Investing in Access is a feasibility study to develop a Scotland wide quality standard in the built environment for accessibility.  Like Investing in Volunteers and Investing in People, Investing in Access (IIA) aims to create a recognised benchmark for accessible buildings and venues of all kinds.

The idea for IIA was developed in response to the need for improved building access identified through Disability Equality Scotland’s own research, the lived experience of the disabled volunteers in local Disability Access Panels across Scotland and the Scottish Government’s Fairer Scotland Ambition 3, and Articles 8, 9, 19, 27, 29 and 30 within the UNCRPD.  This is a unique project as there is no national standard for accessibility, drawing on the skills and knowledge of disabled volunteers, to help shape a community that works for everyone.

IIA aims to strengthen the relationships between disabled people, businesses, and public bodies initially in Forth Valley and Tayside, improving access for all.

The process for IIA would involve an initial baseline audit carried out by an insured and qualified access auditor, a member of the NAST (National Access Survey Team, a group of volunteer disabled people, qualified access auditors and members of Access Panels (of whom Disability Equality Scotland is the umbrella body.  The establishment is given a report containing any access issues, with an agreed timeline for improvement.  A final audit will be carried out, if all is well, the organisation is presented with a certificate and plaque, or a further timescale for completion is agreed.

An example of improved access could be as simple as an accessible toilet not meeting the required standard as the alarm cord needs to be lengthened or the contrast of colours used needs to be improved. 

Recommendations could cover the entire premises, as relevant.  Disability Equality Scotland will oversee the overall project, with a sessional worker providing support to the organisation and the NAST group itself.  The scheme will be promoted in the local areas using a variety of media – local newspapers, social media, leafletting and door knocking! 

The learning from this project will shape the design and implementation of a roll-out of a national standard across Scotland, emphasising on the benefits from better access to education, businesses, employment and leisure for disabled people.  Evidence will be gathered using quantitative (increased revenue/footfall as relevant) and qualitative (listening survey process engaging with disabled people on the impact of the Standard and/or any improvements).  An online map will be created on the Disability Equality Scotland Inclusive Design Hub, showing premises who have gained IIA status, eventually linking with Euan’s Guide’s personal reviews, giving both personal and certified evidence of accessibility.

Whilst the overall project will be managed by Disability Equality Scotland, disabled people will take the lead from inception, forming steering group, working with organisations and carrying out the access audits. 

The project would bring in revenue for Access Panels in the fee structure relevant to the level of support and audit required, increasing their sustainability and viability.

The Investing in Access pilot study will be a trial run considering the feasibility of a larger roll out of a set of quality standards across Scotland.  Like Investing in Volunteers and Investing in People, Investing in Access will aim to create a recognised standard for disabled people and the wider public when looking at a building or venues accessibility.

Disability Equality Scotland is the national umbrella body for Access Panels in Scotland and more information about Access Panels can be found here:

www.disabilityequality.scot

The pilot project will be looking to create an industry standard for the built environment in Scotland during the year it runs.  Using SMART outcomes (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) we aim to create an environment where accessibility is recognised as desirable by business, local authorities and other private, public and third sector bodies.

When a business decides it wants to know more about Investing in Access and what it would mean for them, the process (albeit condensed for the purposes of this application) would follow like this:

  1. The organisation/business would contact Disability Equality Scotland and express an interest in knowing more, possibly participating in the Investing in Access Award.
  2. Disability Equality Scotland would notify the nearest Access Panel to the organisation and arrange a time for the three parties to meet.
  3. If agreed, an initial access audit would take place providing a baseline to work from.
  4. At this point the fee involved would be discussed and agreed depending on the level of support required but will range from £300 to £600.
  5. The baseline audit would be matched with the quality standards (BS8300 that are relevant to the business applying and an agreement would be signed by all parties involved).
  6. The organisation would then have either 6 or 12 months (depending on agreed work schedule) to complete the recommendations set out in the audit report and to achieve the level set out in the quality standards. Support and advice will be available during the process as required and the sessional worker will work directly with the organisation
  7. Progress and evidence can be uploaded to our already operational Inclusive Design Hub with a unique user account being created for each applicant
  8. Once the organisation declares they have finished working through the recommendations an examination audit will take place.
  9. All being well, a presentation of the award will be arranged with suitable promotion etc.
  10. If further time is required to achieve the standard then an  extension can be discussed and agreed upon.

The pilot scheme will establish an expressed and on-going commitment from participants to ensure the quality standards are maintained after IIA has been awarded.  Follow up audits at 6 and 12 months to ensure that organisations are maintaining their investment in access or need further support or information.

If successful in the application for grant funding we aim to have a sessional worker in place as soon as possible.  It will be their job to co-ordinate the scheme in the pilot area, liaise with Access Panels and provide administrative support to applicants.  We plan to have a localised launch instead targeting the award scheme to potential applicants and by using social media, local press, leaflet drops to local businesses and several localised events.  The Access Engagement Officer at Disability Equality Scotland will have overall responsibility for the pilot project and provide guidance and line management to the sessional worker.  The sessional worker will have an office base in Alloa but will primarily work in the community to develop the awards scheme.

The access auditing will be completed by Access Panel members who are trained and qualified to carry out such work.  Disability Equality Scotland, as part of their support role to Access Panels, provide public liability and professional indemnity insurance across the network.  We plan to run the pilot for 9 months in Forth Valley and Tayside and the initial research that has been conducted has been positive and that an awards scheme such as this would be well received by business.

The project is being managed by Anne-Marie Martin, Investing in Access Project Support worker.  For more information about Investing in Access please contact Anne-Marie on 01259 272064 or by emailing anne-marie@disabilityequality.scot