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Disability Equality Specialist Support Agency

Dealing with architects and designers

Most architects, designers and builders are aware of the requirements of Part M, although they may be less familiar with the Equal Status Acts and their implications for design. This section aims to help community-based projects ensure that they get the best results from the professionals with whom they engage.


The suggestions below deal only with the accessibility aspects of working with architects and designers. There are lots of other general aspects to consider, of course.


Choosing an Architect or Designer

Make sure that they are properly qualified.

  • Make sure that they are a member of RIAI (Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland) or AAI (Architectural Association of Ireland).
  • Make it clear from the beginning that accessibility is a key concern of your organisation and that your commitment is to inclusive design that goes beyond the requirements of the Building Regulations. Assess their reaction to this!
  • Ask them about the accessibility features of other, preferably similar, projects that they have done. Ask if you can go to see them.
  • Ask them what resources on accessibility they use. Do they have a copy of Building for Everyone? What do they think of it? Are they aware of BS 8300:2001, an important British Standard on access for people with disabilities. What do they think of it?
  • Ask them if they have been on any courses about inclusive design or access for people with disabilities.


Briefing an Architect or Designer

Give them a copy of your statement of commitment to universal access.

  • Be as clear as possible about how your premises will be used, how often, by whom and for what, not just now but in the future. For example, you may have no children with disabilities in your after-school group at the moment, but you may intend to in the future
  • Encourage them to explore how to make sure that your aspirations are translated into bricks and mortar by:
    • if they haven't already got them, getting copies of key documents such as Part M, Building for Everyone, other publications on accessibility, relevant British Standards etc.
    • visiting to get a list of standards and publications relating to creating and auditing access for people with disabilities in the built environment
    • using the resources of the NDA Library
  • Explain that you want the architect or other project manager to pay particular attention during the construction and fitting out stages to ensure that no changes are made on-site that might compromise the accessibility features of the building.


Working with an Architect or Designer

  • Ask as many questions as you need to. Unexpected difficulties arise in every building project and it is important to resolve them as quickly as possible.
  • Let the architect or other project manager deal with the builders. Too many cooks spoil the broth!
  • Get "access" put as a heading at every site meeting with the builders, like they already do for health and safety.


Want to know more?

Read the following booklets, available free from RIAI:

  • Working with your Architect (aimed at home owners)
  • A Client's Guide to Briefing and the Building Process, especially pp 3-6, which explain the stages involved in a small project, such as the kind likely to be undertaken by community-based organisations, and what to expect from architects at each stage
  • RIAI Cost Data Guidelines

Although these booklets are not aimed at community-based projects they contain general information that would be useful to anyone who is embarking on a building project.