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Guide to Maintaining Accessibility in Buildings for All Persons with Disabilities

Maintaining accessibility in buildings

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


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


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.


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.


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


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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The Right to Inclusive and Quality Education for Children with Disabilities

Inclusive and Quality Education for Children with Disabilities

South Africa commemorates National Disability Rights Awareness Month annually between 3 November and 3 December. This post aims to raise awareness about children and young people with disabilities, and their right to empower themselves through access to quality education and lifelong learning.

Disability Rights Awareness Month 2019

Children with disabilities are one of the most socially judged and excluded groups in society. They face various forms of discrimination, which leads to isolation and alienation from community, society and school.

The general attitude toward children with disabilities, and the lack of resources to accommodate these children, compound the challenges they face. The lack of easy access to school – and the inability of the education system to make sure that they receive quality education is of equal concern.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Education For All framework aim to meet the learning needs of all children and youth. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recalls those obligations and further specifies that “States Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children”, and “ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong learning” (articles 7 and 24).

To ensure quality education for children with disabilities the following must be addressed:

  • Promote accessible and inclusive learning spaces – Ensure physical accessibility for children with disabilities, including commuting and moving around in the school environment as well as having safe access to water and sanitation facilities whilst at school. Likewise, learning materials need to be made available in accessible formats to suit the needs of children with different types of disabilities. 
  • Invest in teacher training for inclusive education – Where available, approaches to education for children with disabilities have changed over the years. While the initial emphasis was on ‘special schools’, there has been a shifting that indicates a preference towards inclusive education. Preparation and orientation of teachers for inclusion should happen through teacher training which, besides the child-centred pedagogy will also address attitudes towards children with disabilities, and how to prepare/support families for them to be encouraged to keep their children in school and informed about their children’s potential.
  • Take a multi-sectoral approach – Barriers that prevent children with disabilities to access education are located both within and outside the education system, for example transport, social services for assistive devices, health etc.
  • Involve the community – The education of children with disabilities must include a strong involvement from community as well as from parents, being two key factors which determine the success of IE.
  • Collect data for evidence building and progress monitoring – In order to have evidence to advocate for inclusion and create a baseline for monitoring progress in disability mainstreaming in the educational system, it is required to collect and disaggregate data on the patterns of enrolment, attendance, completion, attainment and drop out as a result of having a disability (in addition to gender, ethnicity, income level, geographical location etc.).  Also other qualitative and quantitative studies, like one on Out Of School Children, provide important baselines and as such must become a regular component of monitoring education standards.  Research findings are helping to define strategies to ensure specific target groups are reached.

Inclusive Education in South Africa

“In 2015, it was estimated by Human Rights Watch that over 600,000 children with disabilities are not in the school system in South Africa. Since the release of these statistics, it has come to light that this number may be even higher, as the government is yet to determine the exact number of children with disabilities not attending schools.”

Inclusive Education recognises the right of ALL children to feel welcomed into a supportive educational environment in their own community. It refers to the capacity of ordinary local schools and ECD Centres to respond to the needs of ALL learners, including those requiring extra support because of learning or physical disability, social disadvantage, cultural diffrences or other barriers to learning.

We now have a strong legislative and policy framework that promotes an Inclusive Education system in South Africa. The South African Constitution, The South African Schools Act, White Paper 6, The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child all place obligations on the State to ensure ALL children are given access to meaningful participation in learning in the general education system. –

Be Inspired

Earlier this year we were fortunate enough to join hands in raising SMA Awareness with Kerry Walsh, an inspiring young lady with a “never say no” attitude.

Kerry was diagnosed with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) around the age of one, and was given the life expectancy of 5 years old. Today, at age 21, she is a motivational speaker and extremely passionate about changing the level of accessibility in South Africa!! Kerry was an ambassador for the Nappy Run 2016-2017, and was nominated as a Margaret Hirsch Women in Business 2017-2018!! Learn more about Kerry`s story and her mission to raise SMA Awareness and changing the level of accessibility in SA.

Kerry Walsh
Kerry Walsh


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Disability Rights Awareness Month

Disability Rights Awareness Month 2019

South Africa commemorates National Disability Rights Awareness Month annually between 3 November and 3 December.

3 December is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and is also commemorated as National Disability Rights Awareness Day.

The month long campaign carries weekly sub-themes which are reflected in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (2019-2024) of government. The following sub-themes are intended to focus conversations on priority areas identified by the disability sector, which also link to the seven priorities of government:

Week 1: Children and young people with disabilities empowered to chart their own destiny through access to quality lifelong learning
Week 2: A built environment accessible to all persons with disabilities
Week 3: Persons with disabilities as equal players in building inclusive economies
Week 4: Children and women with disabilities – feeling and being safe as equal citizens in their communities

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.

Society is encouraged to be part of the conversation online by using the hashtag #DisabilityInclusiveSA

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