Disabled Access to Public Buildings

In his next blog, EaRN volunteer Colin looks at access to public buildings and what reasonable adjustments can and should be made.

The Equality Act 2010 states that disabled people have the right to ‘reasonable adjustments’ that makes jobs and access reasonable.  Access for disabled people is a legal requirement, this applies to employers, public and private services.  Disability is defined in the above Act as somebody with a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [your] ability to carry-out normal dad-to-day “activities”

What counts as ‘disabled’ under the Equality Act? By law ‘long-term’ means that your condition:

  1. Has lasted for at least 12 months
  2. Is expected to last at least 12 months
  3. Means that you’re expected to live for at least for at least 12 months

Being classified as ‘disabled’ under The Equality Act means that if you find yourself in a situation where you are discriminated against, the Act will cover you.

The Act also covers people with the following conditions from the moment of diagnosis:

  1. Cancer
  2. HIV
  3. Multiple sclerosis
  4. Facial disfigurement



The Equality Act of 2010 states that there is a duty to make reasonable adjustments if you’re placed at a substantial disadvantage due to your disability compared with non-disabled people.  Reasonable adjustments include:

  1. Ramped access
  2. Automatic access to buildings by installing body sensory doors
  3. Tactile paving for visually impaired citizens
  4. Signed directions for speech impaired citizens
  5. Visual alerts for citizens with a hearing impairment

An inclusive approach to design ‘should’ be taken to ensure that every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that all occupants and visitors are provided with safe, convenient and unassisted access to the building.  This only applies to buildings in Scotland for which a building for which a building warrant  submitted on or after 1st March 2021 and to building work which does not require a warrant commenced from that date.

All those involved in the design of buildings should be aware of their responsibilities under The Equality Act 2010, further details can be found in clause 4.0.1.

An accessible route to the building should contain no barriers such as kerbs, steps or similar obstructions which may restrict access.  Street furniture such as refuse bins can present a hazard, particularly to a wheelchair user or a person with a visual impairment.

Building standards regulations and technical guidance were created to ensure buildings are safe, efficient and sustainable are covered by The Building (Scotland) Act 2003.

The legislation is meant to increase access to public buildings yet many owners ‘hide’ behind the building being listed and claim exemption to access rules yet continue to profit from renting out such venues during the Edinburgh Festival.

Access to buildings and amenities have improved considerably yet further foresight still needs to be given to planning the installation of cash machines which are often not at wheelchair level.   When I opened my first bank account in the 80’s there were very few banks with level/ramped access and even fewer cash machines at wheelchair level, therefore I had no option but to open an account with Girobank at my local post office which was accessible.  There were several constraints in that you could only withdraw £20 every alternative day, irrespective of your account balance and you could only nominate 2 post offices throughout the UK.  With the introduction of contactless access to physical money is not as vital as it used to be.

Politicians of all persuasions who are meant to promote inclusiveness of all citizens are very often naïve and more interested in personal priorities than those of the electorate who they are meant to represent.

An example being the introduction of different coloured refuse bins for recycling are not ‘disabled’ friendly in that 1 hand is needed to open bin and 1 hand to deposit refuse which are not at wheelchair level.