Expo 2020 Dubai to be accessible for people of all abilities, says Direct Access' Steve Dering
According to Steve Dering, head of engagement in Dubai at Direct Access, a UK practice (with a Dubai office) that offers expertise on incorporating accessibility into building designs, Expo 2020 Dubai is an opportunity to showcase what can be achieved in terms of accessibility and it has employed the help of Dering’s consultancy to provide understanding and know-how on how best to address barriers that people face on a daily basis.
“Expo 2020 has considered where accessibility can be included in line with the Dubai Universal Design Code,” Dering said. “For established premises, organisations are meant to submit plans to Dubai Municipality by 2020, setting out how they plan to retrofit to comply.”
With architecture generally following five stages (or seven if using the UK’s RIBA), Direct Access reviews plans and drawings issued at each stage, advising on how access issues in line with the relevant codes and standards can be addressed. These are then commented on by the design team and closed out prior to moving on to the next stage.
Using Aconex and different BIM systems to share information with architectural firms, one of Direct Access’ advantages to being a niche provider with a diverse client base is that it’s used to working with multiple platforms across different countries.
“We also advise on tender specification and assist with reviewing submitted tenders for accessibility compliance,” Dering said. “During the fit-out stages, we can specify products and ensure that they are installed correctly – for example, I am deaf and have a hearing aid, so I can check that a hearing enhancement system is correctly installed, which a machine cannot do. We often sit in on architectural meetings where drawings are discussed and make contributions that way, including directly with clients.”
With Expo 2020, Direct Access is ensuring that accessibility is embedded throughout the programme. Similar to how it works with architecture firms, Direct Access is reviewing and advising on designs, drawing feedback from Dubai Universal Code as well as international standards, such as those used for the London Olympics in 2012. And in addition to overseeing the design and construction of the Expo site, Direct Access is also involved in the curation and accessibility of the operational phase.
“It’s about ensuring that people understand the language of access and the requirements of Expo 2020 to be an expo for everyone. Expo 2020 is all about innovation and connecting minds – we look for new innovative ways for accessibility and introduce those,” he said. “Consistency is a key feature in making public spaces more accessible – if different spaces apply codes differently, this can actually create a health and safety hazard. Take for example tactile paving at the start and end of stairs. This needs to be 300mm before the start of the hazard. Uncertainty about consistency can be difficult.”