23/11/2012

A Chat with Access All Areas

We recently had the pleasure of talking to a professional disabled access audit company, Access All Areas. These guys were established in 2003 before the DDA was introduced and well before it changed over to the Equality Act, so they know their business and were happy to answer a few questions that I have had for many years about accessibility. 

Access All Areas is run by a wheelchair user of 35+ years, they have an extremely impressive client list that includes The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Department Of Trade And Industry, BP, Royal Ballet School, Capital One etc. We collared their main guy and asked the following questions: 

What has happened to the DDA and is it still applicable now we have the Equality Act 2010? 

Access All Areas LogoOK, this has confused many people, basically what has happened is the DDA also known as the Disability Discrimination Act has been included within the Equality Act but also deals with racial, sexual, age discrimination etc. the full requirements of the DDA has been carried forward and still apply 100%, basically it's just a name change.

What is reasonable adjustment and how does this work? 

Access All Areas LogoThat's probably one of the most common questions concerning access for disabled people under the requirements of the DDA/Equality Act. Basically it is looking at what official regulations such as Building Regulations Part M and British Standards 8300 recommend and making a "reasonable adjustment" between those regulations and what is viable and suitable for the business concerned. Example is that something like a reception desk that does not have a hearing induction loop would be expected to install one relatively quickly, however a reception desk that does not comply with two heights for wheelchair users, those of a small stature and the people standing would be expected to replace this at the next regular maintenance period, mainly because of the costs involved. Reasonable adjustment also depends on available finances.  

That answers that nicely, thanks. Another one if you don't mind; are you finding companies actually want to improve access for disabled people or are they doing it just because of regulations? 

Access All Areas LogoOn the whole most companies come to us because they want to make their buildings and services they provide more accessible, however I can't pretend that there isn't a small percentage that ask us to undertake an access audit because they are concerned about disability discrimination and the possibility of a claim from a disabled staff member or visitor. Sometimes companies think of an access audit as a sort of insurance policy to protect them from paying out a small fortune in the event of a discrimination claim.

Ok, to finish what is the funniest or wackiest situation you've come across in your nine years of business? 

Access All Areas LogoOhh that's a tough one and is taxing on the memory as well as trying to pick a good one. One that does spring to mind was a very large government body that asked us to undertake a full access audit of their London office location and to include the personal working environment needs of a blind staff member. 

We completed the audit site visit and then sat down with the blind guy to go through any issues that he wanted to raise, he raised a few that were very viable and concerned him and we addressed these to his satisfaction. However just as we were leaving I asked the question "is there anything else that is an issue or bothering you"? He replied, well yes; when I come into work on a rainy day my guide dog gets wet and other staff members complained that he smells, what can I do about it?

I really didn't know what to say but I am a" call a spade a spade" type of guy and replied to the following.

What the hell is wrong with these people? You travel across London using a dog for your eyes, avoiding all sorts of objects and dealing with public transport and all manner of hazards and you have to rely on your dog to make sure that you avoid them, you then get into work and all that certain people can say is “your dog smells”

My final reply was  "Tough” if they are really that narrowminded your boss really should insist that they receive disability awareness training. We included that recommendation and stated the above in their report. 

Many thanks, Access All Areas provide first-class cost-effective and very sensible access audit services, they can be contacted by clicking any of the highlighted links placed conveniently in this article.

You can also find  a number of accessibility sites inside Ableize directory by clicking disabled access.

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