Making Commercial Properties More Accessible for Disabled People


“Lucy Wyndham studied architecture at university and worked in the construction industry for over a decade before taking a step back to raise her family and take up her passion for writing.” 


Disabled Access Rights – It’s Not All About Wheelchair Ramps 

Mention the phrase disabled access rights, and most people start thinking of wheelchair access in buildings and perhaps those hearing loops in banks and other public place. Yet we all know that personal impairments are not always so plain to see, and the concept of access goes deeper than physically getting through a front door. 

Here, we take a look at the concept of what it means to provide access to those with special needs, both mental and physical, and how different places can step up to the challenge. 

The US approach 

It is always interesting to take a peek over the pond and see how they do things in the Land of the Free. When it comes to disability rights over in the States, the first thing we notice is that the litigation capital of the world is swift to live up to its reputation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)is rigorously enforced, and last year, there was a remarkable 37 percent increase in lawsuits linked to non-compliance by commercial property owners. 

The Act essentially seeks to ensure that those with physical impairments do not face discrimination, and are granted equal access opportunities to a wide range of public buildings. When it comes down to it, however, we are still essentially talking about wheelchair ramps and disabled toilets. 

In the UK 

Here in the UK, the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) was repealed and replaced by the Equality Act (2010). The change of name tells a story in itself, and emphasises the fact that the Act is all about inclusivity for all. By dropping the word “disability” it stresses that those with mental or physical conditions that necessitate particular facilities are only “disabled” if those needs are not catered to by broader society. 

This particular Act specifically covers those with mental or physical impairments that have a substantial and long term effect on day to day life. 

Meeting broader access needs 

When it comes to those with special intellectual or learning needs, the question of access suddenly becomes a broader one. Many parents fight for their children to receive the same educational access rights as others, and educators have an absolute obligation to be inclusive towards children with all types of mental or physical impairment. 

For those with autism spectrum disorder, there are definitive guidelines that have been published by the National Federation for Educational Research, These focus on an inclusive approach to education for children, whatever their needs or impairments. They also give a fascinating insight into the assessment approach adopted by educational establishments. The guidelines are a must-read for anyone with a child who has learning difficulties. 

Of course, understanding the assessment criteria and having an inclusive approach are great starts, but to be completely inclusive needs the commitment and dedication of all involved, including legislators, educators, parents and even the other children. If only it was as simple as just fitting a wheelchair ramp at the front door! 

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