How to Make Your School More Accessible
Every child has the right to an education and schools have a responsibility not to discriminate against pupils with a disability. These disabilities could vary from special educational needs, to any pupils using a wheelchair, but it’s vital to make sure every child has the access to the education they need.
There are around 800,000 disabled children under the age of 16 in the UK according to the Disabled Living Foundation – that’s one child in every 20. This means that every school is likely to have at least one disabled child in each class, so accessibility is key.
Schools will vary hugely in how accessible they are to individual pupils, but they should be ensuring that they’re as inclusive as possible. Research by Mencap found that the majority of children with disabilities or special educational needs attend mainstream schools, so how can you make sure your establishment is as inclusive as possible?
There are many ways to ensure your school is accessible for all, including improved wheelchair access and assistive technology, so read on to find out more.
Improve wheelchair access
Physical access can be a major issue for any students using a wheelchair and they may find it hard to enter the school building or classrooms without assistance. Current disability laws state that schools cannot discriminate against disabled students, but they’re not under any legal obligation to make immediate changes. However, they must publish an accessibility plan and be prepared to make ‘reasonable adjustments’.
Even if there are currently no pupils in a wheelchair at your school, it’s well worth taking the time to ensure the building is accessible. This improves access for any visitors or parents who may use a wheelchair and it sets a good example for other schools. Wheelchair ramps can drastically improve accessibility both inside and outside a building and they can be either permanent or portable depending on your needs. Schools should also make sure they have at least one disabled toilet with adequate space and ideally one disabled toilet facility per floor. You may also require additional equipment like a hoist system to help move pupils comfortably from their wheelchair.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a wheelchair lift to help pupils move easily between floors. These can be designed bespoke to suit your exact requirements and they provide a safe, comfortable way for pupils to reach upper floors of the building. If it’s not possible to install a lift for any reason, you may need to adjust the school timetable to make sure all lessons take place on the ground floor for any pupils in a wheelchair. Check your doorways too, as many aren’t wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Doorways can be easily widened if necessary and the process only takes a few hours.
Physical access for those in a wheelchair is vital, but storage facilities can often be overlooked. Some pupils may only need their wheelchair for moving between classrooms, so it’s important to have a safe space where they can store their chair when not in use. Ideally, a storage space should be located next to the classroom and be equipped with powerpoints to charge chairs if necessary. A designated storage space also frees up valuable room in the classroom and protects the chair from accidental damage.
Vary how information is delivered
Written handouts and textbooks are a staple of the school curriculum, but be aware that this format might not be the most accessible for all pupils. Schools should make sure they’re able to vary how information is delivered, especially important documents like timetables. Braille, large print and audio formats are all options to help make information more accessible for pupils.
The formats you provide will of course depend on students’ needs, but it’s a good idea to include options in your accessibility plan.
The advance of technology has helped make life much easier for many pupils with disabilities and assistive technology enables children to learn faster and more easily. It also ensures that they have an equal access to the curriculum and increases their amount of independent learning. Assistive technology comes in many forms, including touch-screen computers, interactive whiteboards, speech to text software, Braille translation software and easy to use keyboards.
Funding and grants for equipment vary throughout the UK but your school may be eligible for some financial help towards the cost of equipment. You can find out more about the different types of grant available here.
Help for visually impaired pupils
A student doesn’t need to be completely blind to require help and there are many steps you can take to improve learning for visually impaired pupils. Provide worksheets in braille and/or large print and vary learning by providing information in audio formats. Varying information helps to keep all students interested and engaged and it ensures that visually impaired pupils don’t feel excluded.
You’ll also need to ensure that you have adequate lighting in classrooms, or provide additional lamps if pupils need. Classroom light filters can also work wonders; they remove glare from fluorescent overhead lighting and convert it into full spectrum light. This helps reduce eye strain and improves visual clarity for anyone with milder visual impairments. Classrooms should also be as spacious as possible and kept tidy to prevent trip hazards.
Support for learning disabilities
Not all disabilities are visible, so it’s important to consider the full range of disabilities when improving accessibility. Learning disabilities vary greatly but they can have a serious impact on a student’s education and ability to learn. Common types of learning disability include dyslexia and ADHD, but you’ll need to consider the individual needs of the pupil in each case. Some students might need extra support with reading and writing, or some might need help to improve their attention span or memory.
There are many general adaptations you can make to help support students, including:
- A designated quiet room or space for children to work away from others. This can help pupils who are very easily distracted or struggle with background noise.
- Alternatives to written work – some pupils may work better by giving verbal answers or diagrams.
- Sensory rooms to provide additional stimulation. These are often filled with objects to stimulate all the senses, including coloured lights, textured walls or materials and musical instruments.
Safe, reliable wheelchair stair lifts – from the experts at Euro Lifts
If you’re looking to improve the accessibility of your school, consider a wheelchair lift from the professionals at Euro Lifts. Our safe, reliable lifts are suitable for installation across the UK and we can work with you to tailor a solution to your specific property and needs. Our wheelchair lifts are easy to control thanks to a single-phase electric system and we’re continuing to develop our products to ensure all customers have the access they need.
Our range of wheelchair lifts are suitable for both internal and external use and we also provide 24/7 breakdown repair for your peace of mind. We pride ourselves on installation that’s simple and hassle-free and our robust, reliable lifts won’t let you down. If you’re looking for something a little different, we’re proud to provide a range of alternative lift options, including passenger lifts, stair lifts and many more. We also provide a full range of lift services to keep operations running smoothly, including site surveys, testing, maintenance and lift refurbishment. For more information or to discuss your requirements, don’t hesitate to give us a call today or contact us via our website.