The Royal Institute of British Architects has updated their Access Audit Handbook in conjunction with the Centre for Accessible Environments. Access auditing is an evolving concept and means different things to different people. Some take it as being compliant with a standard while others consider aspects beyond compliance.
Fortunately, the Ergonomics in Design for All Newsletter explains the content of the document. In doing so, the newsletter provides an synopsis of some of the key concepts in the handbook.
Similarly to Australian Standards, British Standards only apply to people with disability and do not cover any other groups in terms of access and inclusion. This is despite other groups who fall under anti-discrimination law. The handbook addresses some of these gaps. For example:
Faith spaces, prayer facilities, features relating to women’s safety and their well-being, including pregnancy and menopause, baby feeding and changing, and non-gendered sanitary and changing facilities.
There is guidance on neurodiversity and reducing sensory overload, anxiety and stress, such as quiet rooms. Designers are asked to plan logical wayfinding with straight lines, and create curves rather than corners.
Technology is evolving on building accessibility, space and wayfinding, and auditors need to keep up with these developments. Lift destination control systems are a case in point where people no longer press a button for their floor. The central control system can be very confusing where there is a bank of lifts.
The handbook recommends engaging with building users for insights into the level of accessibility and to keep them engaged throughout the project. There are six case studies: a theatre, a zoo, a parish church, a university science lab, and an outdoor space. The case study of an inaccessible heritage town hall shows how to create an accessible community building.
The handbook has 32 checklists for the external environment, internal building space, management and communication.
Thanks to Isabella T. Steffan and Ergonomics in Design for All for the content of this post.