Every child has the right to an education. Unfortunately, in large part due to the fact that most local schools simply aren’t equipped to cater to the needs of children living with disabilities, it is not possible for many of them to attend.
According to the Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, more than half a million children with disabilities in South Africa are not attending school. This is a shocking statistic, especially considering how easy it is to make a school disability-friendly. We have put together some helpful advice in the hope that teachers and principals will take it to heart.
Consider Classroom Layout
Ensure that there is enough space within the classroom to allow a child with a disability who uses an assistive device, such as a wheelchair, to move around freely. All learning aids and textbooks that are utilised on a regular basis should be stored within easy reach, and sinks, desks and worktops should have plenty of knee space underneath to allow for a wheelchair user to utilise them comfortably.
Consider Exterior Layout
In any area where stairs have been placed, an adjacent wheelchair ramp must accompany them. The South African National Standard for Building Regulations had the following to say about wheelchair ramps and accessibility:
“People with disabilities should be able to safely enter the building (Ramps) and be able to safely use all the facilities within it – specifically toilets. (Disabled Toilets) There must be a means of access that is suitable for people with disabilities to use. In addition, access must be available from various approaches of the building via the main entrance and any secondary entrances, and should lead to the ground floor.
There must be a means of egress (a point of departure) that is suitable for people with disabilities to use in the event of any sort of emergency. This relates to any sort of emergency, but in addition, a further clause states that departure routes (or egress) must also be designed in accordance with Part T of the regulations, namely the section that relates to Fire Protection.”
Most school toilet stalls will not be spacious enough to allow someone using a wheelchair to enter and close the door. This is why it is necessary for standalone, easily accessible toilets to be built. These accessible toilets will need to have a lot more floor space, a wheelchair-height toilet, as well as sturdy grab bars. Other essentials include a wheelchair-height sink and hand dryer. It’s also important that the toilet door is of a suitable width to allow a wheelchair to pass comfortably through it.
For more information about making schools disability-friendly, or any other public area for that matter, visit http://disabilityinfosa.co.za/