In 2010, a new Equality Act came into force that brought together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single act. This act maintains the duties previously imposed by the Disability Discrimination Acts of 1995 and 2005, for which non-compliance can incur serious consequences. Whether planning to build a new commercial property, or take over or extend an existing one, you must ensure that you meet your obligations under the act, by being aware of any physical accessibility restrictions, and your legal responsibility. An access audit, carried out by professional chartered surveyors, could offer you advice and management solutions to improve the access to your building, making sure you are completely compliant with the legislation. Below, we’ve created a guide to help you gain a better understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act and access audits…
What is the Disability Discrimination Act?
When the Disability Discrimination Act came into force, it made it illegal to discriminate against a disabled person, whether this be in employment, transport, education or service provision, for reasons related to their disability. It requires employers, education providers and service providers to make necessary adjustments to adhere to their needs and avoid discrimination. The Equality Act covers the disability discrimination, as well as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and age discrimination.
How is the act enforced?
There is actually no local authority or government officer to enforce this legislation, which is relatively unusual, but, should a disabled person or other individual find that you are discriminating against disabled people, they can choose to bring civil action against you, or your organisation. This could not only cause your company to incur a large fine, but could also damage its reputation.
What does an access audit do?
An access audit is an assessment of a building or an environment against best practice standards to evaluate its accessibility for disabled people. At Bradley-Mason LLP, the focus of any access audit we carry out is not simply to recommend the optimum changes, but rather to avoid unnecessary expensive changes whilst still meeting the needs of your staff and visitors. It is not always possible to make large changes to a property. For example if a property is listed, or there are structural obstacles to consider, or if changes are so dramatic that they come with a prohibitive cost. We base our access audits on what is required by the Equality Act and what is reasonable for you to do.
What does an access audit cover?
Before an access audit begins, we will need to determine how the Equality Act applies to you, as it can vary slightly between employers, education providers and service providers. Proceeding with your audit, we will travel the ‘journey’ of a disabled user around your commercial property, covering the approach and car parking, entrances, corridors, lifts/stairs, etc. Depending on what your property is used for, we will assess all areas of access. For each issue we find, that must be amended to fulfil the requirements of the act, we will provide photographic evidence and recommendations on how you can correct the problem.
At Bradley-Mason LLP, we understand that when taking on a commercial property, there is a lot you must consider, which is why we recommend expert project management, and offer our services, to help make your job easier. We can consult where applicable in your built asset, not only in access audits, but in many other areas of construction too. For more information on the services we can offer, explore the website, or contact a member of the team, today.