Maintaining accessibility in buildings

Guide to Maintaining Accessibility in Buildings for All Persons with Disabilities

Disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person’s lifetime.

Disability can be broken down into a number of broad sub-categories, which include the following 8 main types of disability:

  • Mobility and Physical Impairments.
  • Spinal Cord Disability.
  • Head Injuries (TBI) – Brain Disability.
  • Vision Disability.
  • Hearing Disability.
  • Cognitive or Learning Disabilities.
  • Psychological Disorders.

Making buildings more accessible to all persons with disabilities should be on top of your to-do list if your building is not complaint yet. Below is a guide to help you in the right direction. It is important to re-access your building`s accessibility program regularly, or at least every 3 years to ensure it`s up to standard.

A good accessibility expert will often be able to suggest affordable solutions. Develop an implementation plan for addressing each issue that the report identifies, according to the issues’ priorities as soon as possible after the audit – and develop and Access Handbook that staff who work in the relevant areas can refer to — and update — while working.

Maintaining accessibility in buildings

Outside the building

Make sure that parking spaces for people with disabilities are accessible. Check:

  • That parking spaces and drop-off points are kept clear for people who need them
  • The surface and lighting around the building and on the paths that customers/visitors use to get to the building.
  • That the main entrance door is correctly designed, and that at least one entrance is accessible if the main entrance is not accessible.

Ramps and steps

If any public service areas have slopes that are steeper than 1:20, make sure that both steps and ramps are available, and that they are correctly designed.

Wheelchair Ramp

Steps and lifts

Steps

Avoid putting steps within a floor in a building, where possible. Where steps are necessary, provide a ramp or platform lift as appropriate.

Lifts

Provide accessible lifts in all new buildings that have more than one floor.
Make sure that the lifts are designed to best practice guidelines.
Check the lifts’ operation regularly.
Keep the lifts clear.

Corridors and doors

Check that:

  • Corridors and routes are not obstructed by deliveries, machinery, or anything else
  • Doors are kept open where possible
  • Doors that are closed are easy for customers/visitors to open
  • Doors are wide enough for all customers/visitors.

Signs

Public buildings should have signs to let your customers/visitors understand where they need to go. The signs should:

  • Be designed according to best practice guidelines
  • Have Braille or raised lettering wherever possible
  • Have writing that is large enough for your customers/visitors to read
  • Use appropriate symbols
  • Not be ”home made“
  • Be placed where your customers will:
    • Be able to see them easily
    • Not walk into them.

Reception areas and waiting rooms

Public service reception areas and waiting rooms should be designed, and maintained, to best practice guidance.

  • Provide correctly designed seats. A mixture of types and sizes of seats is best. Some customers may need to use arm-rests, and some may find arm-rests awkward.
  • Provide an induction loop system in at least one accessible meeting room.

Intercoms, queuing systems, ticket offices, information desks

Consider how you will inform customers/visitors that they are next in line. Remember that some of them might not be able to:

  • Read visual information
  • Hear audio information or intercoms
  • Reach tickets or intercoms that are very high, very low, or awkward to reach
  • Understand complicated language or jargon.

Plan the location, output, and language of your intercoms, queuing systems, ticket offices, or information desks carefully. If these are inaccessible to some of your customers/visitors, make sure that your staff can help them by speaking — or giving written information.

Toilets

If you provide toilets for the public, provide toilets that customers/visitors with disabilities can use. Follow best practice guidance carefully.

  • Provide an alarm system in your accessible toilets, and test it regularly to make sure that a member of staff will help somebody in an emergency.
  • Make sure that accessible toilets are not used for storing cleaning equipment, deliveries, or anything else.
  • Provide sanitary bins in accessible toilets, and put them where they will not obstruct wheelchair users.

Interior design

Light

The light in your public buildings should be distributed evenly. There should be no large variations in lighting levels and the light should not be too bright or too dark. Avoid glossy, shiny and polished surface finishes and keep reflections, shadows, and glare to a minimum.

Visual contrast

Use differences in colour and colour intensity to create visual contrast. That will help customers/visitors with vision impairments to:

  • Distinguish between walls and floors
  • Distinguish between door backgrounds and fittings
  • Avoid hazards
  • Find their way around the building.

Source: National Disability Authority


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