Top 5 questions to ask when choosing an access consultant

December 07, 2016

You’ve decided you want disabled customers to be met by a warm welcome rather than a physical barrier when they visit your premises. Or maybe you’ve realised your legal responsibility to address accessibility for your staff.

You’ve got the motivation, and now you need help to make it happen. So, what should you consider when choosing an expert to help make you an access superhero?

Inclusive design and access consultant Liam Proudlock answers five key questions to help you.

1) How do I know if my consultant meets the standards for the industry?

Check that they are on the National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC), which is the independent UK–wide accreditation service for access consultants and auditors.

Though not a Kitemarked service, it’s the nearest you will get to a quality standard that demonstrates skill and experience in access and inclusive design consulting.

All members:

  • have shown the NRAC admissions panel that they have the necessary skills;
  • adhere to a code of practice.

2) How can I feel confident about the depth of training my consultant has? I’m not sure what qualifications to look for.

Consultants have backgrounds and training in a range of professions, including: building architecture; landscape architecture; building control; health and safety; occupational therapy; planning.

This can make the choice more confusing. However, some also take a post-graduate qualification in inclusive design to gain more specific knowledge and skills, such as from Reading University.

‘Consultants with a post-graduate qualification in inclusive design have demonstrated their knowledge and commitment’

These consultants have demonstrated their commitment and dedication to access and inclusive design.

3) Have they got the experience and flexibility to understand what my business needs?

Ask about customers they have worked for in the past. Have they got experience of: audits for a new shopping centre; small business units on an industrial estate; or a listed office building in a High Street?

A wall poster that says 'ask more questions'

Five important questions to ask before hiring an access consultant

Standards change: knowing what is current best practice in your particular field is an advantage.

Remember to ask for (and follow up) references and if possible, visit premises they have consulted on.

4) Are they keeping up-to-date with inclusive design? I want the most current, best-value advice and solutions.

Check if they are members of significant, relevant organisations, and so can demonstrate an active interest in their field. Are they taking every opportunity to build their knowledge and experience of inclusive design?

‘Are they taking every opportunity to build their knowledge and experience of inclusive design?’

Such bodies include:

  • The Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE), which provides training, resources and does research into inclusive environments;
  • The Access Association, which is a national network of individuals who use peer support and knowledge sharing to promote inclusive design and access.

5) Do they have personal experience of disability?

While not essential, having personal experience of disability can bring valuable benefits: it offers real, lived experience of the barriers constructed by poor design and a lack of access — the sort of barriers you’ve decided to remove from your business.

If you’ve got more questions about finding the right consultant for your business, contact the friendly, expert team at Proudlock Associates.