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We have received a number of enquiries about access audits lately, from organisations who have never had any done, through to those who want a refresh to understand their progress. We always find ourselves going through the same discussions so we thought a short series of blog articles might be helpful. Here’s the first instalment.
Part 1: Why should we undertake access audits?
An access audit is a means of assessing how accessible any particular premises or services are to disabled people. There of lots of reasons to undertake access audits including helping to demonstrate your organisation has met its duties under the Equality Act 2010 and perhaps more importantly, to make sure your organisation is meeting its customer’s needs. Access audits are an essential tool for helping organisations understand how they are performing and what potential improvements could be made.
There are no explicit statutory requirements to undertake access audits, thought Equality Act 2010 Statutory Code of Practice Services, public functions and associations (3.42) does state that service providers will be more likely to be meeting their obligations if they:
“carry out and act on the results of an access audit carried out by a suitably qualified person”
The code of practice goes on to list access audits as one of a number of measures to help identify potential reasonable adjustments.
So if there is no statutory requirement, do I really need to do one? The answer is yes. Under the Equality Act 2010 (and the DDA before it) there is a duty for service providers to ‘anticipate’ potential barriers to access. Whilst there is no explicit statutory requirement to undertake access audits, it is rather difficult to anticipate and remove barriers without a structured assessment to identify them in the first place!
What’s also of note in the code of practice is the requirement for a ‘suitably qualified person’. Good access audits require an understanding of disabled people’s needs, technical standards for buildings and legislation. It’s a rare skill set, neither lawyer, nor surveyor/nor architect nor disability expert. It is what access consultants do. In the UK there is only one professional body that specifically accredits people for this type of work, the National Register of Access Consultants. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has also accredited people in this field though that scheme is now closed.
We will be blogging about some other aspects of access audits, such as:
- format options – creating useable audits
- access audits vs first person experience reviews
- what to do once you have good audits!
If you want to talk about access audits, feel free to get in touch.