We believe that access to buildings, transport, the environment, services and information is the right of all people in society, but at the moment, many places and services are not designed to include disabled people.
Although there are increasing numbers of architects and designers and professional people promoting better access and inclusive design, we often come across situations where even the minimum access standards are not implemented correctly or to best practice. Sometimes this is because the experience of disabled people is not taken into account, particularly of people with sensory impairments, short people and people who are neuro-diverse, have learning difficulties or who have multiple impairments. Sometimes designers do not fully understand the reasons for implementing minimum or best practice standards.
Legislation, guidance and standards
MDPAG can help to clarify and explain the relationship between Building Regulations, best practice standards and the Equality Act and how they affect the design of new buildings or material alterations. We can advise on minimum standards, what might be considered “reasonable” to meet the requirements of the Equality Act, Building Regulations and local and national Planning guidance and how to anticipate the requirements of disabled people. We can also help to prepare Access and Design Statements and Access Statements. It can be cost effective to consult with disabled people and their organisations at an early stage, rather than attempt to change access provision once building has started.
Using the social model of disability
We work within the social model of disability, which was developed as a way of understanding and promoting more inclusive ways for disabled people to participate in society. MDPAG promotes the development of good access standards which maximise independence for disabled people and for people who experience barriers in society but may not think of themselves as disabled people, such as many older people.
We take into account barriers faced by people with a range of physical, sensory, cognitive and other impairments as well as people who are neuro-diverse, people with long term health issues and people with mental health issues. We also recognise that many people have multiple impairments and we anticipate barriers, which may exclude people from participating in society, by making recommendations which could be considered “reasonable adjustments”.
Using best practice standards
It is often more practical and more inclusive to work to best practice standards around issues which are inclusive for everyone, such as standards for door entry systems, doors, lighting, obstacles, toilets and showers, alarm systems, steps, stairs and ramps, fixtures and fittings, interior design, signage and wayfinding.
Our standards are based upon legislation, the experience of disabled people, the social model of disability, current technology and best practice from existing codes of practice. We also ensure that our standards incorporate equality and diversity issues for various communities, environmental and sustainability issues, as well as security and health and safety issues, and work closely with other organisations to ensure our information and recommendations are current and practical.
Use of space
We aim to ensure that people can effectively use services and buildings for the purpose they were developed. This will include observation of how staff and customers, clients or patients use the space and where possible, ensure that consultations take place before designs are finalised. Without these consultations and observations, designs are sometimes impractical, expensive and are sometimes used in ways different from the ideas of the original designers, creating obstacles, hazards and difficulties for all users.
Continuous Professional Development
We recognise that inclusive design is a constantly developing combination of skills, knowledge, creative and consultative elements and we collaborate regularly with other access consultants, designers, professional bodies such as the Centre for Accessible Environments, the National Register of Access Consultants and the Access Association, and staff and active members and access auditors regularly attend Continuous Professional Development activities.