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Independent access for all to the built environment is one of the most basic of human rights. It provides social inclusion, integration and acceptance in communities. People with disabilities often encounter barriers to such access, barriers that can discriminate and marginalise to the extent that it prohibits independent living. Visiting the built environment becomes a lottery whereby inaccessible features may be present around every corner. People with disabilities deserve more than operating on a system of chance; they require a tool to make an informed decision prior to embarking on a journey. However in order to provide such information three distinct aspects must be considered, the individual, the disability and the built environment. Understanding and building upon each of these aspects holds the solution to the current gap in service provision for people with disabilities.
Considerate investigation into the meaning of disability and the requirement of the individual will help strengthen the credibility of any research undertaken to improve the status of people with disabilities. From this the built environment can then be suitably examined as to where accessibility does and does not exist. Once accessibility or indeed inaccessibility information has been collected a means whereby the information may be communicated to people with disabilities must be developed. This research aims to develop a concept entitled “LADDER” to meet this current gap in services. The use of a regulatory requirement as the access audit standard to collect data and a GIS as a communication tool broadens the application of concept not only to people with disabilities but also to key stakeholders who can advance their status within society. It is only through gaining a broad insight into legislative, structural and emotional requirements for access for people with disabilities can worthwhile research on this area be carried out. A multi-dimensional approach to the design of the research was employed. Preliminary research involved an examination of associated literature and surveys of key stakeholders to gain an insight into the determinants of access. Part one of the “LADDER” concept designed an access audit using the regulatory standard that was then tested on a defined research area to assess both the suitability of the legislation as an auditing tool, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the legislation in providing access. Part two then investigated how to best communicate such information to key stakeholders in a meaningful and useful manner using GIS. The result generated an exciting new tool that may not only reform how stakeholders use data and promote and improve disability access, but also change how a person with a disability plans and lives their life. This research was conducted in close collaboration with people of varying abilities as it is only through consulting with and understanding the needs of people with disabilities can society begin to create an environment that is truly accessible and inclusive to all.
Codd, S.:An Investigation into the Design, Development and Testing of a Tool to Improve the Accessibility of Access Information for People with Disabilities. M.Phil Thesis. Dublin Institute of Technology, 2011