The legislative context
Changes to legislation mean that several equality related duties have been, or will be, placed on the public sector. While inclusive design helps create environments that can be used by everyone, the greatest potential impact will be on disabled people. Disability Discrimination legislation is therefore the most relevant in terms of inclusive design.
Disability Discrimination Duties
The Disability Discrimination Act ( DDA) 2005 amends the DDA 1995 to place a duty on all public authorities to promote disability equality. This means that public authorities, including local authorities and the Scottish Executive, must, in carrying out their functions, have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment that is unlawful under the DDA. They must also promote equality of opportunity between disabled people and non-disabled people, and take steps to take account of disabled people's needs, even where that involves treating disabled people more favourably than non-disabled people.
This latter requirement goes further than preventing discrimination or treating disabled people on equal terms; it requires that active steps must be taken to remove the barriers that disabled people experience in their daily lives. The Scottish Executive and local authorities will be required to produce Disability Equality Schemes ( DES) by December 2006 explaining how they are addressing such issues. The requirement for a DES means, for example, that staff within local authority planning, roads and building standards departments will have to monitor and assess the effect their policies and practices have on disabled people, or the likely impact of their proposed policies and practices.
Given the significant barriers faced by disabled people accessing the built environment, and the subsequent problems this creates for them in accessing housing, transport, leisure, education and employment, it is likely that development planning policies will be influenced by the duty. For further information on the DDA 2005 visit www.drc-gb.org/scotland .
Current planning policy and advice
There is currently limited national planning policy or advice relating to inclusive design issues. However, Scottish Planning Policy 1 ( SPP) The Planning System encourages the promotion of social justice so that the needs of all communities and interests can be taken account of.
The Executive has published Scottish Planning Policy 17 and Planning Advice Note 75 ( PAN) both entitled Planning for Transport. This SPP states that equality obligations should be taken into account in planning developments in relation to their accessibility to different users by different means of transport. It asks that particular attention be paid to socially excluded groups, and to accessibility to areas of social deprivation.
In addition, PAN 68: Design Statements, makes reference to accessibility in its broadest sense in the list of issues which should be explained within such a statement. These statements can be submitted in support of a planning application to set out the design principles that determined the layout and explain why the design solution adopted is the most suitable.
Proposals in planning legislation highlight the Executive's
intention to require an access statement
for certain types of buildings to which the public has access. The statement will contain details of how issues relating to access to the development for the disabled have been dealt with. These will be useful tools to assist planners in their decision making and ensure that the best possible solution for creating an inclusive environment has been developed. Guidance on the contents of an access statement will be provided once the Planning Bill has completed is Parliamentary process.
The primary purpose of the building standards system in Scotland is to secure the health, safety, welfare and convenience of people in or around buildings. In addition to this, it also addresses issues of energy efficiency, sustainability and the accessibility of buildings. Compliance with the Scottish building standards is a statutory requirement when carrying out building work to almost all building types.
Building standards aim to provide safe and usable buildings which support the aims of legislation such as the DDA. This is recognised in the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004, where the requirement to provide for convenient and unassisted access is established within the building standards.
The Scottish Building Standards Agency issues Technical Handbooks to support the statutory regulations and functional standards of the system. These Handbooks give detailed guidance on complying with the mandatory functional standards of the regulations. Details of these publications are provided in the Annex.
It is important for designers to recognise that the guidance given is the minimum to comply with the functional standard and that this may not always equate to recognised good practice for accessibility and the provision of fully inclusive environments. This is explained within the Technical Handbooks and further reference is made to sources of good practice, such as the British Standard, BS 8300: 2001.
Building standards do not cover all issues that may require to be addressed in relation to user amenity and a building owner's duty under Disability Discrimination legislation. For example, issues such as signage, visual contrast, lighting and door ironmongery are not subject to building standards.
A review of the building standards that relate to accessibility and use of buildings is in progress with the intent of updating standards and guidance to better recognise recommended good practice. This is planned to come into force in May 2007.
Designers and developers should be aware of the relationship between planning and building standards legislation and what elements of a design proposal are covered by each. For example, building standards are generally applicable within the curtilage of a single building whereas planning legislation will address the wider issues of a development site, including provision of access roads and footpaths.
It is important too that access to buildings and their environments is considered at the inception of a project and carried through the various statutory permissions to deliver an inclusive environment.
Following inclusive design principles and considering good practice over and above the minimum statutory standards will help ensure that a building is designed to meet the needs of building users and, where relevant, an occupier's legal duties.