As previously discussed complying with the Building Regulations alone won't necessarily guarantee that people with disabilities will be able to use your services, buildings and facilities. For example, they don't deal with the external environment or give detailed guidance on playground design or other specific facilities. They are only concerned with the building fabric, not how premises are fitted out or how you can make your services easier for people with disabilities to use.
Building for Everyone
There are many books, websites and organisations that can provide community-based projects with information and ideas about accessible premises. Most of them are aimed at bigger public and private sector organisations or at architects and designers. Many are quite technical.
In Ireland the most easily understood and substantial source of information on accessible design is Building for Everyone. Although it is aimed mostly at architects and other designers Building for Everyone is intended to be understood by and useful to building managers, maintenance supervisors and other people who are not design professionals. The various sections of Building for Everyone deal with:
- the consequences for design and management of various kinds of impairment
- the different roles and responsibilities of designers, builders, managers etc.
- inclusive design in the external environment (see below)
- inclusive design of buildings
- some advice about particular building types, furniture and fittings
- managing and maintaining buildings for maximum accessibility
- retro-fitting and refurbishing buildings.
The information in Building for Everyone is intended to be applicable to many kinds of building and settings in the external environment. Other publications and websites have extra detail which is useful to designers.
Community-based projects do not have to be concerned with most aspects of the external environment. Streets, parks, beaches and forests are not your responsibility! You may, however, want to make sure that they are accessible to the people with disabilities in any groups you may be taking to these places. Building for Everyone will help you to know what to look out for.
The aspects of the external environment which most concern you lie within your boundary wall. Your premises may include paths, parking spaces, a playground or a garden. If so, you will need to make sure that they provide reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities.
Want to know more?
- Building for Everyone has information on all of these aspects
- Visit www.ncaonline.org/playgrounds for more detailed information on playgrounds. Follow the links to very useful publications and articles. Documents like this from the US (see others below) use imperial measurements (feet and inches) rather than the metric system, so can be a bit confusing. This site (www.ncaonline.org ) also has information which would be useful to community-based organisations which involve people with disabilities in outdoor activities, camping etc.
- Read the Design Solutions Package part of Creating Inclusive Child Care Facilities. DESSA has a copy, or you can order it (cost $10) via www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/pubs/childcare.htm
It is also important to consider how people with disabilities get to your building from the street. For example:
- How accessible is the route from the nearest bus stop or other public transport?
- Are the pavements level and in good order, with little risk of people tripping?
- Is there a dished road crossing (that is, with a slope instead of a kerb, and marked with tactile bumpy paving that tells people with visual impairments that they have reached a crossing)?
- If it's a busy road, is there an audible crossing signal to assist people with visual impairments?
- If you don't have your own parking area, is there a suitable disabled person's parking place nearby?
Want to know more about what to look for in your area?
Read chapter 5 of Building for Everyone. If the features you want are not there or if they need upgrading you can talk to your local authority about providing them. Most local authorities have signed up to the Barcelona Declaration, a Europe-wide agreement to facilitate the requirements of people with disabilities, so they should be committed to providing reasonable accommodations. Contact the Access Officer or Roads Department first.
Providing reasonable accommodation to your services
As previously noted accessible premises don't automatically guarantee accessible services. Wittingly or unwittingly there may be barriers in place which prevent people with disabilities from using your services on a basis of equality with others.
Providing reasonable accommodations within your services is a whole subject in itself.
- Can people with disabilities find out about your activities?
- Can they join in what you do? The section in this booklet headed
- What do people with disabilities need? details one simple way of looking at this.
Here are a few areas to think about:
- How do you let people know what is going on in your community centre?
- Do you provide information in alternative formats (in large print, on tape, in Braille) as well as in ordinary print?
- Do you use a sans serif font (like this one, without "tails" on the letters, e.g. Arial) at least 12 point in size?
- Do you use matt Paper (glossy paper is harder to read)?
- Can you facilitate people with disabilities in small ways, like providing easy-grip pens to people who need them?
- Do you provide disability awareness/equality training for your staff and volunteers?
- Are they all aware of the accessibility features of your premises and services?
- Do people with disabilities know that they are welcome to join in your project's activities?
- When they come to you, do you ask about their needs?
- How do you facilitate them?
- When you are planning activities and services, do you think about how people with disabilities can participate?
- When you hold meetings, do you make sure that deaf and hard-of-hearing people can join in?
- Do you make sure that the language you use and the pace of the meeting don't exclude people with intellectual disabilities?
- How effective is your consultation with people with disabilities?
- How could it be improved?
- Do local people with disabilities have any unmet needs that your project might be able to address?