What is an access audit?
An access audit is regarded as the first step towards improving accessibility. An Access audit is an important tool to identify barriers, within a building and also external areas such as play spaces, car parking etc. The audit provides a "base-line" assessment against which initial recommendations can be made. With the results of the access report, service providers are better equipped to make short and long-term access improvement action plan.
What is the scope of an access audit?
The elements covered in an access 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 Access 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 access 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 access survey, taking photographs and discussions about other access issues with the management. The cost of an Access audit will vary depending on the nature of the business or undertaking. Generally the service is charged on an hourly fee basis plus travel costs, and normally informal discussions take place to determine the requirements and cost. It is important to ensure that the appointed body commissioned has ample experience in access auditing. It is not enough for the auditor to be a registered architect, engineer or building surveyor.