The Disability Discrimination Act (1995)
The above Act is designed to protect the rights of disabled people and to ensure that their conditions of employment, work and service are consistent with those of able bodied people.
DDA Part III ‘Descrimination in relation to goods, facilities and services’ states:
“19. - (1) It is unlawful for a provider of services to discriminate against a disabled person
And goes on in paragraph 21(2), to specify
“(2) Where a physical feature (for example, one arising from the design or construction of a building or the approach or access to premises) makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled persons to make use of such a service, it is the duty of the provider of that service to take such steps as it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, for him to have to take in order to
(a) remove the feature;
(b) alter it so that it no longer has that effect;
(c) provide a reasonable means of avoiding the feature; or
(d) provide a reasonable alternative method of making the service in question available to disabled persons”.
How do colour and finish help?
The above quote is an explicit reference to the ability of disabled people to find, travel through and use buildings.
Considered use of colour (see page 00) can create pathways, identify obstacles and define volume and spaces to those with visual impairments helping to make the physical environment safer and easier to use.
The requirements of Approved Document M
The Building Regulations, Approved Document M ‘Access to and use of buildings’ 2000 sets out requirements for the design and construction of all new extended, refurbished or materially changed non-domestic buildings. Less stringent, but similar rules apply to most dwellings.
The requirements of the Regulations cover the following:
M1 - Access and Use
Reasonable provision shall be made for people to gain access to and use the building and its facilities.
M2 - Access to extensions to Buildings other than Dwellings
Suitable independent access shall be provided to the extension where reasonably practicable
M3 and M4 - Sanitary Conveniences in Extensions to Buildings other than Dwellings
The requirements of ADM will be met by ‘making reasonable provision to ensure that buildings are accessible and usable’.
It should be noted however, that compliance with ADM does not constitute a guarantee of a building’s ability to comply with all aspects of the DDA.
How do colour and finish help
Approved Document M does not specify rules for the use of colour or finish, although section 3.12 states:
‘3.12 In order to help people with visual impairment to appreciate the size of a space they have entered, or to find their way around, there should be a visual contrast between the wall and the floor. Such attention to surface finishes should be coupled with good natural and artificial lighting design’.
The Approved Document does, however extensively refer to BS 8300 (see below), the design recommendations of which are based on user trials and studies carried out by the DETR and which, if followed, should ensure good
BS 8300: 2001 ‘Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people ¬Code of Practice’.
This Code of Practice, whilst not law, nor offering a guarantee of compliance with the law, does offer hard and fast recommendations and guidance that specifically relate to designing for visually impaired people.
Section 9 states:
‘9.1 Surface finishes Commentary on 9.1. Floor, wall and door and ceiling surfaces can help or hinder the use of buildings by disabled people. For example, people with sensory impairments may have difficulty finding their way around spaces if they cannot respond to visual cues.
The extent to which floor, wall, door and ceiling surfaces enable disabled people to find and maintain their bearings and maintain their independent use of a building, is influenced by:
a) the colour, light reflectance value (LRV) and texture of the surfaces;
b) the treatment of components and finishing elements, such as doors, architraves, skirtings, cornices, handrails, etc. which define, or are contained within, these surfaces;
c) the appropriate use of surfaces to clarify location and direction and to identify objects;
BS 8300 and Light Reflectance Values (LRV’s)
Annex G of the British Standard expands upon the importance of good visual contrast to help visually impaired people differentiate and define surfaces.
It equates colour with a light reflectance value (LRV) and, in principle, states that areas with higher LRV differentials (ideally upwards of 30 points) are more readily differentiated by the visually impaired.
This means that colours with identifiable LRV’s can be used together to develop design schemes that meet the recommendations of BS 8300.