Access Officer

Getting into many buildings, onto a bus or climbing stairs can often be difficult at the best of times.  If you are disabled in any way, it can be a nightmare.  Nowadays, all types of local authority except county councils have access officers who are sometimes called 'access design officers'or'disabilities officers'.  They are responsible for negotiating with developers and designers to procure best access standards in all the council's buildings and highways: to make it easy for everybody to come and go about their business.  And, it is not only the disabled who benefit. The old, infirm, the unwary - anybody - can find uneven pavements, dropped kerbs or car parking threatening.  As a building consultancy job, the post may also be located in the property directorate and in some cases in social services.

Work Environment
This involves both office and outside work.  There are meetings to attend and sites to visit - to examine the reality of planning applications, oversee highway and landscape developments, for example - as well as travelling to other departments within the council and to external agencies.  You can be required to work at any service location from time to time.  Protective clothing will sometimes be necessary and dirt, noise and the weather may be factors to consider.  The hours are standard at 36 per week, but anti-social shifts are also required inorder to meet community and other voluntary groups.  Flexitime is offered in some authorities.

Daily Activities
Organising programmes of access improvements to council owned buildings to comply with internal guidelines and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) is a long-term objective that involves liaison with Members, managers, colleagues, voluntary agencies (carers groups, the Citizen's Advice Bureau, Age Concern, Access Alliance etc) and members of the public.  It will also mean advising and negotiating with architects, surveyors, developers, designers, contractors, council building services and health and safety personnel.  The access officer is central to the development and promotion of the council's policy on accessibility that will also include training others, and producing guidelines and standards.  On an ongoing basis the access officer will:

  • keep a database forthe use of designers, service departments and government audits;
  • carry out surveys, feasibility studies, drawings, specifications, contract documentations and supervise their implementation;
  • obtain quotations and competitive tender as required;
  • prepare adaptation programmes, including budgets, and monitor progress;
  • submit reports to management and Members;
  • respond to requests, comments and complaints from all concerned with disability access;
  • be responsible for advice on all technical and legislative developments;
  • produce and update access guidelines using desktop publishing programmes;
  • publicise the council's access policies through leaflets, articles, meetings, photographs, exhibitions, website, intranet and training sessions;
  • set up systems to ensure that best access practice is adhered to and the needs of users, local and national voluntaryorganisations are being met
  • monitor planning applications and advise planning and building control officers on access legislation;
  • give advice on all access design issues: transport, pavements, damaged kerbs, road crossings, highways schemes, traffic calming, parking and street furniture;
  • implement the access grants forcommunity groups and planning applicants.

Skills & Interests
It is essential to have:

  • good communication skills;
  • computer and computer aided design literacy;
  • the ability to liaise and negotiate at a number of levels within an organisation;
  • the ability to work on own initiative as well as part of a team;
  • an understanding of, and sympathy with, the diverse needs of people who experience access difficulties through disability or any other reason;
  • the capacity to maintain clear records and update database information;
  • knowledge of the Disability Discrimination Act;
  • an awareness of the workings of access associations and other voluntaryorganisations.

It would also be useful to have experience of organising seminars and training sessions and producing publicity material.

Entry Requirements
A degree or equivalent qualification in architecture, surveying or related discipline is usually required.  It is desirable to have had training in access issues. It is usually essential to have the following experience:

  • minimum three years in architecture, surveyingorother building discipline;
  • designing accessible environments;
  • carrying out access audits;
  • managing projects and driving them to completion within budget and deadlines;
  • preparing working drawings and specifications;
  • supervising building work on site.

In addition, it can help to have personal experience of access barriers due to disability or other reasons and to have managed budgets.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
As society is becoming more and more concerned with equal opportunities and rights, this is a growing area.  Many local authorities have taken the lead in concern fordisabled access and this is reflected in improvements in many private firms too - in offices, airports, docks, leisure complexes, holiday centres and so on.  With increasing legislation, from both internal government edict and European Union mandate, it is likely that the "access industry" will offer many more chances for career advancement.  There are also parallel opportunities in the buildings and property services at higher grades.

Further Information & Services
Chartered Instituteof Architectural 
Construction Skills 
Instituteof Occupational Safetyand Health 
The Access Association 
The Chartered Institute of Building 
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( in your local library, careers officeor school careers library.

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