An access survey can identify accessible features within a dental practice and any access problems and areas for improvement. It is advisable to arrange for a professional or someone with experience (e.g. access panel network, via Disability Equality Scotland) to conduct the survey.
Access Panel Networks are groups of disabled volunteers who have come together to work to improve physical access and wider inclusion for disabled people in their local environment. These panels are a useful source of advice and information and can undertake site visits (for a small donation/fee) to provide suggestions for improving access for disabled people. Capability Scotland conducts ‘user access consultations’ (for a small fee), which involves a team of disabled people with different impairments and conditions visiting and commenting on the accessibility of premises (including assessment of physical, communication and information barriers). Contact the Capability Scotland’s Corporate Policy and Consultancy manager.
Access audits can also be conducted by an accredited access auditor. These deal largely with the built environment and are more expensive than an access survey. The National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) is an independent register of accredited access auditors and access consultants across the UK, and can provide professional advice on how to develop inclusive environments in accordance with the legal requirements in the Equality Act 2010 (note that not all consultants are registered with the NRAC). The Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) provides technical information, good-practice guidance documents, training and consultancy in making buildings accessible to disabled and older people and advice on technical aspects of implementing the requirements of the Equality Act 2010.
Before making any alterations to your premises, consider conducting an access survey. It is advisable to have a professional or someone with experience (e.g. Access Panel Network or Capability Scotland) to conduct the survey.
Consider consulting with disabled patients for their views on access to your dental service.
As part of your access survey, record aspects of your practice and service that facilitate access for disabled patients, and highlight areas for improvement.
Following identification of changes that can be made to improve access for disabled persons (both patients and employees):
- determine how these improvements can be made, including whether they are simple measures that can be made immediately (e.g. rearrangement of furniture, providing clearer signs, regular checking that the doorway and steps are clear of obstacles) or are measures that require to be incorporated into the practice building’s routine maintenance programme
- put together a plan for implementation of these improvements in a staged manner to ensure changes are carried out in the most cost-effective way
For further advice or if you would like to recruit an accredited access auditor to carry out an access audit, contact the NRAC or the CAE.