A disability access audit will provide you with a list of modifications that you should make to a property to ensure it offers an ‘inclusive environment’ to guests and visitors. This can include access to a building, communal circulation areas or a list of modifications within a property required perhaps because the occupant is disabled, infirm or perhaps wheelchair bound.

A disability access audit is a Chartered Surveyor’s or Chartered Engineer’s inspection of a premises to assess to what extent it complies with Disability Access legislation. The aim being to draw up a list of proposals as to what alterations or works need to be done to a property to make the property an inclusive building, easy to navigate by disabled persons whether they be visually impaired, infirm, wheelchair bound, hard of hearing or otherwise. Typical adjustments include issues such as level access, ramps, tactile surfaces, induction loops to aid hearing, wheelchair accessible toilets.

The Disability Discrimination Acts 1995 and 2005 aim to end the discrimination that many disabled people face. For example, it is now a legal requirement that disabled person can enjoy equal treatment and access to all aspects of life. Discrimination means giving less favourable treatment, not making reasonable adjustments and specific rights have been granted to disabled people rights in the areas of:

  • employment,
  • education,
  • access to goods, facilities and services, including larger private clubs and transport services,
  • buying or renting land or property, including making it easier for disabled people to rent property and for tenants to make disability-related adaptations,
  • functions of public bodies, for example issuing of licenses.

Ringley can:

  • provide independent advice and perform a 'disability access audit' to help you comply with regulations.
  • prepare specifications for improvements,
  • tender specifications,
  • administrate works on site.

Reasonable adjustments, what is it all about?

The principles are to make “reasonable adjustments” and “not discriminate disable by giving less favourable treatment”. The definition of disability is wide and refers to long term physical or mental impairment, from date of diagnosis, not just when symptoms begin to affect disability.

Who has to make DDA adjustments?

Under the Goods & Services Act 1995 DDA applies to offices and not residential accommodation.

BUT, effective December 2006 the 1995 Act was amended to apply to residential premises (long leasehold, commonhold, landlords and managers).

If lease prohibits structural alterations or improvements then the terms should be changed for that lease. All alternation need to get landlord’s consent, request can be refused if is unreasonable.

  • length of lease
  • health and safety issues for other residents,
  • effectiveness,
  • disruption and effect on other lessees,
  • extent of landlord’s resources ( grants are available).

There is nothing in the 2005 Act to say that a Freeholder has to make adjustments to common parts, but there is a positive requirement for the owner/competent landlord to make adjustments within a dwelling.

There is a positive duty to provide auxiliary aids and services, ramps, braille invoices (would a phone call suffice?), interpreter and to alter physical features. Physical features do not include door bells, signs, colour schemes, furnishings, door entry systems).

There is a positive duty to change the terms of the lease to enable alterations to be carried out within a dwelling, for example, structural changes to widen door openings, change a pets clause to allow an assistance dog… And, a dog toilet in the grounds!

Policies and procedures should not make it unreasonably difficult for a disabled person, ie, if there is a unallocated parking space near to the front door allocating this to a disabled person would be a reasonable policy.

There are proposals for a specific duty on landlords for common parts, consultation paper June 2007, legislation awaited. The proposal being for a duty to make a disability related alterations to common parts where it is reasonable to do so and at the disabled persons expense.

Tips adjustments and who should pay

By applying the principles of:

  • Alteration/adjustment within the property, house, flat, office…
  • Alteration/adjustment within the common parts to the flats or offices…
  • Auxiliary aid to common parts or within the property
  • Change to lease, policies, procedures
Item Classification (alteration/adjustment, auxiliary aid, Change lease/policies/procedures) Person that might be responsible for item
Ramp to access the building Auxiliary aid Landlord
Stair lift to access the building Alteration/adjustment Tenant/Occupier
Stair lift to access the property Alteration/adjustment Tenant/Occupier
Storage for mobility scooters Alteration/adjustment Tenant/Occupier
Need a parking space close to access door Change lease/policies/procedures Landlord (if unallocated space or visitors space available)
Need to change lease/rules to allow assistance dog Change lease/policies/procedures Landlord
Request to change a bathroom to a walk in shower Alteration/adjustment & Change lease/policies/procedures Tenant/Occupier & Landlord
Damage caused by wheelchair user Alteration/adjustment Tenant/Occupier
Dropped curves Auxiliary aid Landlord
Removing, replacing or providing furniture, furnishing, materials or equipment Auxiliary aid Landlord
Replacing or providing signs or notices Auxiliary aid Landlord
Replacing taps or door handles Auxiliary aid Landlord to common parts & Tenant/Occupier within flat
Widening the doors Alteration/adjustment Tenant/Occupier
Braille version of invoice Auxiliary aid Landlord
Changing the colour of the surface (such as a wall or door) Auxiliary aid Landlord
Adjusting the height of door bells or adjusting door entry systems Auxiliary aid Landlord
Key safe for career Auxiliary aid Landlord

DDA grants what is available

Grants can be sought by a disabled person or someone living with that person, or by owner/tenant of a property where the disabled person lives on behalf of the disabled person. Disable Facilities Grants are given by local councils to owners or tenants in both private and social housing subject up to £25,000.

Grant can be used for:

  • widening doors and installing ramps
  • providing or improving access to rooms and facilities, e.g. installing stair lift or providing downstairs bathroom
  • improving or providing a heating system which is suitable for disabled person
  • adapting heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use
  • improving access to and movement around the home to enable to care for another person who lives in property, such as a child

Alteriors & consents for accessibility adaptations

The following are some of the likely next steps you may need to undertake:

  • Get a Survey – to check if building comply with requirements of Acts
  • Get a legal opinion – what is reasonable?
  • Get a Building Surveyor/Engineer to consider requirements of approving proposed alterations
  • Get a lawyer to draft a Licence to Alter to permit alterations, subject to No. 3 above
  • Get a lawyer to draft a Deed of Variation to change the terms of a lease
  • Make a grant application

A Ringley Surveyor will give consideration to adaptations necessary/practical to assist persons with physical motion disabilities i.e., obstacles needing attention or aids required to assist movement around the site. Our report will also address concerns of persons who are visually impaired and need assistance with signage and contrast colours to access ways, visual demarcation & furniture to doors and some advice on decorating and lighting schemes will be included.

Ringley law can provide a legal opinion as to which changes and adaptations might be considered as reasonable and on any changes that may be required to the terms of any lease or tenancy agreement via a Deed of Variation.

A Ringley Building Surveyor/Engineer can inspect the property, plans, check structural support elements, review structural calculations and make a recommendation as to whether the alteration is possible from construction point of view, advice necessary documentation and precautions to be taken and on compliance matters such as planning permission, building regulations consent etc..

Once approval by the Freeholder/Landlord has been given the proposed alterations need to be formally permitted by way of a Licence to Alter.

Ringley law Services can provide a legal opinion as to which changes and adaptations might be considered as reasonable and on any changes that may be required to the terms of any lease or tenancy agreement via a Deed of Variation.

Grant applications must be made via an application form which should be available from the housing or environmental health department of your local council and ask them to send you an application form. A grant must be applied for before work is started. The local council must notify you of the result of your application, in writing, within six months of the date of application.

Further References

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (applies to offices not residential accommodation)

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (amended to the 1995 Act to apply principles to residential premises)




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