When you think of a person with diability, do you automatically think of a wheelchair user?
The answer is likely to be yes because our perception of disability is influenced by the wheelchair sign which is used to indicate disability in all areas of public access. Traditional thinking has therefore revolved around the needs of wheelchair users.
Many people still believe that accessibility stops at the provision of ramps and accessible WC’s. These perceptions are not helpful to other groups with disability including those with physical, hearing or sight impairments which affects their mobility or use of a building.
According to ‘Disability in Great Britain’, published by the Department of Social Security in 1999, there are an estimated 8,582,200 disabled in Britain, about 15% of the population. About 72 % of this group have a ‘locomotion’ disability, 23% a ‘seeing’ disability and 32% a ‘hearing’ disability. Of the high number of disabled persons with a ‘locomotion’ disability most are not in wheelchairs. Wheelchair users account for only about 9 % of this group.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 stated that where there is a physical feature that makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to make use of a service, service providers will have to take reasonable steps to remove, alter or avoid it if the service cannot be provided by a reasonable alternative method.
This legislation has been superceeded by The Equality Act 2010. It is the responsibility of any building owner, user or service provider to ensure that the building is accessible to all individuals with disability and that reasonable adjustments have been made.
At Elevate Consulting Ltd we recommend that the first step in understanding access for the persons with disability is to undertake an access audit.
If you were responsible for providing disabled access advice to the owner of a 5 person lift would it be as simple as:
We at Elevate Consulting have developed a risk assessment and rating approach to these types of situations. By fully assessing all the deficiencies each building can be given an access rating. This rating can then be used to prioritise any necessary improvements.
An example of the practical approach we would take at Elevate Consulting is to recognise that the normal average size of a wheelchair is approximately 1250 mm. With this knowledge our access audit rating for wheelchair bound users may indicate that some older lifts, with a capacity less than 8 persons, may provide a reasonable level of access.
With 5.6 million people (excluding wheelchair users) who have an ambulant difficulty, that is with a reduced ability to walk, negotiate steps, reach, grip or stand, relatively low cost improvements can be made. For example strategically placed handrails can improve access.
Currently over 50% of disabled people are aged over 65 and the gross number of older people with disability is predicted to increase by 11% by 2031.
The elderly are increasingly more mobile due to the use of powered mobility scooters. They may be living in sheltered or wardened accommodation on several levels. An access audit from Elevate Consulting in this case, would highlight the fact that a normally acceptable 8 person capacity lift would not be adequate for many of these scooters which can be as large as 1600mm long.
This is a particularly important consideration when designing ‘future proof’ accessibility for the elderly persons with disability in new buildings.
When you think of the persons with disability, do you now automatically think of a wheelchair user or do you consider all the disability groups?
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