While accounting for the access needs of people with disabilities is not a new requirement for businesses, it’s an issue that has gained significant momentum more recently since the full implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act. Mobility manager for UK mobility and maintenance specialist, Pickerings, Mick van der Stock explores the issue.
Despite the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) regulations, it seems that there’s still a lack of awareness from business owners as to which types of organisation fall within its scope.
Equally, it’s important to know exactly what measures are needed to ensure full legal compliance. At the same time, for facilities managers and other premises operators, the DDA regulations have thrown into sharper focus the broader social responsibility to provide both easy and equal access to a product or service, including both access into and within the building.
Bearing this in mind, it’s worth questioning what obligations the regulations place on your business and how you can ensure that you’re doing everything in your power to remain compliant.
Penalties for failing to meet the guidelines can range from heavy compensation claims to complete closure of a business, meaning companies can ill-afford to ignore them.
It’s the first hurdle you’ll need to clear, as it’s the entrance to your workplace. Take a look at your building – stairs and other obstacles may require a platform lift to aid wheelchair or other disabled access.
For the most part, it’s worth imparting an element of common sense – what obvious obstacles are there preventing someone with limited mobility from accessing your premises? If there are entry routes which could prove tricky to navigate, then provide alternate access. Also, for staff arriving on the premises, you’ll be required to provide accessible parking to those with limited physical mobility.
Once exterior challenges are addressed, interior changes in level, i.e. a workplace on an elevated floor, may restrict access to services. This means you’ll be required to install a mechanical device to solve the issue and remain compliant, this could include anything, dependent on the circumstances, from a fully installed lift to a stair lift or floor lift.
While the main issue with internal access is installing the correct mechanical systems, it’s also crucial to ensure adequate information is provided to staff. Details regarding lift location must be both written and tactile, not only for the awareness of physically disabled staff, but also for the needs of the visually impaired.
Accuracy is vital when it comes to mobility access, as just a few inches can make an entire area of a building inaccessible. With mechanical devices, and in particular, lifts, the car must stop within very tight limits of the floor level to be considered DDA compliant and enable staff to enjoy practical access.
In order to meet the new regulatory requirements, lift buttons must be within certain specified heights on both the ground floor and landing areas in order to make them accessible for wheelchair users. Likewise, the buttons should be tactile, illuminated and emit an audible noise to confirm call acceptance. The call panel, call buttons and car walls should all have contrasting colours, to aid those with visual impairment.
With around 10 million registered disabled people in England, accounting for roughly 20% of the population, its vital businesses cater to the needs of staff with disabilities.
Ensuring your building is equipped with adequate mobility solutions is not only vital in ensuring staff enjoy safe passage throughout your premises, but will also ensure you abide to DDA regulations.