Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Why Access Audits cannot be done over the phone

I am often asked to conduct a light-weight audit (usually by clients who have just had sight of a proposal!!).  
I say "Sure!  Which impairments shall I exclude for you?"
Think about it...if we exclude say wheelchair users...then life would be much simpler?
Only 4% of disabled people own a wheelchair.
So if we get it right for everyone else...then we can claim to be 96% accessible?
Now when I was at school, 96% was a pass...a heck of a good pass!
But obviously that would be barmy in an access situation.  
It would be like claiming to be a 96% virgin!  ("Well, I have only had 4% of the sex that I hope to have in my lifetime!").

Doing an audit over the phone never works.  Let me give you a recent example; I was conducting an audit on a facility which had 2 storeys.  I asked what was upstairs, to be told that it was only offices, and if a visitor came (or they had an employee) who could not get up the stairs, then an office can be made available downstairs.  I asked for confirmation - is it only offices?  Yes.  But curiosity never killed any cat I know, so I decided to "bum shuffle" up the stairs and have a look.  It was worth the effort (and dirty trousers!).  I found an incredible resource (free computer training), which had been 'forgotten' by the 2 managers that I asked.  I also found Boardrooms and a heck of a lot more space (the ground floor was incredibly crowded).  Now there was no malicious intent when I was misinformed.  The people genuinely forgot!  The same happens often when I phone hotels & restaurants for my own private use.  I wish I had a penny for every step that was missed or narrow doorway that was overlooked.  I have even seen it happen with my own eyes; I was lecturing a some students on Access issues, and part of the process was a 'live' audit.  They were very precise when measuring the accessible parking bay...but totally 'missed' the fact that there was no kerb cut out, so anyone in a wheelchair could get out of the car, but then could not get to the building as there was a kerb in the way.  Each student must have stepped up & down half a dozen times as they made sure of the measurements.  Personally I find the lack of cut outs mush more inaccessible than a bay that is a centimetre too narrow!  When we got back to the classroom and I raised the issue, none of the students would believe me, and we had to go back outside to prove the point.
Now I am certainly not saying that you have to be a wheelchair user to be an access consultant.  It does help at times - a wheelchair rider would not have missed the lacking cut out.  But, bum-shuffling up a couple of flights of stairs is not ideal either!


No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites