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Are we building an accessible future?

Let’s face it: the London Undergroud is a nightmare to navigate.  

On the tube, you’re at the mercy of commuters’ flying satchels as they bomb down the left side of the escalator and you’ll end up making friends with a stranger’s armpit when you sandwich yourself onto that 8.30am train.

But whatever its horrors, imagine yourself only being able to use 25 per cent of the London Underground to make your way from A to B in the city.

This is the case for those who need step free access to use the capital’s most vital piece of infrastructure.

Currently, about three in four tube stations are inaccessible for those who use wheelchairs.

It seems accessibility was not high on Sir Marc Brunel and his son Isambard’s design agenda, as they first started to construct the beginnings of the network in 1843.

But fast forward around 170 years and the government and TfL were planning to open Crossrail with seven inaccessible stations. 

Although this plan was overturned in 2014 when the Department for Transport announced step-free access would be introduced at all stops along the line, it seemed at one point that accessibility would be overlooked at some stations.

It’s not only London that has this issue.

With 11 million people in the UK having a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability, creating socially inclusive infrastructure should be a concern up and down the country.

As an industry that literally shapes the world we travel, work and live in, we can make a huge impact in making sure future generations have equal access to crucial infrastructure.

And this can be done at no extra cost if accessibility is built in from the outset, according to Construction Industry Council (CIC) deputy chair Tony Burton.

Speaking last week at the CIC’s launch of a guide to create an accessible and inclusive environment, Mr Burton outlined six principles the industry could use to create a more inclusive environment.

However, the government’s former chief construction advisor and Built Environment Professional Education Project chair Paul Morrell said the industry should also look at its own inclusivity.

He said the industry needed to encourage more people with disabilities to work in construction and promote the opportunities available to this untapped pool of talent.

Mr Morrell asked delegates what they think an industry that we can be proud of would look like, how it would behave and how it would regard those it works for and those who work for it.

“It would always have in its mind the whole idea of accessibility,” he said.

“Of welcoming the greatest possible number of people, in all the many guises we come in, into our buildings and our businesses, and designing into both whatever accommodations may be necessary to make them feel at home.”

What would you answer if you were asked the same question?

Also in the news

Hochtief, Ferrovial-owned Cintra Global and a joint venture of Skanska and Strabag are left in the race to design, build and finance the £1bn Silvertown Tunnel.

Contractors have been chosen for the TransPennine rail upgrade deals, Construction News understands.

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