Find out more about my accessibility audits for business spaces, including what to expect on the day and how to implement changes to make your office more accessible for everyone.
In January 2021, I ventured into the winter frost to deliver an Accessibility Audit for This Is Me Agency, an organisation that supports people with disabilities across the region. All businesses should take accessibility into account, but for This Is Me, it’s a high priority as so many of the company’s clients (including myself!) have accessibility needs.
Like many businesses, This Is Me is a tenant in a commercial property, meaning that they’re limited when it comes to the changes they can make to the office space. This adds to the challenge of cost vs reward, where the most significant changes are often the most expensive to implement.
With those challenges in mind, I wanted to support This Is Me to transform their space into a more inclusive one whilst keeping the financial and structural impact to a minimum.
Setting the scene
In this Accessibility Audit, I cover:
- The carpark, building exterior and entrance
- The shared interior spaces
- The This Is Me Agency offices
- The process
Exterior and entrances
Upon arriving at the Consett office space, I noticed a significant lack of accessible parking, which is an issue for any visitors who have Wide Access Vehicles or struggle to walk long distances.
Given the weather on the day, I was particularly aware of the accessibility of the building’s exterior. The office does have a ramp, but as it is made from concrete, it was exceptionally slippery. To add to this, the council had piled snow up to the side of the ramp, making it even more difficult to manoeuvre around the outside space.
The ramp has safety railings, but they did not continue around the parking bay. There were no distinct markets to show the drop, adding to the potential hazard during any weather, never mind this seasonal blizzard!
On the day, delivery crates blocked the intercom. Even upon entering the building, I noticed that none of the main access doors was automatic, making it impossible for me to enter without assistance. And if I were working at the co-working space, I wouldn’t be able to access the keyhole from my chair, which would further confound the accessibility issue.
Accessibility is about more than just making sure the space can be accessed by all; it’s about promoting a sense of independence and treating everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Upon entering the office space, I noticed that the furniture was generally quite low, which can be problematic for clients and visitors with mobility, hip, back or abdominal issues. The temperature in the space was also on the low side, making it an unpleasant space for anyone to wait, particularly those already experiencing discomfort or pain.
Alongside heating, lighting is another key consideration for accessibility as harsh light can hurt those with sensory disabilities and add to overstimulation.
This is the space that This Is Me has the most control over and where we can truly make an impact for all visitors and clients. The team is keen to make the offices as accessible and comfortable as possible.
The company has several office spaces used for a variety of activities, including group meetings, co-working and one-to-one consultations. We discussed room layouts, furniture choices and limitations. I then gave my recommendations for the best solutions to match their budget.
During an audit, I take detailed notes to form an Accessibility Audit document that the client can use to inform changes. When I make recommendations, I take into account what’s realistic and affordable for the client.
Like This Is Me, many businesses rent office space from the council or a private commercial landlord, making it much harder to implement significant or structural changes to the building. That’s not to say these changes are impossible, in fact, an Accessibility Audit like this can pack quite the punch when placed on the desk of the right person, and that’s something I consider when writing these documents.
In terms of easy fixes that the tenant can implement right away, there was plenty that the This Is Me team could get their teeth stuck into, including:
- Create an Adverse Weather procedure for maintaining ramp and exterior to make sure the ramp and exterior premises were accessible and safe for those in wheelchairs.
- Provide accessible instructions for the intercom
- Be mindful of turning circle for manual wheelchairs when positioning furniture
- Invest in smart lighting and lamps to reduce glare, control colours and minimise brightness
- Paint door frames a contrasting colour, so people with poor and low vision can clearly see the doors.
- Opt for a variety of soft and hard furnishings, including high chairs with lumbar support
- Develop a training plan for future hires on Disability Awareness
The Accessibility Audit doesn’t end when I hit send on your bespoke audit document. I can also help with the delivery of Disability Awareness Training, recommend additional changes and even support your digital accessibility! Ready to make your workspace more accessible for all? Get in touch today to book an Accessibility Audit of your business.