Improving Shopping Centre Accessibility

Health and safety | January 2016

Land Securities commissioned System Concepts to help improve access for people with disabilities at Cabot Circus in Bristol.

accessibility-audit-cabot-circusOverview of project

Land Securities owns and manages a portfolio of over 30 shopping centres including factory outlet centres and 17 retail parks. About 17.5 million people a year visit the retail outlets and leisure facilities in Cabot Circus, which include a Showcase Cinema De Lux. It has over 1,500,000 sq ft of floor space on several levels with elevated walkways linking different retail blocks and a main anchor site.

Under the Equality Act 2010 (and previously the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995/2005) Act, where a service provider such as a shopping centre offers services to the public, it has a legal duty to:

  • take reasonable steps to make these services available to disabled people
  • anticipate the needs of disabled people
  • make reasonable adjustments in advance.

Land Securities was aware of these requirements and asked us to conduct an accessibility audit to ensure that it was meeting these legal requirements.

“Land Securities believes it is necessary from a business and moral perspective to make sure its facilities are accessible to everybody. The proactive performance of the consultant was good. Most notably the prioritisation of the risk, enabled us to target high risk areas identified and ensure suitable actions and improvement measures are implemented.”
Monima Harrison, Health and Safety Manager, Land Securities

How we helped

System Concepts has a number of consultants who are trained access auditors. We have developed a comprehensive accessibility audit to help organisations identify barriers and hazards to access for people with disabilities that may need to be changed. The audit also provides pragmatic, cost-effective recommendations for any problem areas identified, such as altering a physical feature or providing the service by an alternative means.

accessibility-audit-cabot-circus-1One of our experienced auditors examined the accessibility aspects of all of the public areas within Cabot Circus, to ensure that they did not hinder access to any disabled people trying to access the shopping centre and its facilities.

An accessibility audit had been carried out while the site was being built, but now we were able to consider the interaction of customers and employees with the environment and to speak to staff about their real life experiences. This provided a lot more information and made the results of the audit more practical.

What we did

  • Reviewed building plans – To familiarise ourselves with the layout before visiting the site and tailor our audit materials to the specific design of the shopping centre and its facilities.
  • Conducted full on-site accessibility audit – One of our accessibility specialists visited the shopping centre and reviewed:
    • approaches to the complex
    • circulation routes within the centre
    • means of access between the different levels including passenger lifts, escalators and stairs
    • the customer information desk and information points
    • seating and, public facilities
    • environmental aspects such as lighting, sound and wayfinding.
  • Collected relevant data – We measured physical components within the shopping centre and took photos of all aspects of the environment. These helped us to illustrate the accessibility issues within our report and demonstrate examples of good practice.
  • Observed customers and employees interacting with the environment – We observed both customers and staff using the facilities within the shopping centre. Our accessibility specialist also interviewed employees including the Centre Manager and staff working on the customer information desk.

We proposed a range of recommendations to help our client to continue making improvements in accessibility.

What are the benefits of having an accessibility audit?

We help clients to identify where improvements can be made,  providing advice on the relevant legal requirements. Commissioning our accessibility specialists to conduct accessibility audits can also offer business benefits, including;

  • Increasing satisfaction of visitors due to the improved customer experience
  • Increasing footfall of visitors leading to increased revenue
  • Reducing reputational risks
  • Decreasing compensation claims.

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