Access for all Based on a presentation by Judith Gibbons at a FACE seminar and on observations made at Springfield Study Centre
Introduction • FACE arranged a seminar at the Springfields Study Centre near Solihull, a centre designed for children with physical or sensory deprivation. • Judith Gibbons helped delegates to understand how to carry out an audit of their own centre • We then toured the centre and particularly its grounds and came up with suggestions of our own
Carrying out an access audit • This presentation uses the expertise of Judith Gibbons and the observations of the seminar delegates to suggest ways to approach your own premises when carrying out an access audit. • In Judith’s words: “The Audit should be thought of as a ‘Forth Bridge’ project and be continued, in some way, indefinitely.”
INDOORS Suggestions from Judith Gibbons
Entrances • Does the building have flat or ramped access? • If there are kerbs on the approach, does it have graded drops? • Are ramps of appropriate width and gradient with no tight turns and appropriately surfaced? • Do ramps and slopes have handrails on both sides? (To have only one handrail can be difficult for some users, especially those with a physical impairment whose weakness is on the "wrong" side.)
Entrances continued • Are handrails easy to grasp and colour contrasted so that they stand out? (Colour contrast, whilst helpful to all users, is especially so to many users with a visual impairment.) • Are security systems, such as intercoms, mounted at a height appropriate to all, whether seated or standing? • Is any entry system very clearly labelled?
Doors Doors can pose as big a barrier to access as steps. • Is the doorway wide enough for wheelchair access? • Is the door too heavy to push/pull open? (Many new doors are hung such that they are very heavy. Most can be adjusted to make them move more easily.) • Are there vision panels in doors? These enable users on each side (whether seated or standing) to see each other and to be seen.
Doors continued • Do doors with full glass panels have a sticker on each panel, at a height to make the doors visible when closed? • Are there handles rather than knobs as they are easier to manipulate? (They should be colour contrasted against the door and chunky as these are easiest to grasp.) • Are the handles at an appropriate height? (Door handles should be at a height accessible to all, including wheelchair users and those of short stature.)
Steps & Stairs • Are steps and stairs of the same depth and width and not too steep? • Do steps have an appropriate, well contrasted handrail on each side? • Are the tops and fronts of steps colour contrasted? • Is glare onto stairwells reduced by blinds if possible? (Glare is a problem to all, but is especially difficult for many users with a visual impairment.)
Classrooms • Is there a range of seating and work surfaces to ensure children are working with their feet flat? • Is there sufficient circulation space, especially for those with a physical or visual difficulty? • Are there white boards rather than black or green? (These are easier to see as long as there is no glare onto them.) • Is storage & equipment accessible to all, i.e. at a height accessible to wheelchair users and well signed for any with a visual difficulty?
Dining Room • Is there sufficient circulation space between tables for all? • Do you have seating and tables in different heights to meet the needs of all? • Are there spaces at tables for people in wheelchairs? • Is the serving hatch at a height accessible to all? • Are all signs at an appropriate height?
Toilets • Is there a toilet for wheelchair users? ( This should, wherever possible, be centrally installed and approachable from either side or centrally. This is important for users who either have a significant weakness on the “wrong” side or who need the assistance of two people.) • Is there good contrast between basins and tiles?
Colour Contrast Colour contrast is of help to all, but especially to those with a visual impairment Is there colour contrast between the following:- • Doors and their frames • Handrails and surrounds • Handles and doors • Basins and tiles in W.C.’s • Furniture and floor covering and walls • Signs and their borders and backgrounds
General Access Hints • Do you use clear labelling, with strong colour contrast between labels and borders, and mounted at a height suitable for all – including wheelchair users and those of short stature? • Is the reception desks at a height suitable for all, whether seated or standing, well lit and with any sign at an appropriate height? • Do you have blinds or curtains to reduce glare? (Where possible, they should be in corridors and stairwells as well as in rooms.)
General Access - 2 • Do you have good lighting particularly for those with a visual or hearing impairment? • Are floor surfaces, especially where they become wet, non slip and non glare? (Carpet with a very low pile or non slip plastic are best.) • Do you provide soft surfaces such as carpets and curtains? (These are helpful to those with a hearing impairment as they lessen reverberation.)
General Access 3 • Do you avoid the use of gloss paint? (Alternatives give much less glare.) • Are sinks and basins accessible – i.e. of appropriate height to be approached seated or standing and, ideally, hollow underneath? • Are power sockets accessible to all? (Those over benches are not fully accessible but may be seen as safer than having them on the ends of benches.) • Have you considered absorbent or acoustic ceiling tiles to reduce reverberation?
OUTDOORS Suggestions from delegates at the Access for All seminar at Springfield Study Centre
Supervision • Is there plenty of pre-planning? • Have you avoided separating one child from others? • Can you offer alternative activities if necessary?
Car Park • Is the dropping off area separate from other traffic? • Is there a turning circle for minibuses etc? • Are there clear signs for parking for the disabled? • Have wider parking spaces been defined? • Is there a level path or a designated route for wheelchair users from the car park to a nearby entrance?
Natural environment • Have you explained the importance of a pre-visit? • Do you have poisonous berries within reach? • Will nettles pose a hazard? • Can mud (on wheels) be a problem? • Have you highlighted the dangers of water? • Have you considered the adverse effects of exposure to sun/cold?
Signs • Have you used contrasting colours? • Have you ensured clarity by using appropriate justification, font style and size, spacing and lower case letters? • Are your signs simple? (use symbols) • Are your signs relevant? • Are signs well positioned (consider height for wheelchair users and young children) • Can visitors identify hazards clearly? (use yellow tape)
Paths • Are all surfaces firm, flat and even? • Have you avoided using bark or large, loose gravel? • Are there distinct physical and visual boundaries at the sides of paths? • Have you removed or highlighted hazards such as bollards or overhanging branches? • Are gradients never more than I in 16? (The ideal is 1 in 20) • Have you provided plenty of seating?
Gates etc • Have you considered the width of gateways so they are accessible to all, including wheelchair users? • Are handles/catches easy to grasp? • Have you given thought to the regular and easy maintenance of gates?
Activity areas:Bird Hides • Are the doorways wide enough for wheelchair access? • Is there a low viewing window? • Have you provided some moveable seating? • Can wheelchair users gain proximity to windows? • Have you thought about using cameras to see inside nest boxes or to record areas not easily accessed?
Activity areas:Pond dipping platforms • Have you considered the orientation of planks (to prevent wheels getting stuck etc)? • Is the kick board clearly marked? (Trip hazard) • Is seating provided? • Is appropriate equipment supplied? • Are you employing appropriate class management techniques?
Activity areas:Pond dipping ramp • Have you put matting in place to prevent slipping? • Is the water here shallow? • Have you made health and safety considerations?
Activity areas:Raised beds and raised ponds • Are the raised beds accessible to all i.e. at different heights? • Is there an overhang for wheelchair users? • Have you thought about raising the natural world too? (Simply build up the woodland floor using a log surround.) • If planning sunken paths, is there adequate drainage? • Have you involved your clients in your design?
Seating and tables • Have you provided plenty of seating throughout your grounds? • Do you have seating and tables in different heights to meet the needs of all? • Are there spaces at tables for people in wheelchairs?
Tractor and trailer • Is this adapted for wheelchair use? • Do you have wheelchair anchorage?
Links • BT Countryside For All Standards and Guidelines - A Good Practice Guide to Disabled People’s Access in the Countryside published by Fieldfare Trust 0114 270 1668 • Clearly a better read –RNIB http://www.rnib.org.uk/access/child_cp.htm • Access trailers: 01663 735 355 www.accesstrailers.co.uk • Yellow aerosol paint available from www.seton.co.uk
Thanks • Thank you to Judith Gibbons and especially to Dave Digby at The Springfield Study Centre who hosted our seminar and shared with us his expertise and his inspiring location. • Thanks to those who attended the seminar and offered ideas to add to this checklist which we hope will be helpful to all who are trying to make their own premises accessible to all.