Breaking Down Barriers: Accessibility in Public Spaces

January 22, 2024    |    By Madeeha Usman    |    11 min read
Breaking Down Barriers_ Accessibility in Public Spaces

People of all ages and abilities should be able to use public facilities since they play a vital role in any city, and they should be able to accommodate everyone. Facilities and spaces such as schools, parks, civic or community centres, public safety facilities, arts and cultural facilities, recreational facilities, and plazas should be accessible to all individuals and distributed equitably throughout the city, according to activists for the rights of people with disabilities. They should be developed by, with, and for individuals with disabilities and older people, and if they were designed in this manner, they would be safe and accessible by design. This blog explores NDIS accessibility and ways to make public spaces accessible for all.

Why is accessible design so crucial in NDIS?

In our previous blog, we discussed creating inclusive events for NDIS participation. However, we will talk more about accessibility and its designs that can make room for inclusion in the community. What is accessibility design? It is altering buildings, public spaces, and products to be easily accessible and usable by all individuals. The installation of ramps and lifts for persons who have mobility issues, the design of accessible bathrooms, and the positioning of switches and outlets at an accessible-height are all examples of accessibility design that may be implemented in public places and buildings, as was discussed earlier. It is also possible to include more inclusive communication systems, such as installing warning systems that are either audible or visible in the event of an emergency, as well as using large letters and numbers on signage and signage. Accessibility design is an essential component that must be considered when designing buildings, public spaces, and products. 

Helping people with disabilities, their families, and those who care for them is the goal of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), a statewide project. It is a paradigm shift in the delivery of disability support, emphasising the needs of the individual and the outcomes over the long term. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has an indirect impact on the accessibility of public spaces by providing financing for personal aids, equipment, and adaptations that assist individuals in accessing the public domain. This is accomplished by allowing participants to choose and control their support. The coordination of different sectors, including the government, urban planners, architects, and community organisations, is required to improve accessibility in public spaces. These are some strategies:

  • Regular inspections and adjustments to the infrastructure that is already in place
  • A comprehensive approach to urban planning that takes into account the whole range of disabilities
  • Comprehensive training for staff members on the recognition and support of the disabled individuals
  • The accessibility of information and communication technologies that are readily available

Ways to ensure accessibility in public spaces 

There is a need for people with disabilities to be able to attend public events in the community without facing any difficulties. Here are essential indicators that should be in place for this to happen.

Ways-to-ensure-accessibility-in-public-spaces

1. Availability of access outside of your venue

Before we get into what you can do to ensure that people with physical disabilities can readily use your building, let's start with the following: 

  • The parking spaces designated for PRMs must be immediately identifiable through horizontal and vertical signage. Additionally, they should be located near the entrance of your facility to facilitate those with physical disabilities in their journeys.
  • The ground is clean and smooth, and the area has no significant obstructions or potholes. 
  • Wheelchair users can access large external circulations that allow them to roam freely.

2. Automatic doors 

Installing automatic doors is essential to make your facilities more accessible to people of all abilities. To assist owners in complying with the law, they provide access inside and around built structures. All physically impaired people can enter without exerting any physical effort to open the entrance, and the door proportions are designed to provide wheelchair access. An increasing number of commercial establishments opt for automated sliding doors because they provide the maximum accessibility for clients who use wheelchairs. When your premises see a high volume of foot traffic, these doors are very helpful in preventing bottlenecks because they provide greater room than other types of doors.

3. The availability of access within your venue

If you want to ensure that people with physical disabilities can access your product or service, this is where you might need to step up your game! Permit me to explain what it entails:

  • Slip-resistant mats: It is essential to have mats at entrances, whether directly in front of the doors or farther beyond, to protect against filth and muck. Additionally, these mats should be accessible to people who use wheelchairs. These are why floor mats that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) must be non-slip, sturdy enough, and of suitable size and thickness to provide wheelchair accessibility.
  • Universal pictograms should be utilised to ensure that users with physical disabilities know the available services.
  • Information desk and checkout counter that is easily accessible.

It is necessary to have a clear signage system in place so that these services may be identified. Additionally, when counters are lowered, it is simpler for wheelchair users to see and be seen by your staff, which allows for more efficient communication with wheelchair users. Having a team that is trained to meet the requirements of persons with disabilities most effectively is invaluable in terms of providing a great experience. To ensure that individuals with physical disabilities can access everything your venue offers, you should have access to ramps, lifts and escalators. Large passageways that are accessible to wheelchair users and do not provide any obstacles. They can perform a smooth U-turn because the aisles are rather broad. 

4. Easily accessible restrooms

The utilisation of pictograms is required to ensure they are easily recognised. A lowered sink and counter for handwashing, a higher toilet seat, and grab bars on the wall closest to the toilet. Behind the toilet, a bathroom emergency pull string and sufficient space for wheelchair users to make a U-turn comfortably are all equipment included in this device. For wheelchair users to have a more comfortable experience, every piece of equipment must be at the same level as wheelchair users. 

5. Indoor navigation apps

Users with physical limitations can benefit tremendously from this tool when comprehending a new and complicated environment. People who use wheelchairs and those who have limited mobility can benefit from the optimised paths that it gives. This indicates that Evelity will direct them to only paths that do not involve stairs.

6. The ramps

Ramps and automated doors are frequently included in the same package. Determine where the automatic door will be put and whether or not this will necessitate the provision of a ramp to accommodate wheelchair users and people with disabilities. Putting up ramps and cutting curbs is the most visible technique to assist those with disabilities in entering your residence or business. A person with a disability may be dissuaded from entering a building if there is no straightforward means of entering and exiting the structure. This means that you are not only breaking the law but also preventing potential customers and employees from benefiting from your company. Suppose your company is located on numerous levels. In that case, you should also think about the possibility of having lifts, as escalators are not accessible to those who use wheelchairs, but lifts are.

7. Simple to read signs

People who have difficulties seeing would benefit tremendously from signage that is easy to read and include Braille directions. One of the most prevalent complaints people have about facilities like airports and bus terminals is that there needs to be more information easily available in a format they can comprehend.

Clear signage should be placed to promote accessibility. Even if you have curb cuts and ramps leading up to your doors, it is possible that individuals will not be able to access them easily or that they will need to be made aware of how to utilise them correctly. Ensure that the exterior of your property is designated with high-visibility signs so that individuals are aware of how to reach the interior of your establishment securely.

To assist visually impaired clients in navigating their way around the interior of your establishment, you should install Braille signage. Additionally, it is essential to have clear signs for individuals with hearing impairments or learning difficulties, as these individuals may require additional visual assistance to navigate the structure adequately. In addition, you can use overhead signs that can be illuminated momentarily at the right times, such as when an emergency or a fire drill is now taking place. This can also be helpful for employees who are visiting your premises since the signage can provide information about the locations of meetings that are taking place.

Conclusion

It is necessary to guarantee that everyone is included in society and can actively participate. Accessibility is a major factor that should be considered in designing buildings and public spaces and providing services and programming. The construction of inclusive places calls for a collaborative effort and the active participation of all parties involved, including individuals with disabilities, organisations, and the government. The construction of environments that are accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds is something that each of us can do. 

Care Assure is an NDIS provider that ensures our services are tailored to take care of each member and their needs. Our premises and facilities are designed and maintained to comply with accessibility standards. We have accessible entrances, elevators, and accessible restrooms to ensure smooth navigation for everyone. We embrace assistive technology such as screen readers, voice-activated software, and ergonomic equipment to enhance accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are accessibility cues in public spaces?

Accessibility cues in public spaces refer to the visual, audio, and other indicators that help individuals with disabilities navigate and safely access these spaces. These cues include tactile ground surfaces, audible signals, signage, and lowered barriers.

Why are accessibility cues important for NDIS participants?

Accessibility cues are essential for NDIS participants because they enable them to navigate public spaces independently and participate in daily activities. Without these cues, NDIS participants may face challenges such as getting lost, falling, or experiencing sensory overload.

What are some common accessibility cues in public spaces?

  1. Tactile ground surfaces: These surfaces include textured patterns or bumps that provide visually impaired individuals with information about their surroundings.
  2. Audible signals: Audible signals include bells, chimes, or voice announcements that help individuals with hearing impairments navigate public spaces.
  3. Signage: Clear and visible signage with text, symbols, or raised letters helps individuals with visual impairments identify locations, directions, and important information.
  4. Lowered barriers: Lowered barriers such as ramps, elevators, and lifts allow wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments to access public spaces.
  5. Accessible toilets: Accessibility cues in public spaces include accessible toilets with grab bars, lowered sinks, and disabled parking nearby.

How can I ensure that public spaces are accessible to NDIS participants?

  1. Incorporate accessibility cues: When designing and constructing public spaces, consider incorporating accessibility cues such as tactile ground surfaces, audible signals, and signage.
  2. Provide clear directions: Clearly mark pathways, exits, and entrances with signage, and provide detailed instructions on accessing specific areas.
  3. Maintain accessibility features: Regularly inspect and maintain accessibility features in public spaces, such as ramps, elevators, and tactile surfaces, to ensure functionality.
  4. Train staff: Educate and train staff on disability awareness in public spaces, including the importance of accessibility cues and how to handle interactions with NDIS participants.

What if I find an accessibility issue in public spaces?

It is a law in Australia not to discrimate against anyone irrespective of who they are. However, there will always be a problem of discrimination against PWDS if care is not taken. If you encounter an accessibility issue in public spaces, it is important to report it to the relevant authorities or organisations responsible for that area. They should be able to address the matter promptly and ensure that public spaces are accessible to all.

Can I get an NDIS provider that takes accessibility seriously?

Yes, many NDIS providers prioritise accessibility and strive to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities. One such provider is Care Assure. At Care Assure, we recognise the importance of making our services accessible to individuals of all abilities and are committed to creating an inclusive and barrier-free environment. We understand that each person has unique requirements and strive to tailor our support to their circumstances. Accessibility is at the core of Care Assure's operations.

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