Sample access audit for a Primary School
 
  Return to sample audits page>>>  
 

This report is based on an audit carried out in 2001 by Adrian Cave with the assistance of a wheelchair user. The report was updated in 2002 to reflect current good practice, particularly since the publication in October 2001 of the new British Standard for the ‘Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people’ (BS 8300:2001).

This audit was selected as an example of the work of Adrian Cave Associates because the report is short and shows the wide range of issues which may arise, even for a small building which is used by adults and children.

 

If the accessibility of these premises were improved, everyone would benefit

 

1. Introduction
The audit was carried out by Adrian Cave on Thursday 10th May 2001 on a bright and sunny day. The Nursery School has children aged from three and a half to four and a half and at the Primary School they are aged from four and a half to seven years.
2. Approach and entrance
The school is clearly signed at the entrance from the access road. Public buses stop within about 200 metres of the main entrance. The main entrance from the road has a dropped kerb at the corner. The car park, with an asphalt surface and several potholes, has no designated accessible parking spaces. The route from the car park to the main entrance door has no dropped kerbs, therefore someone in a wheelchair has to negotiate the high kerb before reaching the footpath to the doorway. The path has a width of about 1200mm and although this is reduced to about 850mm by potted plants the path itself is not a problem.

Recommendations:
a) provide a designated parking space for people with disabilities
b) provide dropped kerbs on the route from the car park to the main entrance doorway

There is a dropped kerb at the entrance to the school and a level route to the main door ... ... but no designated parking spaces for people with disabilities
3. Front door
The front door, which has 800mm clear width, is particularly difficult to negotiate for people with disabilities, or with children in pushchairs, and is inconvenient for many other people. This is because the doorway has a combination of a step up of 180mm, then a water-bar at the doorway and then a door mat which is recessed below floor level and which is a tripping hazard.

Recommendation: provide a ramped access to the front door and eliminate the tripping hazards

The front door step and the raised sill are serious obstacles for many people, including parents with children in pushchairs.
4. School office
The school office door has an opening width of 750mm clear, with a vision panel from a height of 1320mm which is covered with a map, but it is understood that this door is generally kept open. The room has a floor carpet and acoustic ceiling tiles.

Recommendation: for doors in frequent use consider providing vision panels from a height of 500mm to enable people in wheelchairs and small children to see and be seen

5. WCs

The WC compartment has a total floor area of 2900 x 3900mm and contains one WC for men and four for women, with a lobby. The fittings are white, with cream coloured walls, timber doors with shiny door furniture and WC plates with symbols.

Recommendation: consider the reorganisation of this space in order to provide on accessible WC (size 2200 x 1500mm) plus separate WCs for men and women. In any new arrangement, ensure that contrasts of colour and tone are suitable to help people with impaired vision.

6. Staff offices and rooms

The Head Teacher’s office has carpet, acoustic tiles and vertical adjustable window blinds. The door has a vision panel from a height of 1230mm (500mm recommended).

7. The Medical Room leads directly off the reception area and the entrance office and this has a timber door without vision panels. This has a clear width of 750mm. The room has acoustic ceiling tiles and a carpeted floor.
8. The corridor to the Staff Room has a carpeted floor and acoustic ceiling tiles and includes a space with a photocopier which is about 1000mm high. The corridor is restricted to a width of about 870mm at a right-angled corner. The two widths at the corner are 890mm and 870mm. . The last part of the corridor has a floor of quarry tiles before reaching the Staff Room.

Recommendation: note that the widths of the corridor are too narrow for most wheelchairs to turn (1200 x 1200mm is recommended) and ensure that other routes are available for wheelchair users if required.

9. The door of the Staff Room has a vision panel from a height of 1320mm, floor carpeting and slatted timber blinds to the windows. The kitchen units in the Staff Room are at a height of 910mm. The room has plenty of circulation for wheelchairs but there are no chairs with arms which may be inconvenient for some people who have difficulty in sitting down or rising form a chair.. The door at the other end of the Staff Room, going towards the fire exit and a small corridor, has a vision panel from a height of 1080mm up to about 1400mm.

Recommendations: consider alterations to the vision panels, seating and possibly to the kitchenette if there are problems for members of staff

Chairs with arms would be useful for people who are frail. Adjustable blinds on the windows would give protection from glare
10.

In the corridor beyond that Staff Room there is one small toilet, without an external label, with a wash basin and a WC. This room has a width of 900mm and the door opens inwards. It would, therefore, be very difficult for anybody in a wheelchair to be able to use this.

There is second WC, marked “Ladies”, and again the door opens inwards. The clear width in here, because of pipes on the wall, is only 800mm.

Recommendation: there appears to be an urgent need for an accessible WC somewhere in this school (see para. 5)

11. There is a door with a vision panel from the corridor into the Kitchen but, because the staff were concerned about visitors entering the Kitchen while meals were being prepared, this room was not examined.
12. Playgrounds and outdoor spaces

The playground at the north side of the school has an asphalt surface with a few irregularities but nothing that is likely to be a tripping hazard. There are many markings on the surface for games of various kinds. There is a ramp up to some wooden play equipment and thus has a yellow soft surface. Around the play area there are a number of timber benches with arms on both sides. There are little benches for children to sit on in the space which appears to be is surfaced with bark chippings. There are also various garden features and some tables with fixed seating.

The ‘temporary’ building has a ramp which should be replaced to current standards. Most of the playground is accessible for people with disabilities but there are problems with access into the buildings.
13. There is a small separate building Portakabin-type building (made by Elliott Medway) which has a ramp up and this has several problems. First of all the sides of the ramp look very flimsy and they do not extend to the bottom of the ramp, so this could potentially be a tripping hazard. The bottom of the ramp has a step of about 35mm whereas the maximum recommended step to avoid a tripping hazard is 15mm. The gradient of the ramp is about 1 in 11.5 which is too steep. The entrance door into this building has a sill of about 25mm. This door has glazed panels top and bottom and the opening width of the door, which opens outwards, is 850mm. So, all in all, the ramp and the threshold are the major problems for access to this building.

There is another Portakabin which has steps up to a platform at a height of 620mm. It has 5 steps up and a timber handrail, on one side only, which is a rather loose and stops on the second tread, and therefore does not give adequate guidance. Again, there is a very high sill into the building, with a total height of about 70mm. The entrance door opens outwards with glazing panels top and bottom.

Recommendation: reconstruct the access to both these buildings to the standards recommended in BS 8300

14. Playground access

As one goes round the outside of the building, there are external doors with sills up to a height of 80mm and one of the thresholds has a height of 140mm.

Level paving and covered seating are useful features at the school .... .... but most of the doorways have a step up into the building.

Recommendation: for at least some of the external doors with steps, provide ramps with a gradient of not more than 1 in 12, with guard rails to stop people from tripping over the side of the ramp.

15. Looking at the drawn plan of the school, the double doors next to the boys’ WC in fact open outwards (not inwards as shown on the drawing). These doors have an extremely awkward threshold with an outer step painted green of about 45mm, then a slightly sunken coconut mat which leaves an upstand of 20mm. Then there is a metal upstand of another 20mm with a plastic mat inside that leads to a carpeted surface. These outward opening doors each have a clear width of about 820mm with vision panels above and below the centre rail.

Recommendation: consider providing a sloping access without tripping hazards.

16. The entrance to the dining space is the most accessible entrance in this area. This door also opens outwards and is a timber door glazed top and bottom. This has an awkward double upstand. The first part is 30mm high and the second about 20mm high, leading to a mat with a rubber edging on the wood-block flooring. As this doorway is under cover and there is not a problem with rain being blown in, it should be quite easy to make a proper sloping entrance here with no upstand.

Recommendation: provide a sloping access without tripping hazards.

17. It was noticeable that, on the day of the audit, in all the classrooms the children were sitting on the floor and most of the doors to the outside were open.
18. Courtyard access

The courtyard opposite the playing field has doors on each side. These are double doors opening outwards, glazed top and bottom, but with exactly the same problems as before of the large steps at the threshold.

As one goes round towards the south side, one sees more high thresholds, including one of about 185mm. The doors generally are timber, opening outwards and glazed top and bottom.

Recommendation: ensure that there are doorways without steps to all the main rooms and spaces in the school.

19. In southern area, there is precast concrete paving, all of which is reasonably level and there are no real tripping hazards here. It is an extremely attractive layout with the classrooms facing out on to playgrounds or on to glass and then to the adjoining field which is shared, presumably, with the Junior School nearby.

It was also good to see that as well as the grass there are many areas of planting, including plants in tubs at a low height which the children can see and touch and enjoy.

20. Teaching spaces

The internal spaces generally have completely level access and lively uses of colour. The floors of the Dining Room and the Gymnasium is of wood block flooring and there are vision panels between the Dining Room and the Gym. The vision panels between the two are from a height of 840mm. The floor of the Gym is smooth and shiny and could become slippery if wet, but this is unlikely. A greater problem could be that glare from the floor could cause problems for people with impaired vision.

Recommendation:
a) ensure that the problems of glare do not cause problems for people with disabilities, eg. by screening direct sunlight with adjustable blinds

b) for doors in frequent use consider providing vision panels from a height of 500mm to enable wheelchair users and small children to see and be seen.

21. The doors to the Gym are generally timber, with vision panels from a height of about 1220mm up to 1500mm and there are similar doors to many of the classes.

At the south end of the school some of the doors have vision panels above and below the centre rail and these are vertical vision panels with a width of about 200mm. Some of these have film stuck over them so that one can see that if there is somebody there without seeing the details.

Recommendation: where the vision panels are higher than 500mm, consider the usage of each door and make alterations as appropriate. Vision panels from a height of 500mm may be particularly useful in a school for young children.

22. Children’s WCs
The boys’ toilet has a dark non-slip Altro-type floor with light blue walls and white ceramic tiles. The wash basins are also white so there is a lack of tone contrast between the white wash basins and the tiles behind. There is one tap on each of the three wash basins. One is a cross-tap and the others have more modern square shaped taps. The floor is a light colour with areas of rubber edged mat which is glued to the floor but, because the edges for the mat are very worn there could be a tripping hazard. The girls’ toilets have similar features and problems.

Recommendation:
a) where colour contrasts are inadequate, provide improved contrasts of tone and colour when redecorating;
b) ensure that maintenance is adequate to eliminate tripping hazards

Circulation routes are clearly defined by contrasts of colour and tone.
 23. Induction loops

There do not appear to be any induction loops at the school and these could be useful on occasions, particularly for meetings of parents or governors.

Recommendation: consider providing induction loops for use in the main areas of the school when required

Adrian Cave, revised September 2002

Return to sample audits page>>>

Back to top>>>

 
 
     
   
 
Adrian Cave Associates

"access with elegance"

Architects and Access Consultants