Last edited 30 Nov 2021


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In terms of the built environment, the term ‘access’ refers to the means or ability to approach and/or enter a place, site, etc. For example, a door provides access to a building or room, a staircase provides access to an upper or lower floor.

Forms of access may include; doors, escalators, lifts, stairs, ramps, and so on.

Developers, designers and owners of buildings have a responsibility to ensure that the built environment is accessible to everyone wherever it is practical to do so. This forms an important part of inclusive design. The government has defined inclusive design as '…a process that ensures that all buildings, places and spaces can be easily and comfortably accessed and used by everyone.' This means that buildings must be designed to be as accessible as possible to older people, people with disabilities, and so on.

Part M of the Buildings Regulations, Access to and Use of Buildings, sets out minimum access requirements for works to existing buildings and the development of new buildings.

Access consultants can provide professional advice on how to develop inclusive environments. An access audit is a form of inspection that can be used to assess the ease of access to, and ease of use of; an environment (such as a building or landscape), a service, or a facility, by people with a range of access impairments.

Access control is the selective restriction of access to a particular place, building, room, resource or installation. Authorised access might be controlled using doors, gates, turnstiles, secure installations such as barriers, bollards, and so on.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations require the prevention of access to construction sites by unauthorised persons. Perimeter hoarding or security fencing generally creates the primary boundary for controlling access to dangerous construction sites.

Some building components are designed to enable easy access for maintenance and repair of services and parts, such as a raised floor or suspended ceiling.

NB The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 defines access in relation to reserved matters as: ‘…the accessibility to and within the site, for vehicles, cycles and pedestrians in terms of the positioning and treatment of access and circulation routes and how these fit into the surrounding access network…’

Shaping neighbourhoods, Accessible London: achieving an inclusive environment, Supplementary planning guidance, published by the Mayor of London in October 2014, defines access as: ‘…the methods by which people with a range of needs (such as disabled people, people with children, people whose first language is not English) find out about and use services and information. For disabled people, access in London means the freedom to participate in the economy, in how London is planned, in the social and cultural life of the community.’

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