How the Disability Discrimination Act shaped CAE services

Published: 9 Dec 2020

CAE’s history is inescapably intertwined with the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) so to mark its 25th birthday we’ve been looking at how the DDA acted as a catalyst for some of CAE’s most impactful and long lasting activities.

The beginning

In 1995, a lot of businesses were gearing up proactively to the impending legislation and looking for help from CAE. They wanted to audit their buildings and services, and to ensure that their employment practices were compliant before the DDA came into force.

With so much fresh interest in accessibility and the requirements of the Act, there was a clear need to increase capacity in the access profession. So in 1996, CAE ran the first access auditing training course.

Run by John Miller and Ann Sawyer, the course covered the role of the DDA, how to audit a design from drawings and how to carry out a physical audit. Starting out as a one day event, the course grew over time into a more in depth three day residential course. One such course, staged at Portsmouth University, even had delegates trying out their auditing skills at the historic Naval Dockyard buildings.

Trainer Ann Sawyers with a lady in a wheelchair and a man, all standing on a ramp

Ann Sawyer delivers Access Auditing training at Kent Access Forum, 1997

The access auditing course has remained very popular and offered both ‘open to all’ and in house training for larger organisations. Some niche variants developed with the Access to Historic Properties course also delivered by Ann Sawyer.

This course continues to be delivered, most recently for the Heritage Trust Network with a focus on easy to access to historic high street buildings. Ann has continued as a lead trainer and consultant with CAE for 24 years helping to train thousands of people in the skills of access auditing, recently joined by our other lead trainer, Vin Goodwin.

Other CAE courses helped the construction industry to understand key aspects of the DDA and building regulations and we supported a series of workshops on employer’s and service providers’ new responsibilities. By 1998 CAE had also produced guides and books to support DDA compliance including ‘Accessible offices’ publications and ‘Designing for Accessibility’ in 1999.

All of this helped promote widespread adoption of new commitments and more inclusive ways of designing places and services.

Access register

In order to meet the demand created by the DDA and to make our access audit services more widely available throughout the UK, CAE set up the CAE Panel of Access Auditors.

Panel members were drawn from CAE trainees and were registered with the Architectural Advisory Services, a database of members experienced in accessible design. This later became independently funded as the National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) and it remains the only national register for the profession in the UK. We’re proud to say that many CAE course graduates use their new knowledge and skills to support their NRAC accreditation.

Access by Design Journal 1973-2017

CAE’s Access by Design (ABD) Journal began in 1973, becoming a respected source of expert information and news about all things ‘access and inclusion’.

The team were proud to carry original work by the cartoonist Louis Hellman for many years and when its 100th issue coincided with implementation of the DDA duty on reasonable adjustments to buildings, a special Hellman cartoon was the natural choice.

Hand drawn cartoon showing legislation through the ages

Legislation through the ages, Louis Hellman, CAE Access By Design 100 – 2004

We revisited that cartoon in the final edition of ‘ABD’ (published in 2017) helping to make it a collector’s item among fans. Depicting the evolution of disabled people’s legal rights and the social model of disability, it’s an apt reminder of how things have changed since CAE started out in 1970.

Whilst the DDA itself was undeniably a huge force for positive change, we know there’s  a lot further still to go.

CAE will continue to adapt and innovate in response to new policies and laws, looking for every opportunity to bring our long standing expertise to businesses and organisations with the aim of promoting a more inclusive future.

CAE 2020

We are proud to say that since DDA thousands of people have attended CAE public and bespoke training. Equipping them to support their organisations to be more inclusive with many going on to pursue a career in access. Next year in 2021 we will be celebrating 25 years of access auditing training.

We continue to innovate new training programmes and this year were proud to launch the CAE Pathways programme to train and support young disabled Londoners into inclusive design related careers.

We also continue to support implementation of equalities legislation most recently preparing for nearly 50 delegates for Guernsey’s impending anti-discrimination legislation through access auditing training.