by Richard McPartland
The accessibility of our homes, buildings and public spaces is set to come under the spotlight as a parliamentary committee launches a public enquiry.
Disability and the built environment
The disability and the built environment inquiry is being led by The Women and Equalities Committee and written submissions are now being sought with a final deadline for opinions of Wednesday 12 October 2016.
With an ageing population there comes an increased likelihood that more and more of us will experience reduced mobility in our lifetime. Mental health needs also require careful thought. To this end, the inquiry will explore the extent to which those needs are considered and accomodated in the built environment in a bid to ascertain accessibility and inclusivity of both new and existing properties and spaces.
Committee Chair Maria Miller said: "This area raises some interesting questions, and there is a great deal of scope for innovation. For example: how can building information modelling and modern methods of construction, contribute to making environments more accessible and inclusive? How can we deliver greater accessibility and inclusivity alongside more age-friendly towns and cities, including liaison with the NHS? To what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved? We need to ensure that buildings and public spaces are as accessible and inclusive as possible, and that communities can fully engage with the process of decision making that shapes the accessibility of the built environment."
Scope of the inquiryThe Committee is particularly interested in submissions covering the following areas:
Government policy on and current provision of accessible properties (including homes and commercial premises)
- How adequate is the supply of accessible properties (including homes and commercial premises)?
- To what extent is the Government taking current and future needs for accessible homes into account in its policies on increasing housing supply?
- How effective are the planning and building regulations systems in ensuring the provision of new accessible / lifetime homes?
- What can be done to increase the accessibility of existing housing stock to support independent living?
- Could financial or other mechanisms be used to encourage developers to go beyond minimum standards of accessibility?
The effectiveness of UK legislation, policies and standards on accessibility in the built environment
- How well do Part M of the Building Regulations and Approved Document M perform in providing reasonable levels of accessibility in the built environment and what could be done to improve performance?
- Is there sufficient compliance with building regulations and requests for reasonable adjustment? If not, what more could be done to increase compliance?
- Do current standards regarding accessibility in the built environment take account of the full range of disability and impairment needs? (For example, are the needs of people with dementia, the visually impaired, those with mental health issues and older people given sufficient consideration? If not, what more could be done to increase inclusivity?)
- What is the role of reasonable adjustments in delivering accessibility?
Design and management of the public realm
- Are the needs of all groups given adequate consideration in the design of streets, highways, parks and publicly accessible open spaces and in the provision of services such as public toilets?
- To what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved?
- What opportunities are there for delivering greater accessibility and inclusivity alongside more age-friendly towns and cities, including liaison with the NHS?
The role of designers, architects and built environment specialists in ensuring accessibility and inclusivity
- To what extent is the need for accessibility taken into account in the design of buildings and public spaces? What can the professionals who are responsible for the creation, maintenance and retrofitting of our built environment do to ensure that buildings and public spaces are as accessible and inclusive as possible?
- How well is inclusive design built into training for built environment specialists such as planners, designers, architects and building inspectors? Is there sufficient continuing professional development on inclusive design for such specialists? What tools and techniques are needed to infuse inclusive design into education and training programmes?
- How can changes to the way we create and adapt our built environment, such as building information modelling and modern methods of construction, contribute to making environments more accessible and inclusive?
Local involvement in decision-making
- How effectively are communities able to engage with the process of decision making that shapes the accessibility of the built environment? Are there any barriers to effective public engagement and if so, how might these be addressed?
- Could local authorities do more through licensing, planning and/or enforcement to increase the accessibility of the built environment.
Have your say
Written submissions can be made via the Disability and the built environment inquiry page on www.parliament.uk. Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons can also be found on the site.