How can heritage buildings improve disabled access?

January 16th, 2013 Category: Building Management

Towns and cities across the UK contain buildings dating back many years. Some are primarily tourist attractions, while others are still in regular use, perhaps as town halls and other civic buildings.

But since they were built in a very different era, they were created with different standards and priorities in mind.

As a result, it won't take anyone long to spot that older structures don't necessarily tick all the boxes you'd associate with modern buildings.

This is particularly true when it comes to disabled access, as they simply weren't designed with wheelchair users in mind.

It is only relatively recently that making buildings wheelchair-friendly has become a priority to builders, so newer buildings should hopefully be very accessible and easy to navigate.

However, it remains a constant frustration to people with disabilities that they cannot get around older buildings.

This is proving to be a particular problem in Haworth, West Yorkshire, which boasts many historic structures associated with the famous Bronte sisters, as they came from the area.

According to Johnnie Briggs, head of the Bronte Walks tour company, the reality of how inaccessible these buildings are only becomes apparent when a person with mobility issues is trying to get around.

Speaking to the Keighley News, he admitted the issue has "fallen off the radar" and that authorities have "stopped thinking about what we should be doing to address it".

"We need to find a solution," Mr Briggs said.

Operators of historic tourist attractions and organisations that are based in old buildings will almost certainly identify with his comments, as accessibility problems are by no means confined to Haworth.

So what can they do to deal with the problem? Bringing in facilities management specialists might be one good option, as they will be able to advise on how to improve wheelchair accessibility and take positive action straight away.

This should hopefully ensure that buildings remain faithful to the period in which they were created, without being impractical and inaccessible in the modern era.