Access Auditing can be a lonely role with many auditors working in isolation and then having difficult meetings and conversations to challenge and persuade design teams to be more inclusive throughout their projects. The conference was held on World Mental Health Day and one of the speakers was from the charity, Mind, talking about Workplace Wellbeing and how open and supportive workplaces benefit everyone.
At Level Playing Field, we are very fortunate to have two Auditors who regularly consult with each other and discuss ideas, but it is also good to meet up with their peers to network and update on the latest changes in the industry.
Other presentations were from Fry Law talking through a number of claims related to reasonable adjustment cases, Fire Safety (ensuring disabled people aren’t left behind), Designing for the Mind (Neurological considerations), Noise – an invisible barrier to accessibility, Australia and Disability Legislation – comparisons with the UK, Cycle Lanes and finally an update on all things Building Regulations Part M (Access to and use of buildings).
Some of the headlines we took away from the presentations were:
· There has been an increase in mediation cases (avoiding going to Court).
· Pre-Action Disclosure has seen an increase in Data Subject Access Requests (all the information being held electronically relating to a case; including emails, texts, spreadsheets can be called for)
· The response to the Hackitt Review, Safety in High Buildings (post Grenfell Tower) will see a review of technical Approved Document B.
· There is a strong link between hearing loss and dementia.
· What the UK can learn from Australia’s more prescriptive form of legislation.
· The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) is now incorporated into a new team at the Equalities Hub, sitting alongside the Governments Equalities Office.
· The Government is proposing that all new buildings, including residential, will have electric vehicle charge points.
· There will be a review of Part M with consultation in early 2020. The work plan will include Changing Places, Housing Standards, Low Level Letterboxes (!!) and a lot of research.
· The Part M review will include dimensions and minimum standards.
· The recent Changing Places consultation had over 1500 responses and we were told to, “Expect an announcement imminently”. It is worth noting that Changing Places are already a minimum requirement for new builds in Scotland and Australia.
Ruth Hopkins, NRAC Auditor and General Manager at Level Playing Field said, “I always look forward to the NRAC Conference and the opportunity to catch up with my fellow professionals”.
“The number of Auditors and Consultants on the register is falling – mainly due to the loss of Access Officers at many local councils – and we need to attract more people to become qualified. I won’t pretend the process is easy, and it can take a number of years, but it is one of the most rewarding of jobs. To be able to influence designers and building managers to make small changes that make facilities and services more accessible to disabled people is brilliant, no two days are the same”.
“It is an exciting time for Building Regulations Part M – one of our primary reference documents – where they will be looking at the usability of the current document, reviewing it to better meet the user’s needs and encouraging a more holistic approach. We can’t stand still; things are constantly evolving and improving, and we look forward to the consultation process”
Nicky Baker, NRAC Auditor and Disability Access Officer at Level Playing Field said, “It is always great to catch-up and network with others who share a passion for making the world a more inclusive place for disabled people, to hear about recent projects and new developments, which are happening. The NRAC conference always prides itself on leading the way and they had another first this year, the first time I have ever attended a conference with a live illustrator. This was very interesting and added another layer of accessibility and assists in visually processing the information given audibly.”