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The main keys to understanding the new regulations on accessibility in buildings for people with disabilities
04/12/17

The countdown has started in order to adapt the common areas of buildings to allow the accessibility of people with disabilities. The residential buildings had until December 4 to carry out the necessary works in order to have accessible itineraries in their portals and stairs. Coinciding with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, on December 3, Spain intends to update itself regarding compliance with the basic conditions of accessibility.

With the aim of facilitating the free mobility of all persons, the Real Decreto 1/2013 approving the General Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and their Social Inclusion establishes that single owner buildings must adapt their properties and ensure that all residents and all persons can access in the same conditions; and the deadline to do so has already expired. However, "in Spain, 77% of buildings have not eliminated architectural barriers. That means that only 23% are accessible - almost 2.3 million - and of this percentage, only 2% have access from the street to the portal, meeting the criteria of universal accessibility, which adds up to only 196,295 properties " explains Salvador Díez, president of the Consejo General de Administradores de Fincas de España (CGCAFE), to the editorial office of El País.

"Spain so far had not done its homework in terms of architectural accessibility. Until recently, only the residential buildings in which people with disabilities lived were adapted, "says Bárbara Veciana, architect of the Forcadell Real Estate Technical Office."However, it is everyone's duty to get rid of architectural barriers and facilitate the free mobility of all people."

The Forcadell Real Estate Technical Office (FORVI) gives us the keys to understand the new regulations on accessibility for people with disabilities:

What are architectural barriers?

The so-called architectural barriers limit the activity of people with reduced mobility. Sometimes it's a matter of a few steps. Every enclosed space implies the need to observe that the architectural elements are free of obstacles for people with reduced mobility. Architectural adaptation is the means to eliminate these barriers and achieve the exercise of rights in equal opportunities.

What should my building do to guarantee accessibility to its common areas?

To be up to date in terms of universal accessibility, any building must comply with the Technical Builiding Code, Codigo Técnico de Edificación (CTE) which is the regulatory framework that establishes the basic requirements for safety and habitability established in the Ley de Ordenación de Edificación (LOE),  the Building Regulation Act. For this, it is necessary to go to a technical professional.

This professional will be responsible for conducting a study to condition the building and make it accessible and usable," says Judith Puerto, architect of FORVI. "Our job is to advise the owner or group of owners about the different possibilities that the property has to eliminate architectural barriers. Depending on the area to be adapted, the actions to be taken will be totally different.

What happens if my building does not comply with the minimum accessibility regulations? 

Owners´ communities have had up to 4 years to replace the stairs of the portal with ramps, elevators or other mechanical and architectural devices that facilitate universal mobility through the common areas of the building. With the new regulations, from December 4, if the building does not pass the revision of the Inspección Técnica de Edificaciones (ITE), the Technical Building Inspection, the owner or the community of owners receive penalties ranging from €301 to €1 million.

And if the cost is very high?

Depending on the conditions of the property, "if the cost for carrying out the works exceeds the 12 ordinary monthly expenses of the building, the City Council allows that all the requirements of the regulations are not met and the accessibility to this one, "explains Barbara Veciana.

In addition, the Housing Consortium of Barcelona establishes a program of financial aid aimed at communities of owners and owners of buildings for residential use for the rehabilitation of common elements, and housing, with the aim of promoting the rehabilitation of the existing stock of buildings and homes of Barcelona. The program includes as a priority actions which promote both both energy renovation and accessibility reforms.

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