London 2012 Games sets new standards for accessibility at temporary events - 03 September 2012
“New standards set at the London 2012 Paralympic Games should pave the way for more mobility impaired people to enjoy concerts, festivals and other one-off events in the future.” This is the view of Simone West, accessibility consultant at Atkins, the London 2012 Games’ official engineering design services provider, who has been providing expert guidance to Games organisers since 2009.
Simone said: “With London choosing to use a large proportion of temporary venues for the 2012 Games, organisers had to tackle the challenge of making the infrastructure used for short-term events more accessible for everyone. This was vital for the success of the Games.
“When new permanent infrastructure is built, it is a legal requirement that accessibility needs are met. Although equality legislation also covers one-off events, organisers often only meet the minimum rather than going the extra mile to improve standards. This can lead to mobility impaired people feeling they cannot attend owing to the lack of facilities. London 2012 has required temporary facilities suppliers to do things they have never been asked to do before to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games more inclusive. Atkins intends to do everything it can and encourages the industry to follow suit to make this another valuable Games legacy.”
Wherever possible, venues were designed to meet the needs of the Paralympics as well as the Olympics, although there have been some modifications required to permanent and temporary infrastructure between the events. Simone said: “This approach was crucial, not only to meet the tight timescales between events but also to make the best use of the Games budget. Designing inclusivity into infrastructure from the beginning is up to eight times cheaper than converting it at a later stage.”
Atkins has been providing specialist technical expertise for organisers across all the venues to help make London 2012 the most inclusive Games ever. This included understanding and interpreting detailed legislation, reviewing designs to check they met key regulations and inspecting venues to make recommendations for how they could be made better for Paralympians and mobility impaired spectators. Simone commented: “Even with a building which has been designed to be fully accessible, small adjustments can make a big difference. For example, although the general infrastructure is suitable, the location of bins or benches in changing rooms during the Olympics may be better in a different location for the Paralympics to provide more space and easier access for competitors.”
Mike Brace, former Paralympian and former chairman of ParalympicsGB, added: “Making the Games more inclusive is a big challenge, but the continued commitment from companies like Atkins to improve the experience for everyone through clever design and collaboration from the outset has gone a long way towards raising standards for London 2012.”
With Britain’s most successful Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson declaring this week that "London 2012's Olympic Park is the most accessible yet" and that "London is setting new standards to ensure absolutely no-one misses out, whether competitors or spectators", it shows that the UK hosts of the London 2012 Games have learnt lessons from previous Games. Simone said: “I have seen photos from previous Games where cables which provide power and broadcast services resembled a ski slope full of moguls, and unsurprisingly there were reports of wheelchair users getting stranded. This is just one area where we made a conscious effort to improve standards and have either buried cables underground, run them overhead, or have made provisions for everyone to cross them easily and safely.”
Consultation and collaboration have been key to achieving the improved standards of accessibility at the London 2012 Games. There is great expertise within LOCOG and the ODA, as well as companies within the supply chain such as Atkins, however, Paralympians have also played a vital role in the design of the London 2012 infrastructure. Simone explained: “We engaged with a range of athletes so we could be confident the facilities being designed would meet their needs. For example, to drive a successful outcome from our work, I visited a Boccia event in Ireland to speak with the competitors. One of the main points to arise from these discussions was that a standard disabled toilet is normally designed for a single wheelchair user. As many of the Boccia players require assistance a standard design is too small, therefore we recommended larger facilities to be installed at the ExCeL where the Paralympic Boccia is being held.”
For more information:
Notes to editors:
Simone West is a chartered building surveyor at Atkins, with 15 years experience as an access consultant. She has spent the past three and a half years working for LOCOG on London 2012 as an access consultant. Simone has experience in both the private and public sectors including London Underground, and has written articles and lectured at the University of Reading.
Atkins (www.atkinsglobal.com) is one of the world's leading engineering and design consultancies*, employing some 17,420 people across the UK, North America, Middle East, Asia Pacific and Europe. It has the breadth and depth of expertise to plan, design and enable some of the world's most technically challenging and time critical infrastructure projects.
*It is the largest engineering consultancy in the UK (New Civil Engineer Consultants File 2012) and the 13th largest global design firm (Engineering News-Record 2011).
Recent projects include:
- Major infrastructure works, such as the design and programme management of the civil works for the Dubai Metro red and green lines in the UAE;
- Key rail projects – providing architectural and engineering design services on Crossrail, Europe’s biggest civil engineering project in London, UK, and designing stations, tunnelling and track systems for Gautrain, South Africa’s first high speed line;
- Renewable energy schemes – transformer platform design for the Thanet offshore wind park in the North Sea;
- Multi-year architecture-engineering construction management services for the US National Park Service, including projects such as rehabilitation of the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and Administrative Complex at California’s Death Valley to meet the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification standards;
- High profile transport planning and urban design – our innovative scheme to deliver a diagonal crossing at Oxford Circus in London, UK, has helped tackle the problem of pedestrian crowding;
- Water and environmental projects – critical programme management of storm protection works in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Southern Louisiana in North America, providing expertise in coastal restoration, engineering, environmental and GIS support to rebuild defenses and protect habitats;
- Multidisciplinary building design – Northwood Primary School in Darlington, UK, is an exemplar project which raises standards for environmental design and community engagement.
Atkins was named among The Sunday Times 25 Best Big Companies to Work For 2011, won Consultancy of the Year in the CIBSE Low Carbon Performance Awards 2010, received the first ever certification of the Carbon Trust Standard awarded to an engineering consultancy in the construction sector, and was included in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2011 and The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers 2010. Atkins was also construction and civil engineering sector winner for the fifth consecutive year in the Target National Graduate Recruitment Awards 2010 and was awarded a RoSPA Gold Award 2011 for excellence in control of health and safety in the workplace.
Atkins is the official engineering design services provider for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Panorama of the Olympic Park
Click to enlarge