Access is not just physical – don’t get caught out!

‘My school building is accessible’ – is this something you have said when asked if your school complies with the Equality Act 2010? It is the law after all. Headteachers and SENCOs, by now you will be aware that your school must have an ‘Accessibility Plan’. This involves an ‘Access Audit’ of your school building …. And more.

A shocking number of Headteachers and SENCOs believe that in order to comply with the Equality Act 2010, it is only the physical access that needs to be addressed. If your school building has removed all obstacles to wheelchair access (steps, narrow corridors, heavy doors, disabled toilets, and so on) you’re sorted right? Wrong! How about assessing accessibility for those with visual disabilities (lighting, highlighted stair tread edges, tactile signage etc). Again, this is important, but we are still stuck on physical access.

The term ‘disability’ is used to refer to individual functioning – this is not just physical impairment. So when you say your ‘school building is accessible’, have you made arrangements to cover those with sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, mental illness, and so on? This doesn’t just refer the children at your school by the way – visitors, staff, website users are equally important.

Your school’s Accessibility Plan must cover three areas which are all equally important. ‘Access to the Building’ only covers 1/3 of your Accessibility Plan – the other two being ‘Access to the Curriculum’ and ‘Access to the Written Word.’ The latter two take into consideration the realm outside of physical disability, and this is just as important.

Every child in your school should have equal access to the curriculum.  Perhaps a child needs access to more assistance in order to learn? Or maybe your computer room/art room etc is located upstairs – is there something in place to make sure a child with physical limitations can access these specialist rooms?

Remember it is not just the children to consider. We are talking about all users, including the parent in the wheelchair who needs to get upstairs to see the room in which your child’s science project is on display.

Equally, all need access to the written word, and this again must be covered in your Accessibility Plan. Instructions, for example, on how to use your school’s secure entrance, should be brief and clearly written, and maybe even have an option in braille. Make sure a dyslexic parent who has come to collect their child is catered for!

Ensuring your Accessibility Plan covers all three aspects is daunting. Assessing the needs for those with comprehension disabilities is more subtle than those with obvious physical disabilities. Let us help you.

EA Audits is the only company who focus exclusively on producing a School Access Audit. We can help you navigate the minefield of complying with the Equality Act 2010. It is the law!