The ability to walk comfortably into a public building is a privilege. Regardless of your physique, the government has, by all means, worked towards ensuring that everyone enjoys the privileges of being a South African citizen. One of the entitlements that is in most cases overlooked is the ability to access social amenities because the building that a handicapped person wishes to access does not meet the wheelchair friendly requirements.
The South African government aims at treating every citizen equally. One of the strategies that the government chose to use to enforce the rights of the physically handicapped is by enforcing laws that highlight wheelchair friendly requirements in public buildings. The requirements of the structure are stipulated on the Disability info South Africa. All the designs of public accommodation should cater to individuals with mobility impairments.
What does wheelchair friendly mean?
During the construction of buildings, it is advisable to consider the movement of individuals who are mobility impaired. Constructing buildings with wheelchair ramps is one of the ways of ensuring that they can easily access the building. That is what wheelchair friendly means.
wheelchair friendly requirements design features and fixtures
According to the South African National Standard for Building Regulations, a public building is required to have facilities that allow for the movement of individuals using wheelchairs. These facilities include ramps or wheelchair lifts. Such facilities also have a set of regulations that they are expected to meet. The requirements of the body states; "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 to that, 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."
Wheelchair friendly design features
The government is not only pushing for the design and implementation of the wheelchair friendly design features in public buildings, but it has stated the design criteria for each one of these features. For instance, these are some of the key features of wheelchair ramps that one should take into consideration during construction:
Wheelchair friendly ramps and their design criteria
The design of handicapped-friendly features should meet the needs of the mobility impaired. One of the most basic requirements is ensuring that the ramp is comfortable for use by those on wheelchairs, or by those pushing trolleys. Apart from that, the ramps should be comfortable enough for use by those who are handicapped and those who do not prefer using stairs.
Other design requirements include:
- The gradient of the ramp should not be steeper to 1:12.
- The surface accordance of the structure should be 4.5.
- They should be clear, at least they should have a width of one thousand one hundred metres to minimize chances of accidents occurring.
- They should have a landing with a length that is not less than a metre and twenty centimetres, both at the top and the bottom.
- They should have handrails along the whole width of the ramp.
- They should have a vertical rise of six hundred metres, especially for cases where ramps are in the same direction.
- There should be no open door or window on the landing of the wheelchair ramp.
- Landings which are situated on heights above one metre, the baby should not be shown as it may instil fear.
What does handicap accessible apartment mean?
A handicap accessible apartment refers to an apartment that is convenient for use by individuals who have any forms of mobility impairment. The cases that might prompt the construction of a building to make it favour this type of construction is when there are disabled individuals. Old age can also prompt the installation of handicap friendly features.
Handicap accessible apartment features
Just like in public buildings, installing wheelchair ramps, handrails, wheelchair lifts, and grab bars in apartments is advantageous since it will reduce the chances of accidents happening because of people falling off. The features will also improve the accessibility of the building.
The other features that are friendly to the handicapped include accessible doors, accessible windows, accessible bathrooms and bedrooms, light switches, and other controls.
For use at home, the size of the ramp should not always comply with the requirements of the public buildings. You can have smaller ramps, depending on the amount of space that you have left. You could also build the ramps out of wood, cement, or metals. Alternatively, you could go for ready-made ramps. Their convenience depends on the way you choose to place them. For instance, you could go for the temporary one that you can remove at a later stage, on the permanent ones.
If you are not sure about going ahead with the construction of the ramp, it is advisable for you to consult an architect who will help you design a handicap friendly structure.
People with mobility disabilities do not have to feel discriminated upon anymore. The government has their interests at heart, and they can enjoy services like the rest of the citizens. The construction of structures that meet the wheelchair friendly requirements is one proof of this.