Access Panels are groups of disabled people unique to Scotland who volunteer their time to improve the accessibility of their local area for disabled people.

There are currently 35 Access Panels across Scotland, from Shetland to Tweeddale, who give their time for free to improve access and inclusion.

Disability Equality Scotland is the umbrella body for Access Panels in Scotland. We provide support and guidance to the Network to help improve the outreach and capacity of all Access Panels. We engage positively with stakeholders and government to keep accessibility at the top of the agenda, and we represent the views of disabled people across Scotland.

Access Panels were established in the 1980s by then Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Forsyth.  He asked every local authority in Scotland to appoint an access officer who should in turn create a local Access Panel for that area.

I would like to thank everyone involved in the Access Panel Networks. The work you do as volunteers, working together to improve the physical access and wider social inclusion for your local communities, your knowledge and your expertise are invaluable.

Christina McKelvie MSP

Fast forward to 2003 and the access officer roles created within local authorities were steadily being replaced with equality officers. That year, Access Panels got together to create the Scottish Disability Equality Forum, a charity which would continue working to advocate on behalf of the Access Panel network on a national basis as the umbrella body.

In September 2017, the Scottish Disability Equality Forum changed its name to Disability Equality Scotland to better reflect the breadth of work it does and to help other people understand the organisation and its direction.

Access Panels continue to thrive and provide a vital service to local authorities and organisations within their area.  The lived experience and expertise of Access Panels is unmatched anywhere in the UK and Disability Equality Scotland continues to support the network as the umbrella body.

Ian Buchanan

Job title: Equality and Access Manager

Ian is our Equality and Access Manager and it is his role to support, develop and promote the Access Panel Network. Ian is also responsible for providing guidance on accessibility to external organisations and managing our Disability Equality Access and Learning training course.

Please get in touch with Ian if you have any questions about Access Panels in Scotland or if you’re keen to join your local Panel.