An access audit is a form of inspection that can be used to assess the ease of access to, and ease of use of; an environment (such as a building or landscape), a service, or a facility, by people with a range of access impairments.
This can help:
- Verify compliance with the Equality Act.
- Verify compliance with part M of the building regulations.
- Prepare applications for funding, planning permission or building regulations approval.
- Reduce the likelihood of claims of discrimination.
- Identify potential difficulties.
- Identify reasonable changes that could be made.
- Assess and justify proposed changes.
- Make recommendations for training, organisational changes, minor works, adaptations and major works that might be undertaken.
- Develop an access strategy or access plan.
Access audits became more common following the introduction of Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in 2004, subsequently replaced by the Equality Act in 2010. This makes it unlawful to discriminate against people because of their disabilities and requires that "reasonable adjustments" are made when providing access to goods, facilities, services and premises.
The Equality Act provides protection against direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation for:
- Being or becoming a transsexual person.
- Being married or in a civil partnership.
- Being pregnant or having a child.
- Race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin.
- Religion, belief or lack of religion/belief.
- Sexual orientation.
- People associated with someone who has a protected characteristic, eg a family member or friend.
- People that have complained about discrimination or supported someone else’s claim.
The Act provides protection:
- At work.
- In education.
- As a consumer.
- When using public services.
- When buying or renting property.
- As a member or guest of a private club or association.
Access audits are seen as the a first step in ensuring reasonable adjustments are made to policies, practices, procedures or premises which may create a barrier to people with disabilities. This may involve consideration of staff, occupants, users, volunteers, visitors and so on.
Carrying out an access audit is a complex, specialist function that may benefit from the appointment of an experienced consultant such as a specialist architect or an access consultant. It can be formal or informal process, and can involve, information gathering, surveys, consultations, reports and recommendations.
In commissioning an access audit, it is important to be clear what is to be assessed, what standards it is being assessed against, for what purpose, the timescale and the required outcome.
An access audit might include consideration of:
- Arrival and parking.
- Landscape and street furniture.
- Routes to the entrance.
- Steps, ramps and other changes in level.
- Entrances and thresholds.
- Reception facilities and lobbies.
- Internal layout and circulation.
- Lifts, stairs, ramps and other level changes.
- Internal doors.
- Internal surfaces.
- Signage and wayfinding.
- Services and facilities.
- Wcs, changing rooms and so on.
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
- Emergency equipment and procedures.
- Exits and refuge areas.
- Staff and customer care.
- Information provision.
Carrying out an access audit is not an end in itself, but the first stage in a process, that only has an impact if the outcomes are acted upon. It may be part of ongoing review process that involves regular access audits and an evolving access strategy.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Accessibility in the built environment.
- Access and inclusion in the built environment: policy and guidance.
- Access consultant.
- Accessible London.
- Approved document M.
- Building regulations.
- Changing lifestyles.
- Design and access statement.
- Disability Discrimination Act.
- Equal opportunities policy.
- Equality Act.
- Essential principles, Creating an accessible and inclusive environment.
- Inclusive design.
- Older people.
- People with disabilities.
- Planning permission.
 External references
- Centre for Accessible Environments.
- RIBA Access audit handbook.
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