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Will recent changes in Irish legislation ensure accessible and usable signage is provided in buildings for all people and not just people with disabilities?

Recent changes in Irish legislation should have a significant effect on how signage is designed and installed in and around buildings.  In 2005, the Disability Act became law. Section 6 of the act specifies that Universal Design has to be written into Irish Government policy. Universal design is a strategy, which aims to make the design and composition of different environments and products accessible and understandable to, as well as usable by, everyone, to the greatest extent in the most independent and natural manner possible, without the need for adaptation or specialised design solutions.
Since the introduction of the Disability Act in 2005, Irish Building Regulations have been revised with Universal Design in mind.  The technical requirements of Part M 2010 of the Building Regulations now focus on ensuring that adequate provision shall be made for all people to access and use a building, its facilities and its environs.  The shift has moved away from access for people with disabilities to access for all and Universal Design (Section 0.1 of the Technical Guidance Document (TGD) that accompanies Part M states “The requirements, underpin the principle of Universal Design”).

Later in the guidance signage is covered in section 1.6.3 of TGD M 2010.  It states: Where signage is provided in accordance with the provisions in TGD M: 

Section 1.6.3 of TGD M 2010 also states “For additional information and guidance on the provision, design and use of signage, visual contrast, lighting and hearing enhancement systems, refer to Building for Everyone, BS 8300:2009, Sign Design Guide, See it right Signage and The Accessible Office. Also, BS 4800:1989 and BS 5252:1976 provide colour specifications and co-ordination schemes for use in buildings (Refer to Other standards and publications).”

The question to be considered is there a shortfall in meeting the technical requirements of Part M 2010 (access for all) as the majority of the documents referred to in TGD M 2010 relate to signage guidance which relates mainly to people with visual impairments.  The guidance may not address the needs of first time visitors to a building; People with intellectual impairments; People with hearing impairments; People whose first language is not the language of the country in which they are in etc.

Therefore although the technical requirements of Part M 2010 require that adequate provision shall be made for all people, the guidance that is provided still only addresses the needs of people with disabilities.  Some food for thought!!!!