With the new term underway, now may be the right time to consider whether your school is due an access audit.
Under the Equality Act 2010 your school has an obligation to take ‘reasonable measures’ to ensure its accessibility. Here are some questions to ask:
• have we had a recent access audit on building/facilities/offices?
• can disabled staff and visitors park at or near our building?
• can disabled staff, pupils and visitors easily get into our building?
• can disabled staff, pupils and visitors get around our building?
• can disabled staff, pupils and visitors get to all parts of our building?
• do our fire and safety procedures include provision for disabled staff, pupils and visitors?
• do disabled staff, pupils and visitors have access to all things that go on in our building?
• do we have a current list for action arising from our latest access audit?
• do we have a checklist of access requirements for spaces that we hire for events?
It is important to remember that duties under the Equality Act are evolving. The act does not expect organisations to be able to suddenly improve all aspects of its access immediately but to take a long-term perspective and begin a process of gradual and incremental change. There is no such thing as ‘a fully accessible building’ – the access needs of individuals can clash. What provides access for one disabled person may produce a barrier for another.
There is still a widespread belief that access to venues is about wheelchair users and so is dependent on lifts and ramps yet only 4% of the 8.7 million disabled people in the UK use wheelchairs. People also think that improvements to accessibility can only be made at great expense, but many can be made for little or no cost.
The most effective way to begin looking at physical access considerations is to undergo a physical access audit, usually undertaken by a disability access auditor. Let EA Audits visit your school and our ex Headteacher, Lesley Mifsud advise you and prepare your 3 legal requirements for you. By law you must have: An Access Audit, An Accessibility Plan and a SEN Policy