Going beyond the guidance when designing an inclusive environment

inclusive environment
© Robert Kneschke

From our daily dealings with minimum widths for doorways, maximum gradients for ramps and many other benchmarks, one of the main pieces of advice we would offer is when working to design an inclusive environment don’t be afraid to go beyond the guidance, says About Access

Whether you draw it from Approved Document M of the Building Regulations, from BS 8300 or other official sources, try to remember it is only guidance. It sets a minimum requirement and it gives you the freedom to be better than the lowest level if you can – and if you want to.

Not many people when buying a car would always go for the cheapest option. We all like a few frills on top of the functionality so why not take the same approach to accessibility?

We come across examples far too often of designers adhering to the guidance but not taking the basic additional steps which would have made a big difference.

Inclusive environment in the workplace

Someone who works in an office is likely to leave their desk several times a day for different reasons. If they have an impairment their short and supposedly simple journeys around the building can become quite an ordeal.

Real-life examples of access problems include people having to move to a different part of their workplace to get to food and drink facilities, whether that’s a kitchen, canteen or vending machines.

The kitchen in our example was at the end of a corridor and for some the route meant passing through four sets of doors. Getting there was okay because the people didn’t have their hands full, but coming back was a problem because they would always be carrying at least one item.

In some cases the kitchen might be on a different floor, and we have also seen instances where the loos are on a different floor as well. However accessible the actual facilities are, obstacles can make the route inaccessible.

People might also leave their desk to go out for some fresh air, off-site meetings and various other reasons. You need to think about making it easy for them to leave the building and return. You can’t assume they will spend all day in the building.

They might also need to visit colleagues in other parts of the building, whether in a meeting room or elsewhere, to discuss work projects and events. If they use a meeting room is it accessible? Is the route from their desk to the meeting room accessible?

It’s a case of anticipating the journey around the building from before the employee arrives on site and thinking about the advance information you might provide for them all the way through entering the premises, moving through the building and going about their working day.

Don’t forget about location when considering an inclusive environment

One case we looked at involved a company moving into a new building which was much more accessible. But its location was not on a public transport route and didn’t have any parking. These aspects hadn’t been taken into consideration and that created a significant problem.

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