The Access Manual
by K Bright and A Sawyer
Blackwell Publishing, Oxford 2003, ISBN 1 4051 0765 0
264 pages, price £35.00
Black and white photographs
Both authors are well known for their work on access: Ann Sawyer is well known as a consultant and Keith Bright for some interesting research that he did in conjunction with the RNIB. Between them they have produced a useful book that is helpful in the context of our current built environment and what steps can be taken to improve access. There is mention of Universal Design, and its principles, which must affect design in the future. There is also information on access audits, the current legislation and design criteria and appendices which cover acceptability criteria, sample audits and information sources. Much of this book states the obvious and all credit for doing so because the current situation for everyone, except the young, fit and well, is not satisfactory. Access management is particularly important and there is a useful chapter on this. The list of Information Sources is useful, but refers only to addresses in the UK, although there are many significant sources of information are from other countries, particular Adaptive Environments in Boston, USA. The Introduction to the book by Ivan Harbour, from Richard Rogers Partnership, mentions access at all levels but since no architectural schools in this country seem to know anything of, or teach, Universal Design as a compulsory subject one begins to question if we are talking about the same issue.
The thinking behind all these publications is still for 'special needs' and take the micro rather than the macro approach towards Universal Design. Maybe once the alarm over the legislation of the DDA has died down, there will be more scope to work towards a universal system and to become aware that inclusive design does not mean design that is not aesthetic. However, it is a move in the right direction that the subject is generating so much literature and being taken more seriously.
This review was first published in Barrierfree 16, Winter 2003-4. Barrierfree is the journal of the Museums and Galleries Disability Association.