ACCESS TO MAIN ENTRANCE
• Do you have alternative access, or a ramp, for people in wheelchairs? If the main entrance is not level or is inaccessible and hard to change in some other way, is there a rear or side entrance where level access is possible?
• Do the steps have a clearly visible handrail?
• Are the steps themselves clearly visible? Painting steps a different colour to the surrounding surfaces can make them easier for visually impaired people to see.
• Is the entrance well lit?
• Is there an accessible bell, or entryphone system, for people to use if they are having difficulties getting in? This would be particularly desirable if access is not ideal.
• Is the door opening wide enough for all users? Wheelchair users generally need at least 750mm clear opening width (the space available between the door frame and the door in the open position).
• Is the door-handle low enough for a wheelchair user to reach easily? The recommended height is 1000 mm.
• Are entrance mats flush with the floor so that the surface is even?
• If a door closer is fitted, does it have a delayed, or slow-action closure mechanism?
GETTING AROUND INSIDE THE PREMISES
• Are there enough signs?
• Are signs simple, short and easy to read, and located at convenient levels for wheelchair users? Signs can be made clearer by using pictorial symbols and visual clues.
• Are aisles, corridors and areas near doors free of obstacles and wide enough for wheelchairs to manoeuvre?
• If there is a change of level, is there a platform lift available? If not, is there a permanent ramp that is wide enough for wheelchairs?
• Are internal steps, and other potential hazards, clearly marked and fitted with a handrail and ramp?
• Are all floor surfaces as level as possible, without the need for major adjustments? For example, are mats and joins between different floors, etc flush with the floor and each other?
• Does your reception desk have an induction loop? This is a relatively cheap and simple adjustment but may be necessary, particularly at a glass counter.
• Is the reception area reasonably quiet and located away from any noisy machinery?
• Is seating suitable for people with mobility impairments?
• Is there waiting space for a wheelchair user?
• Might it be possible to create a lowered section of the reception desk? If not, it would be advisable to provide some means of allowing wheelchairs users to sign forms,
etc, such as a lower writing shelf, or simply a clipboard. The staff could be encouraged to come out from behind high reception counters when a wheelchair user approaches.
• Are people standing behind reception well lit from the front, to make lip-reading easier?
• Are the toilets accessible, both in terms of getting to and using them? If there is sufficient space available, the toilet may need to be modified to full wheelchair-accessible standards.
The following practical suggestions should also be helpful
• fit grab rails to help people with limited movement, balance or grip
• ensure floor surfaces are non-slip
• install outward opening doors
• avoid shiny ceramic tiles and floors, which may cause reflection and glare
EASE OF COMMUNICATION WITH STAFF
Your premises should make it as easy as possible for disabled people to communicate with your staff. Staff should show awareness of the needs and sensitivities of people with hearing impairments.
For example in situations where it is not reasonable to install an induction loop, staff should make the effort to communicate in other ways, such as exchanging written notes. Staff could be encouraged not to cover their mouths when speaking to patients in order to help people who lip-read. Allow extra time, and repeating back to the customer to check accuracy can also help, as even partially deaf people may lip-read.
Even if a few physical adjustments can be made, the attitude and awareness of everyone who deals with visitors are key. A clear willingness to anticipate needs and look for alternative solutions could go a long way to avoid any complaints or legal action against your business.