The Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry into Disability and the Built Environment reminded us all that inclusive design is not just a nice to do. Their report last summer highlighted the stark reality that, despite years of antidiscrimination legislation, disabled people are still finding their lives needlessly restricted by features of the built environment.
Use the advice and guidance in BS 8300: 2018 and help make inclusion the norm not the exception.
Planners, through the critical role we play in planning and shaping our towns and cities, have a statutory duty to ensure that disabled and older people have the same opportunities as non disabled people to live full and independent lives. We as planners must respond, along with all other built environment professionals, and ensure that we no longer allow barriers to inclusion to be designed, built or maintained.
Do you have the skills and knowledge to plan to include?
Do you have the technical knowhow to judge whether a planning proposal will provide an inclusive environment or not? Do you know whether you overlook the critical detail that will make a building easy and comfortable to use?
We are getting better at assessing wheelchair accessibility, but do we really understand how to design buildings and spaces that are accessible and usable by blind and partially sighted people, or by people whose walking ability is limited or whose perception of space requires legible routes and predictable layouts. With the loss in many local authorities of the expert access officer on hand to ask, we all need to recognise what we don’t know and brush up on our technical skills.
A new British Standard
If you need to refresh your skills, the new British Standard, a revised and updated version of BS 8300:2010, provides an opportunity for you to gain a greater understanding of inclusive design and help you ensure that planning proposals have adequately addressed accessibility before you grant planning permission.
Published in January, the BS 8300:2018 Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment is divided into two parts. Part 1: External environment - explains how the external built environment, including streets, parks, landscaped areas, the approach to a building and the spaces between and around buildings, can be designed, built and managed to achieve an inclusive environment. It complements and is intended to be read in conjunction with Part 2: Buildings.
Advice given in Part 1 incorporates material relating to the external environment that was in the original BS 8300:2010 but it has been expanded to include wider aspects not previously included – e.g. lighting, assistance dog toilets, water features and public art. Advice is also given for specific locations such as access to beaches, play areas, parks and gardens, and nature trails.
For the first time, the British Standard has included advice on how to integrate inclusive design principles into the development process.
Part 2 has updated and expanded the advice on nearly all aspects of the accessibility of buildings. Although the standard recognises that more research is needed before comprehensive advice can be given to address ‘Designs for the Mind’, the new code does include advice on, for example, quiet spaces. This includes when and what to provide in a dedicated room or space where people can find peace and tranquillity to manage sensory / neurological processing needs or spend time in prayer or contemplation.
Integrating inclusive design into the development process
For the first time, the British Standard has included advice on how to integrate inclusive design principles into the development process. Recognising the importance of addressing access and inclusion from the outset of any project it recommends, in Section 4, the development of an Inclusive Design Strategy as part of any strategic vision, with the principles of inclusive design embedded into the initial concept brief.
Budget estimates, procurement processes and development agreements should make explicit reference to meeting best practice, helping to establish the principles of an inclusive development prior to the drafting of master plans and outline designs.
This should make it easier for designers to demonstrate how access and inclusion has been addressed in the Design and Access Statement submitted at planning application stage.
The masterplan and outline planning stages provide the opportunity to address the accessibility of the site and building layout. Section 5 sets out guidance on site planning, the position of buildings and their features, navigation, orientation and way finding, the legibility of space, and the principles of two senses (audible / tactile and visual).
Early consideration of the impact topography, the location of buildings across the site, the position of entrances and other features, and how they are arranged can help to maximise their accessibility.
If you want to hear more about the new BS 8300:2018 register here for the CIC Inclusive Environment Briefing February 22nd at the RICS Headquarters in London.
Julie Fleck OBE, MRTPI is the RTPI representative on the British Standard Committee B/559 responsible for the development of BS 8300.