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About 10% of students in Australia are students of all abilities, and about 5.4% of them may have serious impairments, like paraplegia.
Many of these students have conditions that may limit or prevent them from studying in most traditional school settings, but the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and Disability Standards For Education 2005 make it necessary for education institutes to make education accessible for all students.
Making a school accessible to students of all abilities allows many of these students to study in the same environment as their peers and compete academically on the same level.
Improving access for students of all abilities doesn’t always mean that a school will require drastic architectural changes, small but effective modifications can make a world of difference for students of all abilities.
If you’re a school owner looking to improve access for students of all abilities, here are a few ways you can achieve this.
For multi-levelled school buildings, access lifts are a must. Some students of all abilities may need to use a wheelchair to get around, and these lifts make it much easier for them to scale multiple floors.
These lifts aren’t just beneficial to wheelchair users but also to students with physical impairments that do not require them to use a wheelchair but still make it hard to climb stairs.
Access lifts can even be installed outside the school building in places where there are steps to help wheelchair users get around the campus.
Ramps for wheelchairs
Ramps are a very effective and safe way to allow wheelchair users to get around the vicinity. These ramps can be installed either permanently or temporarily.
The ramps should have handrails installed to make traversing them easier and safer, and you should also make sure that the gradient isn’t too steep. Ideally, the ramps should be placed wherever there are small staircases.
Wheelchair ramps can give students of all abilities a boost in confidence since they will be able to navigate the school by themselves, without assistance from a carer. The more barriers you remove, the more confident students with physical impairments will be about attending classes.
Automatic doors are a requirement for all schools as a part of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Some students of all abilities may find it difficult to open doors manually; this is especially the case for students with conditions such as muscular dystrophy.
The doors can be controlled by the school's staff, making them an additional safety feature for the school.
Support for visually impaired students
Students with visual impairments may need extra support to make the most out of their academic careers. Here are a few ways you can make schools more accessible for them:
- Include braille in all signs placed on the school grounds. Also, offer braille versions of textbooks and worksheets.
- Keep the school building well lit at all times. Not all visually impaired students are completely blind, some may have a limited amount of vision, and well-lit corridors will be easier for them to navigate.
- Arrange furniture in classrooms to allow plenty of room to move around. This will eliminate any potential obstacles and hazards.
Hoist systems are motorised assistive devices that move along a fixed track. They’re designed to help people with mobility problems move without requiring much assistance from a caregiver.
These systems can help students with mobility problems navigate changing rooms, the school pool and bathrooms. They’re also used to assist students on to wheelchairs.
Hoist systems are very flexible and can be designed to suit any kind of room and even corridors.
Many students of all abilities use assistive devices to help them with their mobility; these include wheelchairs and crutches. During class, these students will need a place to store their mobility devices safely.
Also, these devices may become potential trip hazards when left unattended in classrooms.
Storage spaces should be installed inside classrooms so that students can safely put away their mobility devices. Ideally, these storage spaces could have charging stations for electric wheelchairs built into them for convenience.
These special pools have many therapeutic benefits for people of all abilities. They may help students of all abilities strengthen their immune system, improve muscle tone, and stimulate blood flow.
Stainless steel hydrotherapy pools are best for schools as they’re easier to install and maintain than tiled pools. Also, they’re less likely to harbour bacteria.
The school should have at least one accessible bathroom on every floor for students of all abilities. These bathrooms should have enough space to accommodate wheelchairs and have handholds for assistance.
A hoist system should also be included in these bathrooms to help students use them comfortably, and sinks should be lowered to make them easier to reach. Alternatively, a second, shorter sink can be installed next to a regular-sized one.
Support for students with learning problems
Students with learning impairments may also face many challenges in a traditional school environment. But there are a few ways to accommodate them.
- Make “quiet spaces” for them. Some students with learning impairments may find it very hard to concentrate when there’s too much noise around them. These spaces have less background noise, allowing them to study peacefully.
- Offer study material in different forms. For instance, some students may find it easier to understand a lesson if pictures are included or if they’re presented in audio instead of writing.
- Have their seating arrangements closer to the board so that they can concentrate more easily.
Improve access for students of all abilities and make a difference
Accessible schools allow all students, regardless of their limitations, to have a successful academic experience. These schools let students of all abilities study together and achieve goals that may have seemed impossible once.
With inclusive classrooms and improved accessibility, a school can change the lives of students of all abilities.
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