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Member Blog Post by Stephen Dering, Direct Access

Date: Mon, 15 Oct, 2018

Member Blog Post by Stephen Dering, Direct Access

The Dubai Universal Design Code is an opportunity for businesses to review their accessibility

The Dubai Universal Design Code is an opportunity for businesses to review their accessibility

Dubai is on a mission to become the most accessible city by 2020. An accessible environment is a key part of an inclusive society and Dubai intends to showcase this to the world during Expo 2020. It is estimated that there is 462,900 People of Determination in the Emirate of Dubai (based on World Health Organisation figures of 15% of the world population having some form of disability). Is your organisation’s premises or services accessible to them?

In 2017, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai decreed that disabled people are defined as People of Determination. Dubai’s Executive Council is currently on a drive to make all public buildings and city facilities accessible for People of Determination by 2020. The new rules were released in 2017 in the form of the Dubai Universal Design Code which organisations must follow to meet obligations. All new buildings must be fully compliant and existing buildings which required a permit must set out how they plan to comply by March 2020.

Furthermore, August 2018’s introduction of Ministerial decree 43 requires private sector firms to facilitate accessible working environments for employees who are People of Determination. The Design Code offers therefore offers an opportunity for organisations to review existing accessibility and plan for improvements for both clients and employees.

Some of the areas covered in the Universal Design Code include:

  • Approach, Routes & Street Furniture
  • Car Parking
  • External Ramps
  • External Steps
  • Entrances
  • Ticket Areas & Lobbies
  • Corridors, Surfaces & Platforms
  • Internal Doors
  • Internal Ramps
  • Internal Stairs
  • Lifts / Platform Lifts
  • WCs: General Provision
  • WCs: Wheelchair Users
  • Facilities
  • Way Finding
  • Lighting
  • Acoustics
  • Means of Escape
  • Building Management

To better understand the level of access for People of Determination, an Access Audit has to be carried out and findings recorded. The Design Code offers a simple checklist in the appendix. Alternatively, a specialist Access Consultant who understands different working environments and is able to undertake detailed measurements to the guidance set out in the Code can compile a report and action list to meet compliance.

The process of completing an access audit is generally taken in two stages.

The first stage is a walkthrough inspection of the site using the surveyor’s knowledge. During this stage the surveyor would look at a number of different details including external and internal ramps, entrances, reception areas, platform lifts, lighting, acoustics, means of escape and much more in order to identify any issues or barriers.

The second stage suggests any possible improvements which can be made to the site, from small adjustments to major structural alterations. The audit would also give an idea of priorities, but most importantly how to start. This would be in the form of an action plan which demonstrates to Government an understanding of existing barriers and a planned route to resolving these.

Careful consideration of new designs and extensions to existing premises need to be given to avoid costly retrofits. This may be through an Architectural firm that commissions an Access Consultant to issue an Access Statement based on the plans.


Stephen Dering MIFSM is Head of Engagement for Direct Access DWC-LLC, an accessibility consultancy based in Dubai South.