What Is An Accessibility Audit?
An accessibility audit is regarded as the first step towards improving accessibility of a premises or any service or facility. It is an important exercise that is based on the prescribed accessibility standards that identify barriers, within a building and external areas such as play spaces, car parking, pathways etc. The audit provides a "base-line" assessments for barriers against which recommendations for improvement are made. The auditor would provide a report with the barriers identified and the recommendations made that the building management can use to make short and long-term accessibility improvement action plan for their infrastructure.
What Is The Scope Of An Accessibility Audit?
The elements covered in an accessibility audit depend on the type and nature of the environment and services under consideration. Buildings and sites vary considerably and, although there will be common elements between particular types, no two will be exactly the same. Generally the elements covered in an Accessibility audit include:-
- Getting to the premises - access from road or car park, lighting, signage, surfaces and street furniture
- Getting into the premises – entrance, steps, thresholds, doors, lobby/reception area, seating, and lighting
- Getting around the premises – corridors, doors, stairs, lifts, signage, floor surfaces, tonal contrasts and lighting
- Using the services in the premises – toilets, washrooms, changing and bathrooms, bedrooms, eating areas, bar, room layout, lighting, heating, switches, handles, seating, furniture, telephone, alarm, health and safety issues, management and staff attitudes
- Exploring alternative ways of providing access to services – where a physical feature makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a service to be accessed. For example, offering a home service, installing a call bell for help at an approved height, providing a piece of equipment or offering extra assistance from trained staff
- Getting out of the building in an emergency – fire exits, emergency routes, lighting and warning systems and safe refuge
- Marketing and communication materials – publicity materials both printed and websites, menus, training materials and manuals, instruction sheets, suggestion forms etc.
- Policies, Procedures and Practices
Since an accessibility auditing is done of an already existing building, it may be noted that due to the structural limitations it may not be possible to retrofit accessibility features in all parts of the building. Therefore, retrofitting may need to be coupled with staff training and awareness programmes to get the desired customer satisfaction.
What Is The Cost Of An Audit?
A complete accessibility audit involves visiting the venue, completing an accessibility survey, taking photographs, measuring infrastructure dimensions and discussions about accessibility issues with the management. The cost of an audit therefore, will vary depending on the nature of the business or undertaking, complexity of the services offered and the size of the premises. Generally the service is charged on an daily fee basis plus travel costs, and normally informal discussions take place to determine the requirements before the auditor offers a quote. It is important to ensure that the appointed person, organisation commissioned to undertake the audit has ample experience in access auditing. It is not enough for the auditor to be a registered architect, engineer or building surveyor.