harassed because they are wrongly perceived to be disabled.
The Act requires public bodies to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people. It also allows the Government to set minimum standards so that disabled people can use public services more easily.
Meeting the duties of the Equalifty Act is not the same thing as adopting the social model.
The introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995/2005 has improved access to the built environment to some degree, although the speed of change has been slow. There is a still a long way to go until we have a fully inclusive accessible environment for disabled people on par with their non-disabled peers. This is something that the Equlaity Act 2010 will build upon.
Highlighting the importance of disabled access at the start of the planning process is vital. Thinking about access early in the planning process saves planners and designers considerable time, effort and money in the long term. Rectifying access barriers caused by poorly designed buildings costs a considerable sum of money, especially when projects are near completion or are already completed.
If planners and designers have foresight and are able to understand their disability equality duty, their legal responsibilities and access barriers from the outset, disabled access would be factored in financially from the start. Any unexpected expenses associated with access would be kept to a minimum.
For more information on the Equality Act
- Direct.gov.uk http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/RightsAndObligations/DisabilityRights/DG_4001068
- Equality and Human Rights Commission http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/legal-and-policy/equality-act/
Public Sector Equality duties
The public sector equality duties are unique pieces of equality legislation. They give public bodies, including further and higher education institutions legal responsibilities to demonstrate that they are taking action on equality in policymaking, the delivery of services and public sector employment.
For more information: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/guidance-for-education-providers-further-and-higher-education/public-sector-equality-duties/
Building Standards BS8300
This British Standard does not apply to dwellings or residential buildings designed exclusively for use by disabled people nor does it make specific recommendations relating to the use of buildings by children.
For further information about the building standards, please see:
- British Standards Institute http://www.bsigroup.com/Standards-and-Publications/Committee-Members/Construction-committee-members-area/Overview-of-BS-8300/?id=158920
- Purchase you own copy: www.bsigroup.com/BS8300
Part M Building Regulations
Building regulations are statutory instruments that seek to ensure that the policies set out in the relevant legislation are carried out. Building regulations approval is required for most building work in the UK.
For more information about building regulations, please see:
- Disabled Access http://www.disabledaccess.co.uk/Access_Requirements/partm.htm
- Panning Portal http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/england/professionals/buildingregs/technicalguidance/bcapproveddocumentslist/
Design and Access Statements
Design and Access statements have been a mandatory requirement in Wales since 30th June 2009. A Design and Access statement is separate from a planning application. Legislation requires Design and Access statements to accompany all planning applications (outline and full).
For more information please see:
Welsh Assembly Government
Town and Country Planning (Amendment) (Wales) Order 2009