Although an access audit is a common process in both new and existing buildings, the process and format for an access audit varies widely depending upon the client, the nature of the facility and the person undertaking the audit.
In its most common interpretation, an access audit is a means of assessing features of an environment (building or external area) and services in terms of accessibility. The auditor assesses how well the environment (and often method of service delivery) meets the needs of existing and potential users, which may include staff, visitors, volunteers, with a range of mobility, sensory or cognitive impairments or needs. During the audit process, potential barriers are identified and recommendations made for change or enhancement. Some of the changes may require construction works of a minor or substantial nature, others may be changes in management practices or items to address during routine maintenance or when re-decorating. Accessibility includes spatial, visual and audio considerations from the appropriate choice of colour palettes and lighting design, to the provision of lifts, ramps and accessible toilets facilities, to the provision of technology such as visual alerts and hearing enhancement systems.
Alongside the audit recommendations, it is helpful to have an indication of the likely cost or at least a budgetary indicator and here cost guidance such as the NSR are essential.
Guidelines for undertaking and commissioning audits are set out in the Centre for Accessible Environment’s Access Auditing handbook which is a useful companion text to the NSR guide and available at the link below.