An expert in accessibility is urging people involved in the design and construction of the built environment to play their part in a major review of the British Standard which applies to buildings and their surrounding areas.
Ian Streets, Managing Director of Anlaby-based About Access, said the overhaul of BS 8300 presents a big opportunity for people to influence the guidance. The consultation period runs until 13 August this year and the updated standard is expected to take effect early in 2018 – with a long wait until the next review.
Given that a review only takes place around every five years and the last was in 2009, you face a long wait if you miss this opportunity.
BS 8300 applies to a wide range of properties including commercial buildings, transport centres, schools and other educational establishments, health facilities, religious buildings, entertainment and leisure complexes and more.
It covers such internal features as doors, floor patterns, lighting levels, design of steps and stairs, width and gradients of ramps and space requirements for wheelchairs and electric scooters.
External features reviewed as part of the consultation include parking spaces, bus stops and shelters, setting down and picking up points and charging point for electric vehicles.
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 which can demonstrate adherence to the accessibility standards set by BS8300 will be on more solid ground that one which cannot.
Ian added that the references to electric scooters and charging points for electric vehicles demonstrate the need to carry out reviews. As an expert in the accessibility sector he has been invited to make recommendations for the external environment, and he is urging people to submit their own comments at the BSI Group website.
He said: “The consultation process is aimed at the owners and operators of buildings, disability groups, industry, other access professionals, users and their families, anyone who is interested in the built environment and accessibility.
“The review reflects the fact that the world is changing. There are new ideas, new technologies and new methods of construction as well as research that has taken place since the last review. All of this can help us when it comes to making the built environment more accessible.
“Putting disability to one side, improved accessibility matters because it helps our ageing population. People should plan ahead and recognise that something which is not relevant now may become relevant during the lifetime of this version of BS 8300.”
The draft which has gone out for consultation underlines the importance of addressing accessibility at the design stage of a project and recommends that regular checks are made before the handover of a place or space.
It states: “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.
Creating an accessible and inclusive environment is integral to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
Ian added: “The chance to influence any changes is now. BS8300 influences a great deal of design work. It is for refurbishments as well as new-build and it should be shaped by people taking a broad view of a building and its surrounds. When it comes to auditing buildings for accessibility, it is one of the benchmarks that is used.
“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. Things which we class as hidden impairments, and which demand a certain type of foresight from the earliest stage of the design process.”
The draft can be reviewed at https://drafts.bsigroup.com/