Tips for Improving Disability Access

A disabled student in a wheelchair in primary school.

By Candice West

It can be difficult to know how to make your school more accessible for people with disabilities beyond installing wheelchair ramps and an accessible toilet. This blog provides some ideas for improving the accessibility of your school’s physical environment which may help your school become more inclusive for students, staff and visitors.

  1. Be clean and tidy
  2. One-way systems
  3. Good lighting
  4. Visual and tactile contrasts
  5. Adjustable furniture
  6. Audio induction loops
  7. Replace carpet for rubber
  8. Install sensory playground equipment
  9. Automatic/power assisted doors
  10. Consider a hygiene room

1. Be clean and tidy

Keep corridors, walkways and floors free from clutter so that there are no obstacles to people as they move around the school. Whiteboards should be kept clean to ensure visibility is clear as smudged and dirty boards can be difficult to read. Making use of clearly labelled storage boxes for items that students need access to, can help keep classrooms tidy whilst ensuring that everybody can easily identify where things are in the room.

2. One-way systems

Consider whether your school building could benefit from a one-way system. This could make it much easier for students and staff to move around the school, particularly where corridors are narrow or have doors to navigate through. It’s important to make sure that any “traffic control” systems like this are clearly signposted and that all users, staff as well as students, adhere to these rules.

3. Good lighting

Ensure that all rooms are well lit but free of glare. Walls and furniture painted in a matt finish, rather than gloss, will reduce the glare that can make it difficult for people to see whiteboards and wall displays. Make sure that natural lighting can be adjusted with blinds or curtains but ensure that these are functioning properly. Flickering lights can also be problematic so replace any broken lighting as soon as possible.

4. Visual and tactile contrasts

Doors, window frames, wall sockets and light switches in a colour that contrasts with the walls can help people with a visual impairment find their way around the school and classroom more easily. Ensure that, throughout your school, important signage stands out and is easily seen, and the edges of steps, along with handrails, are painted in a contrasting colour. Tactile flooring can be used to mark transitions, such as at entry points and at the top and bottom of stairways, to better help people with visual impairments find their way around the building.

5. Adjustable furniture

It probably isn’t necessary to replace all of your school’s tables and chairs with height adjustable ones, but having one or two workstations that could be adjusted is a great way to make classrooms more accessible. This is especially important in classrooms where taller worktops and stools are used, such as in science and design and technology rooms.

6. Audio induction loops

Hearing loops may be unnecessary in every classroom but having audio induction loops installed in key areas of the school, such as the school hall, could help improve the experience for students, staff and visitors who use a hearing aid.

7. Replace carpet for rubber

Replacing carpet for a slip-resistant flooring such as rubber can make moving around the building easier for everybody. Old carpets often bunch up creating a trip hazard and it can be difficult for wheelchair users to move across carpets and rugs with a high pile. Rubber flooring is cleaner, more durable, and easily maintained whilst providing a smoother and more comfortable surface to move across.

8. Install sensory playground equipment

In primary schools it’s important that all children have a way to play at breaktimes but not all children will be able to (or want to) run around the playground. Installing sensory playground equipment such as musical instruments or waterwalls, provides a variety of activities at playtime, ensuring that all children have something to play with that is accessible.

9. Automatic/power assisted doors

Many schools have power assisted doors at the main entrance but consider installing automatic doors internally. It may be unrealistic to install power assisted doors in all classrooms but having automatic doors to main rooms such as the school hall, cafeteria or throughout corridors will make moving around the school easier for everybody.

10. Consider a hygiene room

It’s likely that your school building has an accessible toilet but consider installing a hygiene room equipped with a hoist, adjustable changing bed, and height adjustable shower with a low level shower tray or wet floor. A hygiene room helps to promote independence for children and people with disabilities whilst helping them to maintain good personal hygiene.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content