Skip to content
This website uses cookies to help us understand the way visitors use our website. We can't identify you with them and we don't share the data with anyone else. Find out more in our privacy policy.

National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) Conference 2019

On Thursday 10th October Level Playing Field’s in-house Access Auditors (Ruth Hopkins and Nicky Baker) attended their registering body’s annual conference in London. There are currently less than 150 NRAC registered Access Auditors/Consultants in the UK and the conference was well attended with nearly 100 present. Members of NRAC have been subject to a rigorous two-part assessment including professional interview to prove their competence. They have to demonstrate a defined core of competences; a unique combination of understanding in relation to legislation, technical standards and user needs applicable to disability access and inclusive design, including the Equality Act 2010. NRAC members are professionals accountable to their clients under the terms of the NRAC Code of Practice, have professional indemnity insurance and continuing professional development (CPD) evidenced on an annual basis. There are a number of individuals and organisations offering “Access Audits” who are not NRAC accredited. And whilst these may be offered with the best of intentions by well meaning people, clients should always be aware that there is a risk to taking advice from anyone who is unqualified and uninsured. Level Playing Field regularly engages with user groups (disabled supporters associations), charities and community groups as part of its Access and Development work and we value their input.


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.”