Earlier this year we had the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics, an exciting and spectacular event for competitors and spectators alike. Whilst watching the Paralympic competitors perform at the top of their game, it can be all too easy to forget the obstacles many people with disabilities face during their daily lives.
In the security industry we have strict obligations to protect people and assets, but equally to assist authorised users. Sadly, too often features that make all the difference to people with disabilities and specific needs are overlooked.
A key piece of UK legislation for this is the Equality Act 2010, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales. The BSIA provides an excellent guide to the Act and what it means for the provision of access control systems.
The Act states that a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
It also stipulates that discrimination occurs if a person treats another unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of their disability and that the treatment is not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. However, this does not apply if the person did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, that the other had the disability.
No person with a disability should be put at a disproportionate disadvantage by the facilities they use. This simple and fair assessment does, however, mean that security installers and providers need to understand the range of requirements and the best ways of catering for all security users.
A Diverse Range of Needs
The blanket term ‘disabilities’ covers a very broad range of additional needs, so careful consideration is required to ensure secure access control systems best cater for everyone needing to use them.
Disabilities can be physical or learning difficulties (or a combination). This could be difficulty of movement, people registered as blind, sight or hearing impaired. People with learning difficulties may also require additional assistance.
Making Reasonable Adjustments
The Equality Act is not prescriptive with regards to ‘reasonable adjustments’ but these will vary depending on the facility, building specifics and needs of the people using them (both current and future).
Building features can be numerous, so common sense is needed to assess requirements for security and people.
Obvious adjustments include improved physical accessibility, use of braille, audio announcements/voice recognition to overcome visual impairments or visual announcements for hearing-impaired people. People with arthritis may need specialist systems and readers may need to be positioned so everyone can use them.
Reasonable adjustments must actually work and successfully help people overcome a difficulty. They must be practical to install/use and avoid a significant detrimental financial impact.
The Right Solution
Different organisations and projects inevitably require different solutions. Generally, it makes sense to design access control that can be used by anyone and everyone, so people don’t feel excluded or segregated because of their needs.
Access control must also be easy to locate and use, with effective signage or instructions.
Access control is about safety as well as security - facilitating an emergency evacuation as well as protecting against intruders or attacks.
British Standard BS 8300 gives recommendations for the design of new buildings to meet the needs of people with disabilities, whilst BS 9999 provides specific recommendations on means of escape. These considerations need to be at the heart of any access control planning.
Considering All Eventualities
Ideally, there would be highly prescriptive rules with regards to catering for disabled people’s needs, but in reality, there are many complicated variables. Many facilities were designed/built in less enlightened times when cost and practicality for the majority were still considered overriding considerations. Legalisation is necessarily open to interpretation, to address the reality of an imperfect world.
The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics are a timely reminder of the endurance and ability of the human spirit to overcome adversity and challenges. The right secure access control solutions can also significantly help people in their everyday lives.