Our Associate Consultant and Trainer, Ann Sawyer, is an architect who has worked on projects including social housing, public buildings, and historic buildings before specialising in access. She says the lack of investment needed to continue improving access to buildings and services is the biggest hurdle disabled people face in the built environment. See what else she has to say on best practice standards of access and CAE’s Pathways Academy programme, below.
How long have you been working with the Centre for Accessible Environments?
I worked for CAE from 1995 to 1999 as Head of Consultancy and have continued to work with them as an external consultant ever since.
How do you define inclusive design and accessibility?
I believe that taking a creative approach, considering the needs of everyone, and integrating those needs into good, thoughtful designs and practices will help achieve an accessible, inclusive built environment that enables people to participate fully in all aspects of society.
What are some of the biggest access issues you feel disabled and older people face on a day-to-day basis today?
I would say accessing suitable housing, services, and employment. Accessible design is so important and still lacking in many areas, which results in people being excluded and not able to access opportunities.
In what way is the Pathways Academy programme a game-changer for the industry and disabled people?
Pathways Academy is a great opportunity for people to learn more about access and inclusion and to see what can be done to make improvements. There is a need for more people to get involved in access and be able to give advice to companies and organisations on how to improve their premises and their services.
What do you teach on the Pathways Academy programme?
I cover an introduction to access and inclusion and legislation, access auditing and appraisals, and a module on neurodiversity and access to historic buildings.
Where to now for inclusiveness and accessibility for disabled people with Covid regulations removed?
We need to keep on doing what we’ve been doing; continue to press for improved legislation and awareness of access issues. And, we need to keep on training people on the Pathways Academy programme to get a new generation of access professionals.
What do you see as the biggest hurdle facing disabled people in the built environment in the next 5-10 years?
I think a lack of investment, which is needed to continue improving access to buildings and services. Also, there’s still a lack of understanding of the importance of access issues and the implications of not providing access for everyone.
If you could make one law today regarding inclusive design and accessibility what would it be?
Every new building has to meet best practice standards of access and this should be checked on completion to ensure that everything has been done correctly.
Can you name one CAE project that you’ve worked on that has made a significant impact in terms of inclusion and access?
I worked on a set of new buildings for the University of Cambridge with a team of CAE consultants and we advised on access and inclusion all the way through the project. There were residential, community, and educational buildings and CAE’s involvement helped ensure that best practice standards of access were met throughout.
If you hadn’t moved into the inclusive design/access field, what career path would you have taken?
I would have continued as an architect working in social housing, I think. The provision of affordable and suitable housing is such a critical area.