COMMONS

Disability and the built environment inquiry launched

10 August 2016

The Women and Equalities Committee launch an inquiry into the accessibility of our homes, buildings and public spaces.

Background

The accessibility of our homes, buildings and public spaces is an issue not just for those of us with a permanent physical disability. With an ageing population, it is likely that more and more of us will experience reduced mobility in our lifetime. There are also other needs to consider, such as mental health. In this inquiry we explore the extent to which those needs are considered and accommodated in our built environment, and ask whether more could be done to increase the accessibility and inclusivity of both new and existing properties and spaces.

Chair's comments

Committee Chair Maria Miller said:

"This area raises some interesting questions, and there is a great deal of scope for innovation. For example: how can building information modelling and modern methods of construction, contribute to making environments more accessible and inclusive? How can we deliver greater accessibility and inclusivity alongside more age-friendly towns and cities, including liaison with the NHS? To what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved? We need to ensure that buildings and public spaces are as accessible and inclusive as possible, and that communities can fully engage with the process of decision making that shapes the accessibility of the built environment."

Definitions

Built environment

In using the term "built environment", we include homes, public buildings, commercial premises and the public realm (publicly owned streets, pathways, right of ways, parks, publicly accessible open spaces and any public and civic building and facilities.) To keep the scope of this inquiry manageable, we will not be covering public transport, but we will continue to pursue issues raised by the recent Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee in our wider work.

Accessible / accessibility

We use the social model of disability. By accessible we mean usable by most people regardless of their age, agility and physical, sensory or other abilities and easily adaptable for use by people with very specific needs, such as physical disabilities.

Call for written submissions

The Women and Equalities Committee invites written evidence that focuses on one or more of the following issues:

Government policy on and current provision of accessible properties (including homes and commercial premises)

  • How adequate is the supply of accessible properties (including homes and commercial premises)?
  • To what extent is the Government taking current and future needs for accessible homes into account in its policies on increasing housing supply?
  • How effective are the planning and building regulations systems in ensuring the provision of new accessible / lifetime homes?
  • What can be done to increase the accessibility of existing housing stock to support independent living?
  • Could financial or other mechanisms be used to encourage developers to go beyond minimum standards of accessibility?

The effectiveness of UK legislation, policies and standards on accessibility in the built environment

  • How well do Part M of the Building Regulations and Approved Document M perform in providing reasonable levels of accessibility in the built environment and what could be done to improve performance?
  • Is there sufficient compliance with building regulations and requests for reasonable adjustment? If not, what more could be done to increase compliance?
  • Do current standards regarding accessibility in the built environment take account of the full range of disability and impairment needs? (For example, are the needs of people with dementia, the visually impaired, those with mental health issues and older people given sufficient consideration? If not, what more could be done to increase inclusivity?)
  • What is the role of reasonable adjustments in delivering accessibility?

Design and management of the public realm

  • Are the needs of all groups given adequate consideration in the design of streets, highways, parks and publicly accessible open spaces and in the provision of services such as public toilets?
  • To what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved?
  • What opportunities are there for delivering greater accessibility and inclusivity alongside more age-friendly towns and cities, including liaison with the NHS?

The role of designers, architects and built environment specialists in ensuring accessibility and inclusivity

  • To what extent is the need for accessibility taken into account in the design of buildings and public spaces? What can the professionals who are responsible for the creation, maintenance and retrofitting of our built environment do to ensure that buildings and public spaces are as accessible and inclusive as possible?
  • How well is inclusive design built into training for built environment specialists such as planners, designers, architects and building inspectors? Is there sufficient continuing professional development on inclusive design for such specialists? What tools and techniques are needed to infuse inclusive design into education and training programmes?
  • How can changes to the way we create and adapt our built environment, such as building information modelling and modern methods of construction, contribute to making environments more accessible and inclusive?

Local involvement in decision-making

  • How effectively are communities able to engage with the process of decision making that shapes the accessibility of the built environment? Are there any barriers to effective public engagement and if so, how might these be addressed?
  • Could local authorities do more through licensing, planning and/or enforcement to increase the accessibility of the built environment?

Send a written submission via the Disability and the built environment inquiry page.

If you would like to submit evidence to the inquiry, please read Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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