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The accessibility of premises is influenced by various pieces of legislation.  These can be grouped as following:


  • Equality Law
  • Planning Policy
  • Building Regulations
  • Fire Safety
  • Health and Safety
  • Roads Order


Equality Law


Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998


Section 75 and Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 came into force on the 01 January 2000 and placed a statutory obligation on public authorities in carrying out their various functions relating to Northern Ireland, to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between nine groups - one of which is people with disabilities.


The statutory obligations are implemented through Equality Schemes, approved by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, and by screening and carrying out Equality Impact Assessments (EQIAs) on policies. Equality Schemes are anticipatory and evolving therefore require continual amendment by Public Authorities.


Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and 2005 and associated Codes of Practice


Disability Discrimination Act provides laws which aim to end discrimination for people with disabilities in terms of:


  • Employment
  • Goods, Facilities & Services
  • Management, buying or renting property
  • Education


The employment provisions were enacted in full in 1996 and therefore included access requirements.  These duties are not anticipatory in terms of access although it would make sense to address accessibility for staff at the same time as addressing concerns for customers or clients.  The law covers all aspects of employment from recruitment to dismissal or redundancy.  In 2004 the employment threshold (the law applied to employers with 15 or more staff only) was lifted so that all employers are now subject to the legislation.


1999 Reasonable adjustments


The access provisions were phased in from 1999.  From October 1999 these included duties to change practices, policies or procedures; provide auxillary aids and services to improve the accessibility of a service; or provide the service in a reasonable alternative method where a physical feature prevented a disabled person from making use of a service.


2004 Physical alterations


From October 2004 these duties may require actual physical alterations to premises.  Barriers may be overcome in four ways:


  • by removing the physical feature;
  • by altering the physical feature;
  • by providing a reasonable means of avoiding it; or
  • by providing a reasonable alternative method of making the services available


Disability Discrimination Order NI 2006


The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) was updated as a result of the Disability Discrimination (NI) Order 2006 (DDO) to extend protection from discrimination to people and situations that were not previously covered.  The following updates have been implemented in Northern Ireland:


Discrimination by Public Authorities


The DDO prohibits public authorities from discriminating against disabled people when carrying out all public functions other than (in broad terms) those of legislation, prosecution, judicial acts and state security.  The duty also requires public authorities to anticipate the requirements of disabled people and the adjustments that may be needed. 


The Disability Equality Duty                     


The DDO placed a new duty on public authorities to have due regard when carrying out their functions to the need to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people and the need to encourage participation by disabled people in public life.


Definition of Disability


The Disability Discrimination Act defines disability as a “physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-today activities.” 


The DDO 2006 amends the definition of disability so that people with progressive conditions such as cancer, HIV infection or multiple sclerosis (MS) will be deemed to be disabled from the point of diagnosis rather than from the point when the condition has some adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.


The DDO also removes the requirement in the DDA that a mental illness must be ‘clinically well recognised’ before it can count as an impairment for the purposes of the DDA.  The removal of the ‘clinically well recognised’ requirement brings DDA coverage for people with mental illness into line with coverage for other physical impairments. People with a mental illness will still need to show that their impairment has a long-term and substantial adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. 


Special Educational Needs and Disability Order 2005 (SENDO)


SENDO places duties on bodies responsible for the provision of education and associated services, admissions and expulsions.


The duties can be summarised as follows:


  • Not to treat disabled pupils/students and prospective pupils/students less favourably (for a reason relating to their disability) than it treats, or would treat, a person to whom that reason does not or would not apply (unless justified).
  • To make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to all policies, procedures and practices to ensure that a disabled pupil/student is not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to pupils/students who are not disabled. 

This duty is both an anticipatory duty and a reactive duty


For colleges and universities the reasonable adjustment duty applies also to the provision of auxiliary aids and services and to the physical environment.


For schools, there is a duty to work towards making the education experience more accessible to disabled pupils and prospective pupils in terms of premises, the curriculum and information



Planning Policy


Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991


Article 26 requires that the Department – (Planning Service) draw the attention of a developer to the relevant provision of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1978 (now the Disability Discrimination Act) and to the Code of Practice for Access for the Disabled to Buildings BS5810 (now BS8300 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people – Code of Practice). Guidance is provided by DCAN II.


DCAN II – Development Control Advice Note II


The purpose of the Advice Note is to give general guidance to intending developers, their professional advisors and agents. It is designed to provide advice on the planning criteria to be applied in regard to the provision of facilities for disabled people in the case if developments to which the public have access.


Planning criteria may include:


Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3) “Access, Movement and Parking” sets out the main planning policies that seek to facilitate improved accessibility for all.  Chapter 3 states that one of the main policy objectives is to “ensure the needs of people with disabilities and others whose mobility is impaired, are taken into account in relation to accessibility to buildings and parking provision”.

Policy AMP1 – Creating an Accessible Environment may require the inclusion of external facilities to aid accessibility and convenient movement, and in the case of new buildings open to the public a presumption in favour of a level approach from the boundary of the site to the building entrance.


The Planning (Northern Ireland) Order

Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3) “Access, Movement and Parking” sets out the main planning policies that seek to facilitate improved accessibility for all.  Chapter 3 states that one of the main policy objectives is to “ensure the needs of people with disabilities and others whose mobility is impaired, are taken into account in relation to accessibility to buildings and parking provision”.

Also covers Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas in Northern Ireland.  The Environment and Heritage Service, provides specialist advice on matters affecting the historic environment.


Building Regulations


Part R Building Regulations (NI) 2012


Access requirements are dictated by Part R, the Building Regulations NI 2006 “Access to and use of buildings”.  The change in title reflects the change in focus toward accessibility for all people, rather than focusing on disabled people.


The regulation applies to new buildings, extensions to existing buildings, material alterations to existing buildings, and to material change in use of an existing building.

>> Technical Booklet R October 2012 provides technical guidance on how to comply with the regulation.


The technical specifications for ambulant internal stairs and manifestations on glazing have been incorporated into Parts H and V respectively and are no long included in Part R.


BS 8300 British Standard


British Standard BS8300 “Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people – Code of Practice” may be used as “proof by other means” of compliance with the Building Regulations.  BS8300 is a comprehensive document which offers technical access solutions with additional commentary for a range of building types.  It is frequently cited as “good practice”.


Fire Safety


Part R and BS8300 are limited to access to, into, within and use of a building and do not extend to means of escape for disabled people in event of a fire.


Part E Building Regulations (NI)


Part E Building Regulations (NI) and Technical Booklet E “Fire Safety” sets standards for building fire resistance, means of escape from a building and access for fire fighting.


Fire and Rescue Services (NI) Order 2006


Fire and Rescue Services (NI) Order 2006 requires the management of buildings to assess egress policies to address the evacuation of all staff and visitors from the premises, including all people with disabilities.


The Fire Safety Regulations 2009 require building owners or managers,  to undertake a Fire Risk Assessment and create Evacuate Plans to include Personal Emergency Egress Plans for all known and unknown persons who may require assisted evacuation.


Additional guidance is available in BS 9999 2008 Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the design, management and use of buildings which superceded BS5588 Part 8 1999 Fire precautions in the design and construction of buildings – Part 8: Code of Practice for the means of escape of disabled people.


Health and Safety


Health and Safety legislation may take precedence over access solutions in some instances, therefore if a recommendation is made to improve access but which could potentially present a hazard to other users of the building, then the recommendation would not be carried out.  For example, it is unlikely that a platform stair lift would be acceptable on an escape stairwell, especially if it is the only stairwell in the building.


In Northern Ireland Heath and Safety is governed by the Health & Safety Regulations NI 2007.


Roads Order 1993


Article 127 of the Roads Order 1993 places a requirement on persons exercising a statutory power to execute works on a road to have regard to the needs of disabled or blind persons.  This covers the placing of street furniture and the provision of ramped access between carriageways and footways.


Part VII covers lawful and unlawful interference with roads, eg the removal of 'A –‘boards’ is covered under this part.

In relation to ramped access to buildings (to comply with DDA duties), the onus is often on the property owner to provide any adjustment within the curtilage of their premises.  Alterations to the footway can be considered, but only after all off-street options have been discounted, if there is sufficient scope on the existing footway to do so and following Roads Service approval.  The works are done under consent/licence issued by Roads Service.



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