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Make the world of difference to your disabled staff and customers: Have an Access Audit

Tracey on roof of car park next to a traffic cone.

Simply offering an apology because someone can’t get into your building is not good enough. No matter what your company does, or how big it is, inclusive design and management is a cornerstone of a successful business. Addressing access issues not only reflects the expertise and quality of a company, it’s also a legal requirement.

And that’s why access audits are so important.  As well as identifying issues and barriers that may be a problem for disabled people who either work at your company or are visiting, they also ensure you meet your legal duties under the Equality Act.  

Unfortunately, as having an access audit isn’t a legal requirement, and people assume they are expensive (they aren’t!), many companies don’t bother. 

But improving access for your disabled staff and customers should be a priority, and a good place to start is by getting an access audit.

So, what is an access audit?

Some people think an access audit is just about checking your building is wheelchair accessible, but we’re pleased to say, it involves so much more than that.  

An access audit is a comprehensive assessment of a building and its environment to identify any physical, sensory and intellectual barriers that may pose an access problem for disabled people. Or to put it another way – it’s about ensuring you are running an inclusive building that welcomes everyone. 

Crucially, an access audit also includes an evaluation of your management practices to ensure you are aligning with the requirements of the Equality Act. For example, you may be aware of an over polished floor that could pose a slip hazard. But did you realise it could also cause visual glare problems for vision impaired people and cause confusion for some people with neurodiverse need(s)? Possibly not. 

Or what about the impact the weather has on your access arrangements? It may not seem obvious initially but cold mornings, hot summer days or wet, icy and snowy conditions can have a huge impact on different users, so it’s important to address these potential issues with the appropriate response. 

These types of access issues are easy to miss, which is why hiring a specialist access consultant is so important. It’s why we have worked for a wide range of clients over the years, such as the Langley Park Hotel & Spa and ITV Ltd, as they understood how an access audit of their premises would ensure all users would be welcomed with the same high-quality experience.

And it’s also worth remembering that access audits aren’t just for buildings. They are also for facilities, such as boats as well as for outside spaces such as parks. 

What does the access audit cover?

Our access audits start outside your building; we look at external areas and the approaches and assess how easy it is for people to find and arrive at your building. 

We then review the entrance and reception before working out way through the entire building, reviewing (to your preferred level of detail) the following:

  • Car Parking and setting down
  • External approaches
  • General circulation
  • Entrances and doors
  • Lift
  • Ramps
  • Handrails
  • Steps and stairs
  • Toilets and bathrooms
  • Visual contrast
  • Lighting
  • Signage
  • Communication systems
  • The acoustic environment
  • Management and maintenance
  • Transport access 
  • Signage and wayfinding
Grey checked floor with grey stairs and a white and brown handrail

Making buildings easily accessible for everyone has to go hand-in-hand with improving emergency evacuation arrangements. Disabled staff and visitors need effective strategies to get out of a building in the case of an emergency and so egress is also treated as a fundamental part of our approach to access auditing.

We recommend also involving stakeholder users or groups, so that we can capture lived experience issues alongside regulation compliance when making our recommendations.

Once the on-site work is complete, any barriers to inclusion will be explained clearly in a report which will also provide solutions and a prioritised action plan. The report will include designs and diagrams to assist you with eliminating barriers and creating a more inclusive environment. 

When should you have an access audit?

Ideally, companies should have an access audit every few years as this will help identify any changes needed and allow you to provide the most up to date information on how accessible and inclusive your property is to users. 

An access audit will also help you plan and manage your facilities better by enabling you to make cost effective and timely adjustments to meet your statutory duties under the Equality Act.

And, if you are planning a refurbishment programme, include an access audit as early in the project as possible. This will capture any issues and barriers before any major changes are made and help make the space fully accessible. If you’re not convinced, just take a look at our work on the Nourish Hub, which won an Inclusive Design Award at the EG Awards last year. 

Why choose Proudlock Associates for your Access Audit?

We are a leading disability access consultancy with both auditor and consultant member status on the National Register of Access Consultants. We provide professional access audits for buildings, facilities and outside spaces, such as parks with the aim of helping businesses remove disabling barriers. As each client is different, we will always develop a tailored-made audit to suit your exact needs and budget. 

If you think your business could benefit from an access audit, get in touch today and one of our friendly, expert team will be happy to answer any questions. 

Access audits don’t have to cost a fortune, but they could make a world of difference to your disabled staff and customers.

Liam and Tracey Proudlock sat on a grey sofa in front of a colourful painting. Both are smiling