We’ve made great advances over the past few years with regard to accessibility into and around buildings. Whether it’s a wheelchair user, someone with limited mobility issues or even a busy parent with a cumbersome pushchair, making work and leisure spaces accessible to all, has been more of a priority.
It makes sense from a business perspective, and it’s beneficial to the masses, if work, retail and other spaces are easy to enter and navigate. Workers feel included, customers feel welcomed, and productivity and profits are driven upwards as a result.
Rules and regulations aside, the moral requirements to embrace inclusivity are often the driving force behind improvements in accessibility. Although we still have some way to go, the foundations are there for industry and commerce to build on.
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Which Spaces Benefit From Improved Accessibility?
The short answer is, all spaces. It stands to reason that if you’re struggling to even get into a retail outlet, for example, you are less likely to persist, and more likely to move to a shop with easier access. But it isn’t just access into a building that can make life more difficult for some. The ability to move around a space, whether it be a shop, a cafe or a place of work, will have an impact on how you spend your time within that space. In a shop, you are likely to stay longer and spend more money; in a business setting you will get more from your employees if they feel you have taken their needs seriously. Ramps, lifts and extra space between fixed furniture all help to make an environment more welcoming for everyone.
Businesses have an obligation to make their premises accessible and easy to navigate. People with mobility issues, wheelchair users, and pram users should all have access to these spaces. In fact, all new buildings must be more easily accessed and adapted, should the need arise in the future.
What Is Being Done To Make Buildings More Accessible?
Improvements are ongoing in this field; but there are simple adaptations that can be made which make a world of difference to some people. Making the entrance to the building easily recognisable is a good place to start. Upon entering the building the layout can have a positive or negative impact on those with mobility issues, depending on the layout. Wider walkways and space between furniture are a positive step in the right direction; as are easily accessible toilets and changing rooms. Lifts in buildings with more than one floor are essential; ramps or open platform lifts are also a great alternative or addition where there are only a couple of steps. It’s easy to let these things go overlooked if you’ve never experienced problems accessing a space, but try getting a heavy laden pram or pushchair up a few stairs without help and you get a brief glimpse into the world of someone with more pressing challenges. The relief felt by parents when they see an open platform lift, large enough to accommodate them and their pram fades into insignificance when you consider someone in a wheelchair facing the same scenario. What might be considered a bonus for a parent and stroller is an absolute necessity for a wheelchair user.
What Is The Best Way To Improve Access?
Wider entrance ways and automatic doors are one of the easiest ways to make a building more accessible. Ramps for raised entrances are another example. However, one of the most effective ways to improve accessibility, into and around a building, is by installing an open platform lift.
What Is An Open Platform Lift?
Open platform lifts are lifts that can be installed both internally and externally. They provide access between two areas that differ in height, but do not warrant a typical elevator. They are put to best use when connecting two floors separated by only a few steps, but without which, a wheelchair or pram user would struggle to gain access. They are suitable for homes and businesses alike, where there is a requirement to be able to move between floors vertically, with no enclosure. They will safely carry a wheelchair user, carer and pram, or someone with impaired mobility, from one level to another.
What Are The Benefits Of Open Platform Lifts?
Open platform lifts, also known as ‘step lifts,’ usually require little or no alteration to the installation site. They can be fitted internally and externally, making the building entrance more appealing to all, whatever their mobility requirements. Open platform lifts are relatively small, and take up little space. As such, the low maintenance and running costs are particularly attractive to business and home owners alike. If required, the lifts can be fitted with a ramp to allow for even easier access. These lifts are known for their ease of use, usually operated by simple, post mounted push controls. Upon arriving at the higher or lower level, the lift will sound an alarm to indicate that it’s safe to alight. Open platform lifts are available in all shapes and sizes, and any reputable company will carry out a full assessment of your requirements and building prior to recommending the most fitting solution.
What Are The Legal Requirements?
The rules differ from building use to building use, but there are legal requirements and recommendations to follow. Within the workplace there are regulations to ensure that the health, safety and welfare needs are met by those in charge. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has more information on this.
Retail outlets are given guidance that they must make adjustments for disabled people to use their services, where reasonable.
New buildings have to ensure they are accessible to all, and this may include the addition of ramps, wider entrance ways and lifts.
A large percentage of the population will never have to think about access and mobility issues. Visiting shops, cafes and workplaces will never be difficult. However, in a world that is striving to be more inclusive, making sure that as many people as possible can access spaces with ease, should be a given.
Without customers, a retail outlet can’t survive; and without the best employees within the workplace, a business will fail. It makes perfect sense that making spaces accessible to all is the way to go. Ask yourself the question, ‘Is your building working for you?’
Also Read: Hiring Professionals vs. Moving Yourself