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The Accessible Campus: Built Environment, Facilities and Grounds

The provision of accessible grounds, facilities and built environments on campus is key to ensuring that educational institutions are inclusive and welcoming to students, staff and visitors living with disability. 

The Disability Discrimination Act (1992) mandates that public spaces must be accessible. Inclusive practices in the area of accessibility support not only people living with disability but also those who are not impacted by disability. It is simply best practice.

The Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards (2010) provides the minimum accessibility requirements for people with disability for new constructions or renovations to existing buildings. The provision of accessible spaces in educational settings should however, move beyond minimum requirements, aspiring to a best practice approach using universal design principles.

How can we influence and support our institutions to be truly accessible to people living with disability, long term illness and / or mental health conditions?

  • Ensure that continuous improvement to accessibility of the built environment is specifically stated in the institution’s Disability Action Plan (DAP). The DAP can serve as a meaningful and proactive planning tool to both demonstrate a commitment to, and provide accountability regarding identified issues, such as accessibility.
  • Ensure that the institution conducts regular audits of accessibility compliance, with high impact issues prioritised, and recommendations for improvement resourced and implemented. This could be a named action in the DAP.
  • Build collaborative relationships between Property Services, Disability Support and Human Resources teams on campus. This can:
    • support consultation with users - students, staff and visitors living with disability such that barriers to accessibility can be identified and acted upon in a timely manner.
    • create opportunities to influence and educate staff
  • Encourage the institution to aim for best practice rather than compliance with standards where possible.

What are some of the areas to consider in relation to accessibility on campus?

An audit is the formalised way for an institution to identify accessibility issues on campus and is most likely to focus upon compliance with the Building Standards. However, all staff can and should provide input into accessibility. The following is an outline of some of the areas to consider as you are traversing your campus.

Area

What to look for

Maps and Processes

 

Are maps that indicate accessible entrances, accessible bathroom facilities, lifts, accessible car parking and accessible routes of travel around campus readily available and digitally accessible online or otherwise?

 Is there a process for assisting new students, staff or visitors living with disability to orient themselves to the campus? Is information about the process readily available (and accessible)?

 

Accessible paths of travel (external)

 

Is there a clear and continuous accessible path of travel to major entry points of the campus from public transport or car parks?

Are external paths wide enough for a person using a wheelchair / walking frame /mobility aid to pass by someone else or are there regular passing and turning spaces along the path? (NB: Paths should be no less that 1200mm wide).

Is there a process for ensuring that pathways are clear at head height i.e. that branches are regularly trimmed?

Are tactile indicators used for changes in surface, height or junction?

 

Signage

 

Is there clear signage apparent on buildings (e.g. building numbers and/or title and/or building function) and facilities (e.g. bathroom facilities, student administration)?

Does way-finding and facility signage include raised tactile and/or braille information?

Accessible paths inside buildings

 

Are passageways wide enough for a person using a wheelchair, walking frame or other mobility aid to turn or pass by someone else or are there regular passing spaces? 

Are automatic doors installed for high use entryways and passageways?

Where automatic doors are not provided are the doors light and easy to open? Are door handles easy to use? Typically D shaped handles are easier to use than round handles.

Are there visual markers, such as a colour-contrasting strip on glass doorways/ wall panels, such that these are rendered more visible?

Are tactile indicators used to indicate surface changes?

Are floor coverings slip resistant, smooth and secure?

Teaching spaces

 

Lighting:  
Are teaching spaces well lit with minimal glare, particularly in areas where staff stand/sit to teach?

 Hearing Support: 
Are the teaching spaces equipped with any of the following:

  • hearing loops
  • infrared hearing assistance (amplification) systems
  • or are FM systems available for loan to support people living with hearing impairments?I

Is there signage indicating the presence of any of the above? Is there information available about accessing the above?

Information about working with an Auslan interpreter. 

Seating:

In teaching spaces with fixed seating, are there spaces for people using wheelchairs available?

Study Spaces

Are there quiet spaces available where students who may be impacted by noise and busy environments can have time out from the campus environment to rest or study?

Is there adjustable or varying height furniture available in general study spaces?

Stairs, lifts and ramps

 

Where there are stairs do they have the following:

  • continuous handrails,
  • colour contrasting strips on the leading edge
  • no open risers

Where there are lifts:

  • Is the lift large enough to allow someone using a wheelchair or walking frame to enter and turn around to access the lift control panel?  
  • Do the lift buttons have raised tactile and Braille information next to them

  • Are lift buttons at a height that can be reached by all?

  • Does the lift provide audible information telling passengers what floor they arrived at?  

Where there are ramps do they have the following:

  • a gradual slope/incline (compliance of ramps can be checked by Property Services staff)
  • handrails
  • safety kerbs or kerb rails at the floor level
  • level landings at regular intervals to allow people to rest
  • warning tactile ground surface indicators (TGSIs) at the top and bottom?

Furniture

 

Is there adjustable or appropriate height furniture available in high use public areas such as libraries and student administration areas?

 

Bathroom facilities

 

Do accessible bathroom facilities have the following:

  • automatic or easy to open / close doors
  • sufficient circulation space to enter and turn around
  • sufficient space around toilet to accommodate left or right side transfers
  • equipment / facilities at appropriate heights e.g. grabrails, taps, mirror, hand dryers? 

Are there sufficient accessible bathroom facilities located in/near campus buildings such that people do not have to travel long distances to access these?

Is there an accessible facility on campus with a hoist and changing table?  

Are there designated areas on campus for watering and toileting of assistance animals?

Emergency procedures

 

Do campus evacuation plans include provisions for people with disability?

Are there designated staff (e.g. fire wardens / security) who are trained to support evacuation of people with disability? 

Communication

 

If accessible paths of travel are disrupted or change due to building works, events etc… is there a strategy to communicate this to known users?

 

 

While the goal is to move toward campuses and public spaces that are completely accessible for all, the reality is that it is an evolving process which is achieved incrementally by prioritising high use spaces or spaces frequented by staff or students who identify as living with a disability and planning new building work and renovations with universal design principles in mind.

Related Resources

References

Australian Government. Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards (2010). https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2010L00668 (accessed June 2017)

Australian Human Rights Commission. Guidelines on Application of the Access to Premises Standards. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/guidelines-application-premises-standards https://www.humanrights.gov.au/frequently-asked-questions-access-premises (accessed June 2017)

Victorian State Government Department of Human Services. Access Buildings and Facilities Checklist http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/for-business-and-community/community-involvement/people-with-a-disability-in-the-community/accessible-goods,-services,-facilities-and-events/accessible-facilities-and-events/accessible-facilities-checklist (accessed June 2017)

RMIT University. RMIT Diversity and Inclusion Accessibility Action Plan for staff, students and visitors with disabilities. http://mams.rmit.edu.au/py5o4l1g4pfmz.pdf (accessed June 2017)