Inclusion for Special Education Needs (SEN) pupils, including those with disabilities, has been the watchword for mainstream schools since the late 1990s. Special schools will have their own set of criteria when it comes to accessibility for pupils. What both mainstream and special schools share is a need to meet current Equality Act requirements.
The UK government’s own Building Bulletin 102 sets out its vision for inclusion in schools of the future. It states that:
- Children and young people need attractive, accessible school buildings.
- ‘Inclusive’ design can enable and empower those with SEN and disabilities to participate fully in life at school and in the wider community.
It then expands on the idea that the whole approach to school design should ensure that children with SEN and disabilities (SEND) are included in any building considerations.
Paul Green, Director at Versatile Lift Company in St Helens, explains,”Children with SEND are mostly educated in mainstream schools. This means that, in effect, any design for a new school building should take SEND access into account. Schools need to be flexible on a day-to-day basis and also adaptable to take into account any future needs of children with SEND.”
“It is vital for architects and planners, when designing new schools, to consider Equality Act requirements and how best to build inclusivity into their school designs”
Paul Green, Versatile Lift Company
Lifts are an important feature for any building in allowing full access to floors and facilities. In schools, they can have a crucial part to play.
Government guidelines for school construction make a point of noting that lifts are essential for wheelchair users to vertically access various parts of the school. Things that architects and planners should consider for lifts include:
- The expected numbers of staff and pupils using them;
- The number of wheelchairs using them;
- How frequent this use will be;
- Whether lifts are available to all or restricted for disabled use; and
- What the maintenance strategy for lifts will be.
“The important thing to note is that lifts don’t provide a single solution involving a metal shaft and all the rest,” Paul continues. “There are now a number of different automated ways of transporting people in situations where they can’t use stairs. Modern technology and designs mean that lifts really do offer versatile solutions to disability access.”
“Guidelines also include notes on preferred materials and the right kind of signage. This still gives plenty of scope for choice in terms of what kinds of lift should be used”, concludes Paul.
Given the availability of platform lifts, step and incline lifts and stair lifts, there should be the opportunity for architects to find the right kind of lift system to fit into their overall plans for new school builds.
Versatile Lift Company have developed a report which provides practical guidance to help the education sector adapt to the challenges of inclusiveness and the Equality Act. You can get your copy by clicking here.
Alternatively, for more information, please call Versatile Lift Company on 0800 028 1972 or visit their website.