Getting accessibility right

Paving and parking

Making sure that access to the built environment works for disabled people can be a minefield for building companies or contractors who have not had the relevant training and are simply completing works according to architect’s drawings or to their own design. In our experience it is always a problem when final, detailed, design is left to a contractor to sort out and they very often get it wrong.

As a firm of Chartered Surveyor experienced in accessibility issues, we are always pleased to receive calls from contractors asking for our advice and opinion on things they are unsure about.

For example, we received a call from a contractor trying to interpret an architect’s note on a drawing and specification saying ‘install tactile blister paving studs’. This was not a helpful note for the contractor who wanted to know if there were specific rules for the distance between the blister studs like these.

In the Department of Transport Guide to Tactile Paving (Guidance-on-the-use-of-tactile-paving-surfaces) it states that studs should be set 67mm apart. Importantly, the layout of these should be square and not offset. Offset studs like those shown below are used to warn of platform edges.

 

We asked the contractor where these were being installed and he said at the top and bottom of a flight of steps. This is not correct use of blister studs. Blister studs are used at road crossings and corduroy paving is used at the top and bottom of the steps. We advised the contractor that corduroy pavings need to be set 400mm back from the top and bottom of steps. Each corduroy should be at 50mm centres, be 20mm wide and 6mm high. Depending on the situation, they need to be 400mm to 800mm deep.

The contractor was able to go back to the architect to have a discussion about compliance and what was required. We don’t know what happened next, but I suspect the phrase “but it looks nice” was used followed by a new instruction and DDA compliance.

If you are interested in this, you might also like to read our more detailed article about tactile paving.

Accessibility – not just about signage

Making sure the built environment is accessible to all is not just a tick box exercise. It is the law. What is frustrating to us is that after designers and developers ensure compliance during a project, it is not maintained afterwards. A classic example is disabled parking bays. During our Access Audits we see a surprising number of disabled parking bays being used for storage – wheelie bins are a common culprit, or in the situation pictured here, a generator. Unfortunately, there is no requirement to keep these spaces available long after the project is completed.

blocked accessible parking space
Generator on Accessible Parking Space

However, not only should these spaces be left clear, it is also important to make sure that their size is correct and that they are adequately signposted from the point of entry to a car park. The opening area hatches do not have to be on both sides of the space but should be on the driver’s side for the first space and alternate sides thereafter. Common mistakes include locating the space next to a column or too far from the entrance to a building.

An extract from BS8300 ‘Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment’ is shown below:

accessible parking space - dimensions dda audit

And when access is wrong, it’s wrong.

Take these steps for instance: no handrails, no contrasted nosings, no textured paving and a sign saying suitable for wheelchairs…

stairwell image with multiple safety and disabled access issues
Just a few things wrong here. Apart from the lack of a ramp there is no fall protection, the rises are uneven, there is only one handrail and the nosings aren’t marked.

Would you trust this timber ramp that leads into a pub? The construction looks less than adequate and there are no handrails, an inadequate landing and a door that’s too narrow.

wheelchair ramp into a pub
Would you trust this timber ramp into a pub? Apart from the construction – no handrails, inadequate landing and a door that’s too narrow

These brand-new accessible parking spaces look to have been finished perfectly. But they are not – they are poorly identified, poorly marked and there is no hatching.

accessible parking spaces - poor design
These brand new accessible parking spaces – poorly identified, poorly marked and no hatching.

Have you spotted any serious failings in access? Let us know.

If you need guidance about disabled access for your project or business, get in touch.

The information in this article is for guidance only. There is no substitute for advice specific to your situation. If this is an old post, the law may have changed since it was written.