The workshop explored how to take into account the diverse needs of disabled people when adapting historic buildings, and coming up with creative and cost-effective solutions to meet these needs.
Architect Jamie Fobert presented the work of his practice at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge; and Clare Goodridge, Inclusive Design Officer at Islington Council, London, outlined the key tools for design access.
Addressing access challenges
The workshop involved discussions around different types of accessibility. While some sites may present physical access problems, they can still be inclusive for people with other impairments.
The Kettle's Yard project presented significant access challenges, with an historic building that had 16 flights of stairs. These access issues were addressed by putting a focus on providing disabled people with the same access as non-disabled people.
“The fact remains that access still needs to be given greater priority by everyone in historic places.”
Discussions covered the needs of families with disabled children, recommending quiet rest places designed from the start. There were also discussions around installing Changing Places toilets or signposting to the nearest ones available, helping people with severe or multiple impairments to access heritage.
Design and development tools
Clare Goodridge shared some of the key tools available to help encourage designers, architects and planning applicants to consider access from the start of their application. These included:
“One of the best ways that access can be achieved is to speak with disabled people and start making the changes that are suitable.”
- National Planning Policy Framework: this recognises that providing good access exceeds aesthetic concerns in new developments
- The London Plan: this defines an inclusive environment as one that offers dignity and encourages creative thinking
- Local plans: these encourage proactive planning with good access designed from the start
- Development management policies (individual to local authorities): these outline that legible and logical environments will be convenient and enjoyable for everyone, and that providing good access ensures sustainability
Discussions also dealt with the limits of these tools and how consultation with community groups on individual cases is crucial.
Read the full summary of the workshop written by Rosie Sherrington, Senior Social Inclusion and Diversity Adviser at Historic England, below.