Idris Davies School has been actively committed to providing access for disabled persons on its campus for many years. Initially surveys were carried out by the premises manager to look at what could be done to make access and egress easier for wheelchair users and those with movement difficulties. Following notification by the local authority that its intention was to raise the standard of access to personnel, the premises manager requested the help of a specialist to survey the site with a view to install new or better facilities for disabled users.
The governing body is also keenly involved in providing these facilities and have on many occasions requested additional surveys to be carried out. Again a specialist group was contacted to survey the school from all aspects of disability. As a result, the following actions were taken to upgrade facilities:
- Drop kerbs were supplied all around the site to allow wheelchair access to all areas. Where new buildings were erected, the County Council was requested to comply with disabled access legislation and provide the necessary kerbs.
- Paint schemes have taken into account the need to provide contrasting colours for door frames, walls and flooring material impaired vision and all painted areas follow the guidelines given. Furniture colour is also considered when purchasing to ensure colour contrasts are met for impaired vision.
- Wheelchair access between floors is now provided by means of a lift in the new building and because the school is split level, access ramps are provided on both levels.
- Disabled parking is also provided on both car parking levels. In the front car park it is provided at the closest point to the front entrance and at the rear, again where the car park is closest to the main entrance. There is an access path provided between the front car park and the school’s reception entrance across level ground. This path with drop kerbs now crosses the traffic island and meets a drop kerb at the reception area pavement.
- Ramp access is also given to all new sports facilities such as the new sports hall and changing rooms and also the new dance studio areas and tennis courts. Correct gradients have been observed.
- Easy access toilets have been installed in the new areas of the school and facilities changed in existing areas to allow for easier wheelchair access. Standard measurements have been used when fitting all appliances, wash-hand basins, toilet pans, grab handles, dispensers, etc to make the building conform to current legislation.
- LCD monitors have been installed in all IT suites to provide facilities for persons with ‘visual-flicker’ problems. Many IT suites are now stocked with only LCD screened monitors. All new monitors will be of the LCD type for energy reasons also.
- All handrails comply with current legislation. Additional handrail is fitted to make all difficult parts of the site more accessible for all personnel.
- Mat wells. Mats in mat wells requiring renewal are being phased out and the floor rendered to remove the mat-well completely and provide level passage. In these areas non-slip vinyl floor is provided with low profile dust matting which is wheelchair friendly.
- Blinds are provided wherever needed and also optical film on windows for both glare reduction and heat conservation.
- Furniture is provided to meet disabled standards and to allow wheelchair access beneath it. This includes computer room tabling.
- Lighting in the older building computer suites is being altered on a rolling programme to provide down-lighting to new standards. This will minimise glare on computer screens and will also reduce energy costs.
- Drinking fountains are also provided with types that provide easier use by disabled persons.
- Provision of all documents in acceptable font and point size for easy reading of circulated material. Type is recommended as size 14.
Planning for emergency egress from the original main building and recently erected new sections takes into account the requirements of the disabled. The only areas which do not have disabled ramps for egress, are the demountable buildings, where only front access ramps exist. This is due to the fact that at the time of the building installation, legislation did not require it, so the local council did not provide them. To provide these ramps as a retrospective action would be a costly affair and would probably have to be borne by the school.
Being built on a hillside, the school does not lend itself naturally to wheelchair users. This makes all use of wheelchairs difficult and many areas are steep making wheelchair control difficult. Users need assistance in almost all cases when accessing the older part of the building. This is readily provided on request. To minimise this effect the front car park entrance was chosen as the disabled parking area to allow almost level transition to the reception area. Nevertheless against the backdrop of a difficult venue, the school has been proactive, providing many facilities out of maintenance capitation and also by requesting county conformity at every upgrade to the site. In this way the site has risen in disabled access standards to what is a good level. In the future whenever there is to be any change in the school fabric the opportunities will continue to be taken to upgrade to DDA standards.