Compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and building regulations


ISSN: 0263-2772

Article publication date: 1 March 2000




(2000), "Compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and building regulations", Facilities, Vol. 18 No. 3/4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and building regulations

Compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and building regulations

Keywords: Disabled people, Equal opportunities, Facilities, Building regulations

A personal view on inclusive design policy with reference to the Scottish parliament building by Su Peace and Buro Happold

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) Part 111, Removal of Physical Barriers, comes into force one year after the opening of the new Scottish parliament building. The design challenge now is to create an accessible building and one that is unlikely to be the subject of future legal challenges under the DDA.

Up until the DDA was enacted, Building Regulation Part T was the minimum standard which designers had to achieve for their buildings to be legally deemed accessible to people with disabilities. The requirements of Part T have implications for the structure, levels, circulation and space within a building. However, it does not deal with all areas of a building and it does not deal with all of the access requirements of all disabled people. For example, Part T does not require developers to make doors easy to open by ensuring that the door closer does not restrict people from being able to open it. The door is required to be wide enough, but not light enough, a key element for disabled people.

The DDA differs from Part T in that it introduces a legal requirement to attempt to meet the needs of each individual disabled person in every part of the building. Any disabled person who is unable to use a building because it does not cater for their individual requirements will be able to ask for that building to be altered. If it is considered reasonable to do so, then the service provider will have to make alterations.

Reasonableness is expected to be based on the financial position of the service provider, the likely cost of the necessary adaptations and what the service provider has done in the past to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Determining factors will probably include whether or not the provider has in place a strategy for making adaptations to the building. Or, in the case of a new building, taken all reasonable steps to provide a fully accessible building.

Providing an accessible debating chamber highlights just some of the challenges to be met in the delivery of the parliament building. Ideally an accessible chamber will ensure that MSPs can be seated at all levels in the chamber, that visually impaired people can find their way around the space and that hard of hearing people can fully participate in debates. Good wayfinding and orientation features, including "signage", will also provide good access.

"Parliament Building" Consultation Group

Buro Happold Access Consultancy is a key part of the design team. To ensure that we provide the best information and have a detailed understanding of any additional requirements, we have worked with Disability Scotland to set up an access advisory group containing representatives from Scottish disability organisations and local disability access panels. This process should ensure that the type of feature likely to be reasonably required under the DDA is picked up and incorporated in the design.

As Access Consultant for the Scottish Parliament I felt a great sense of excitement, nervousness and anticipation when I met with the Access Advisory Consultation Group. This building is not just a historic celebration of Scotland having its own Parliament, it also provides a major opportunity to set a great example of how to create a building that is fully accessible to disabled people and takes into account the future requirements of DDA.

My thoughts and feelings as I sat down with the group for the first time were that, as a team, we could do our best to ensure now that the building would not be the subject of reasonable adjustment action in the future. As I explained the process to the members and outlined the content of the reports that have been produced already it felt good that I was the instrument through which their voices could be heard.

The consultation process started with a general meeting some weeks ago attended by representatives of six local disability access groups, all whom were chosen by Disability Scotland. At that time the group commented on our initial response to the Building User Brief. These comments were considered and, where appropriate, added to the design guidance issued to the architects and, where not, a full explanation was given. This process will be repeated with each report written by my team and the results of this begin to form the basis of understanding in relation to the DDA.

The next meeting is to be in Aberdeen, followed by meetings in Perth and Glasgow. Each agenda will include consideration of aspects of the design. The meetings are also attended by members of the Holyrood Project Team and therefore the group's thoughts and recommendations are absorbed straight into the design process.

As this process continues, the Buro Happold access team will work with the facilities manager for the completed building and make sure that any challenge under the Act can be considered and acted on in the best way.

The way ahead

The challenge currently before us is to provide a building which not only complies with the generic requirements of the building regulations but caters for the individual needs of people using it. The whole design philosophy is paramount to its successful attainment and the use of an inclusive design policy is the only way that this can be achieved. To ensure this happens we are included as a part of the design team and we have regular meetings with the architect.

Our remit does not stop at the structural elements of the building. We advise on finishes, fittings, lighting, sound, fire evacuation, orientation, landscaping and much more. For, as anyone with a personal mobility problem knows, a building which conforms to the building regulations may still be "inaccessible".

In the case of the listed historic Queensberry House building, there is an additional requirement to satisfy Historic Scotland and conservation officers. The access issues relating to Queensberry House have been considered in an audit which is being used to help ensure that the building complies with both the access and the conservation requirements.

Some very prestigious buildings have been considered to be materially inaccessible once they have opened because of a lack of understanding or appreciation of the access requirements of those elements not covered by the building regulations. Our aim is to ensure that this does not happen with the new Scottish parliament building.

Background information

Buro Happold is a multi-disciplinary international practice of consulting engineers established in 1976 offering civil and structural engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, quantity surveying, building services and environmental engineering, infrastructure and traffic engineering, geotechnical engineering, faµade engineering, fire engineering, computational fluid dynamics analysis, access consultancy, project management, urban design and a range of specialist CAD services.

Further information contact: Helen Elias, Press and Public Relations Manager, Buro Happold, Camden Mill, Bath BA2 3DQ. Tel: +44 (0) 1225 320 627; Mobile: 0403 129 599; Fax: +44 (0) 1225 320 601; E-mail:

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