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Introduction

There are a lot of incredible initiatives out there that are improving the lives of persons with Visual Impairments by providing them with assistance to be able to complete day to day activities, including traveling and being able to live independently. Government Regulations have been put in place in South Africa and around the world to try to make public places more accessible to persons with disabilities, including persons with Visual Impairments. The Government makes laws that insure that new buildings and surrounding areas are designed & built with certain features such as Tactile Paving, to make pavements and buildings more accessible, these are known as The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, which was amended and published by the Department of Trade and Industry in May 2008.

These "initiatives" and the "Government Regulations" which have been introduced, are collectively known on this website as "Accessible Features" and are there to ensure that buildings, accommodation and transport is accessible and that equal opportunities and rights are available for persons with disabilities. In the article below, we will discuss the Accessible Features which have been introduced in South Africa to assist persons with Visual Impairments to gain independence, as well as the companies and organizations that are available to assist them.

Initiatives Introduced To Assist In Day To Day Activities

There are a wide variety of initiatives and laws which have been introduced through out the world and in South Africa to assist persons with Visually Impairments to live and travel independently and to be able to complete daily tasks and activities, such as Traveling, Shopping, Eating Out and Moving From Point A To Point B. These initiatives help to ensure that equal opportunities and rights are available to persons with Visual Impairments, they include:

  • Money - Distinct Shapes & Raised Patterns On Our Coins & Notes
  • Service Dogs and Guide Dogs - Rules & Regulations (allowing them in restaurants, public transportation, aeroplanes, etc.)
  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
  • Braille Atlas
  • Audible Traffic Lights.
  • Tactile Paving
  • Building Regulations that assist the Blind

Please read the article below to find out more about these initiatives and how they can assist the Blind and persons with Visually Impairments.

Money - Distinct Shapes & Raised Patterns On Our Coins & Notes

In South Africa and in many other countries around the world, both Coins and Bank Notes have been designed and made to include distinct features soBank Notes that Persons who are Blind are able to tell the different coins and notes apart. The South African National Council for the Blind was fully consulted by the South African Reserve Bank in the process for creating the new Mandela Series bank notes to ensure that the notes were made to be accessible to persons with Visual Impairments. A team from the Reserve Bank also held a workshop to ensure that all sectors of the visually impaired community received training and information regarding the new notes. The new notes are the same size and colouring as the old notes (just brighter) , so the Money Sticks which are used by some persons with Visual Impairments, will still work accurately.

Bank Notes

The South African Bank Notes are different lengths and have: one, two, three, four or five raised diamond shapes in the middle of the bottom half of the notes to enable blind people to identify them as R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200 respectively. For the benefit of the partially sighted, the Reserve Bank has also introduced geometric shapes on the front of the banknotes. The R10 note features a diamond, the R20 a square, the R50.00 a circle, the R100.00 a 'flat' hexagon and the R200.00 a 'honey comb' hexagon.

For quick and easy reference money templates are also used to measure banknotes, these money templates come in various styles, including an aluminium device and a cardboard one, which can also be used to store the banknotes. Money templates are available to purchase from organizations such as the Guide Dogs Association of South African, Blind SA, or the South African National Council for the Blind. Contact them to receive a quote, or visit Blind SA to see how to use the Cardboard Template.

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CoinsCoins - distinct features

A coin for example has six distinct features by which it can be identified. These include the: size; thickness; shape, as they are not all are entirely round; pattern of grooves round the edge; the sound it makes when dropped onto a table and the raised picture on the face.

We have 9 coins in South Africa:

  1. The 1; 2; 5 and 10 Cents are almost never used now.
  2. The 20 cent  and 50 cents are all identifiable by continuous  serration on the edges. These are called “copper”  coins and have a different feel from the “silver rand value coins.
  3. There are two types of 5 Rand coins, the latest and preferable one is unique in that it is thicker and has an interesting edging which includes complete serration as well as a groove running around it; it feels like two coins joined together.
  4. The 1 Rand, 2 Rand and the old 5 Rand coins are distinguishable from Cent coins in that  their serration around the edge is broken by smooth edging as well.

Size  is also important:

  • The 10 Cent and 1 Cent are the smallest while the 5 Rand coin is the largest
  • The 50 cent coin is slightly larger than the 1 Rand but can easily be told apart by the difference in serration, which has been mentioned above.

Equipment is also available to help persons who are Blind to store their coins and distinguish between them, this equipment includes:Coin Selector

Plastic Coin Selectors: are also used for quick and easy reference, as the plastic unit has places for South African coins which enables you to handily store your coins in one unit. These plastic coin selectors are available from organizations such as South African National Council for the Blind. You can contact them to find out more or to receive a quote.

Service Dogs and Guide Dogs - Rules & Regulations

Guide Dogs and Service Animals are trained to assist persons who are Blind or Visually Impaired to get from point A to point B  faster and safer. Service animals are defined as animals that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for persons with disabilities, they are working animals and not pets, so the work orGuide Dogs task that the animal has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability. In several countries, including South Africa, Service Dogs and Guide Dogs are exempt from regulations against the presence of animals in places such as restaurants, public transportation and aeroplanes. To find out more about Guide Dogs and the Organizations that train and provide them, as well as these rules and regulations, click on the link below.

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The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The internet and Websites can be very valuable, when websites and web tools are properly designed and coded, people with disabilities can use them, but currently many sites and tools are developed with accessibility barriers that make them difficult or impossible for some people to use, especially persons with disabilities. Making the web accessible benefits individuals, businesses, and society. International web standards define what is needed for accessibility.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, often abbreviated to WCAG, are a series of guidelines for improving web accessibility. Produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the WCAG are the best means of making your website useful to all of your users. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops international Web standards: HTML, CSS, and many more. W3C’s Web standards are called W3C Recommendations. All W3C standards are reviewed for accessibility support by the Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) Working Group. The W3C standards and Working Group Notes introduced below are particularly relevant to accessibility.

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Braille Atlas

The Department of Land Affairs has achieved yet another milestone in advancing the implementation of its disability strategy by producing the first ever Braille atlas of maps covering South Africa. The decision to produce the SA Braille Atlas was taken in terms of the departmental disability strategy and the constitutional right of access to information by disabled persons. The Pioneer School for the Blind and the Pioneer Printing Works in Worcester played a key role in assisting the cartographers of CDSM during the preliminary stages of the atlas production. Many issues arose concerning the size and format of tactile maps and how the blind user is able to assimilate information. During the initial stages, interviews and workshops were held with pupils and teachers at the Pioneer School for the Blind and based on recommendations from them, it was decided to produce an atlas rather than a single map. The blind user relies on variances in the texture of the tactile image. This atlas is primarily intended as an educational tool for blind persons who can read Braille. In terms of the Constitution and the right of access to information by people with disabilities, this publication will enable the blind in South Africa to be in touch with the world€.

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Audible Traffic Signals

Audible traffic signals exist in some countries overseas and also in South Africa in various cities including Johannesburg and Cape Town. The device, known as the "Audio Tactile Pedestrian Detector", had its origins in Australia where it has been used for more than 20 years to assist those who cannot see the green pedestrian crossing symbol at traffic lights. The device transmits an audible signal and will also vibrate when the pedestrian green man traffic light symbol is switched on. There is an arrow that shows the direction to cross and then there is both the vibration and the sound. The device is able to measure Ambient Noise and increase its own buzzer level always to be above the surrounding noise that might be a distraction.

The system has two components, a post- mounted weather proof box, and the audio tactile button assembly. The push button assembly accommodates the tactile transducer fitted to the front plate and also houses the audio signal transmitter. The newly installed traffic signal system provides sound alerts, push buttons and LED lane lights at the intersection, that are able to ensure that visually impaired pedestrians crossing the road are well assisted by the new technology.

The traffic lights are designed with sound and touch push buttons which communicate reliable information to visually impaired pedestrians to enhance their safety whilst crossing the street. The audible push button gives a loud signal alerting the visually impaired when it is green for them to cross, and when it is no longer safe to enter the intersection.

Lane lights, built into the road surface, serve as an additional warning to motorists that the traffic light is red and that they need to stop. These lane lights for the pedestrian crossing are highly visible as brightness is automatically adjusted to light intensity.

Unfortunately these Audible traffic signals are not currently available throughout South Africa and the current Standard traffic lights do not cater for the visually impaired, but this new innovation will improve lives, as the blind will be able to press the button on the traffic lights and hear when it is safe to cross the road on their own, so it is hoped that this innovation will catch on through the rest of South Africa.

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Tactile Paving

Tactile Paving is used in many cities around the world, including cities in and around South Africa. Tactile Paving (also called truncated domes) is a system of textured ground surface indicators found on footpaths, pavements, stairs and train stationTactile Paving platforms to assist pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired to navigate cities and be more independent and mobile. Tactile paving units are like braille for pavements and was originally instituted at pedestrian crossings and other hazardous road situations by Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia and then United States in the early 1990s. Tactile Paving can now be found in many countries around the world and in most cities in South Africa, the paving is also available to purchase from various companies in South Africa.

These Tactile Pavings provide a distinctive surface pattern of truncated domes, cones or bars which are detectable by a long cane or underfoot, they are used to alert persons with Visually Impairments of approaching streets and a hazardous surface or grade changes. These raised bumps and ridges help guide people down sidewalks and across intersections, the raised ridges denote pathways (longer stretches between stops and changes), while raised domes are used to indicate a stop or change (e.g. the presence of an intersection or edge or a shift in direction).

In South Africa the use of Tactile Paving is recommended and specified in "The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act" below:

4.4.3 Obstructions in the path of travel NOTE 2: The recommended surface between a pavement and roadway is a ramp fitted with tactile guidance surface indicators. This provides a safe and trafficable surface for wheelchair users, and a detectable surface to indicate to persons with visual impairments that they are leaving a pedestrian footpath and entering a traffic roadway.

In many cases Tactile Pavings work well and are very important tools to assist the Blind and persons with Visual Impairments, it is however very important that strict guidelines are met when installing this paving: Tactile Guidance on the use of Tactile Paving Surfaces but in some places where Tactile Pavings are not laid out correctly, they no longer provide assistance but instead become very hazardous.

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Building Regulations

To View full List of Building Regulations, Click Here: Regulations for facilities for Disabled Pdf.

Effective civil rights legislation is sought in order to secure the rights & access to public areas such as city streets and public buildings and restrooms. Some parts of the Act Part S deals with facilities for persons with disabilities, including the Blind, which has directly affected the building industry. Building Regulations are part of the Accessible Features which have been introduced by mostly the Government, to make public buildings more accessible to people with disabilities, including the Blind. These Regulations include public areas such as city streets, public buildings, shops and restrooms.

Unfortunately many persons with disabilities including the Blind, are often still excluded from many events, services, information, communication, products and venues, because during the planning phases, all users were not considered. There are however various Organizations and Companies that can assist.

Organizations & Companies That Can Assist With Universal Design & Access

The National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA), Bradshaw LeRoux Consulting and Tri Access specialize in Universal Design and Access to make sure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from any events, services, information, communication, products and venues. These Organizations and Companies that can assist in different ways including:

The National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD): believe that this can be prevented by applying Universal Design Principals during the design phase and they therefor offer the following services to assist:NCPD Logo

  • Workshops for architects, developers and other building professionals to develop an understanding of universal design and access.
  • Facilitating access audits for new or existing buildings; echo e-access for the natural and communication environment. Audits are followed by a report indicating shortfalls and recommendations.
  • Marketing of facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities

Contact Fanie Swanepoel or Danie Marais for more information on Tel: +27 11 452 2774 or email them on: fanies@ncpd.org.za or danie@ncpd.org.za

The QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA): Can assist with various issues relating to Universal Design & Access. The National Access Authority (NAA) provides a policing and advisory service for access issues and deals with access complaints and transgressions of the National Building Regulations. By promoting an accessible environment and taking to task, abuse of human rights, this project has ensured more accessible environments and promoted the concept of Universal design.

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Bradshaw LeRoux Consulting: Bradshaw LeRoux Consulting conducts Environmental Accessibility Audits designed to identify environmental barriers that could hinder access for Persons with a Disability. Our consultants will review your site, note potential barriers from a functional and safety perspective, and  propose cost-effective solutions which can be actioned within short, medium and longer term time frames. Our reports are practical in nature, specific in the solutions offered, and allow for ease of use by all. Relevant to all environments, from corporate offices, manufacturing or industry sites, education facilities or hospitality environments, we can assist.

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Tri Access: Tri Access Consultants was founded in 2018 by Igor Rix who, from of a personal encounter, developed a passion for breaking down the barriers to access. This is enabled by providing assessments and audits on legal accessibility compliance pertaining to premises and the built environment and promoting "Good Access is Good Business".
Igor Rix, is an Access Consultant and has studied a Diploma course in Access Consultancy at the Access Institute in Melbourne, Australia and also completed a course in Universal Design: Public Transportation via the Buffalo University, New York. Inclusive Design

He is currently working in collaboration with  Inclusive Design (www.inclusivedesign.co.za), a specialist Universal Design & Access Consultancy firm, under the auspices of its founder and director, Ms Colette Fransolet, a Qualified & Accredited Universal Access Consultant.

 “Accessibility is a basic human need and we all have a constitutional right and privilege to participate in all of life’s experiences in some unique way or another and should therefore have barrier free access to enjoy easier, friendlier and healthier environments.” - Igor G. RixTri Access Flyer

Contact Tri Access to do an access audit or review to ensure that your premises are accessible to all. Access Audits involves inspecting the built environment to determine compliance with legislation to enable access that is easier, friendlier & healthier to use by everyone. Our Access Consultants conducts audits & provides solutions when businesses & individuals take a proactive step to become legally compliant or being compelled by law and or society to be compliant.

You can contact Igor Rix on: +2783 703 0707, Email: igor@triaccess.co.za or visit their web site: www.triaccess.co.za

These Organizations and Companies listed above which specialize in Universal Design and Access will follow those standards set by "The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act" below to make sure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from any events, services, information, communication, products and venues.

The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Lifts in buildings must be able to serve the needs of disabled people. This includes ensuring that any commonly used “path of travel” MUST be free of any sort of obstacles that would limit, restrict or endanger people with disabilities who use that route. There must also be absolutely no obstacles that will prevent people with disabilities from accessing facilities within the building. The regulations refer specifically to people with impaired vision, but clearly they also relate to people in wheelchairs, or people who have trouble walking freely.
  5. Buildings that incorporate halls or auditoriums for public use are obliged to ensure that a reasonable percentage of space is available for people in wheelchairs or other “assistive devices”. (Disabled Bays in Movie Theaters, Sports stadiums & Music Concerts)
  6. The National Building Regulations also state that where there is parking available for more than 50 motor vehicles, there must  be parking facilities that accommodate disabled persons. There is also an obligation to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with a suitable means of access from the parking area to the ground floor – or storey – of the building. (Disabled Parking Bays)

Below are those regulations that are there to help the Blind or Visually Impaired.

Signage

The International Symbol of Access (ISA), also known as the (International) Wheelchair Symbol, consists of a blue square overlaid in white with a stylized image of a wheelchair. It is maintained as an international standard, ISO 7001 image of the International Commission on Technology and Accessibility (ICTA)

The symbol is often seen where access has been improved, particularly for wheelchair users, but also for other disability issues including for persons with Visual Impairment. Frequently, the symbol shows the removal of environmental barriers, such as steps, to help the disabled, elderly, parents with baby carriages, and travellers. Universal design aims to obviate such symbols by creating products and facilities that are accessible to nearly all users from the start. The wheelchair symbol is "International" and therefore not accompanied by Braille in any particular language.

Specific uses of the ISA include:

  • Marking a parking space reserved for vehicles used by people with disabilities/blue badge holders
  • Marking a vehicle used by a person with a disability, often for permission to use a space
  • Marking a public lavatory with facilities designed for wheelchair users
  • Indicating a button to activate an automatic door
  • Indicating an accessible transit station or vehicle
  • Indicating a transit route that uses accessible vehicles

4.2 Signage Regulations

Providing clear and visible marking by using this accessible disabled sign is essential in making facilities visible for those who need them. The South African Government through The South African National Standard for Building Regulations therefore makes laws that insure that new buildings are designed & build with a certain regulations, which includes regulations on Signage.

4.2.1 Facilities that are included in a building specifically for use by persons with disabilities, such as wheelchair-accessible parking spaces, wheelchair-accessible toilets, and platform or stair lifts, shall be indicated by the international symbol for access (see figure 1) and shall comply with 4.2.2 and 4.2.4. The international symbol shall be exhibited at the main entrance of, and at any other suitable position in, a building, and in suitable positions to indicate to persons with disabilities the route to the exit of such facilities.

4.2.2 The sign used to indicate facilities provided for persons with disabilities shall be the SANS 1186-1 type designation GA 22 (allocated to or accessible to wheelchairs) sign. Such signage shall comply with the requirements of SANS 1186-1 and shall have a symbol height of not less than 110 mm.

4.2.3 Facilities that are not in accordance with the requirements of this part of SANS 10400 shall not bear the international symbol.

NOTE 1: The symbol is the property of the International Standards Office and its use can only be sanctioned where the minimum requirements of the National Building Regulations have been complied with.

NOTE 2: Signs should be in clear, visible and tactile format to ensure that persons with visual impairments are also fully informed. In buildings where persons with visual impairments work or live, evacuation instructions in large print and Braille should be provided, so that persons with visual impairments can familiarize themselves with escape routes.

4.2.4 Clear legible signs shall indicate the direction and name of an accessible facility and shall incorporate the international symbol. The height of the lettering shall not be less than 50 mm.

Where the viewing distance is greater than 10 m, the height of the lettering shall be increased accordingly (see table 1).

Table 1 — Height of lettering in relation to viewing distance

Viewing distance meters Height mm
25  80
30  100
40  140
 50  160

To enable persons with impaired vision to read location signs adjacent to doors or directional signs on walls, the signs should be placed at a height of between 1,4 m and 1,7 m above finished floor level.

NOTE: Raised letters and symbols, in contrasting light and dark colours, on identification or location signs assist those who are blind or have impaired vision.

All internal signage to indicate escape routes in case of total blackout shall comply with the requirements of SANS 10400-T.

4.2.5 For demarcating parking areas for wheelchair users, signs should be not less than 2,0 m vertically above driveway level, so that the sign can be seen whilst driving a car.

4.2.6 Where electronic aids are installed to assist persons with hearing loss, a suitable sign shall be displayed to indicate such facilities.

4.2.7 Any mark or sign shall comply with the relevant requirements of SANS 1186-1.

Disabled Toilets

An accessible toilet is a special toilet designed to accommodate people with physical disabilities. They are sometimes known as Disabled Toilets, but do not give much assistance to the Blind & Visually Impaired. Click on the following link "Disabled Toilets" to find out more.

Ramps

A wheelchair ramp is an inclined plane installed in addition to or instead of stairs. Ramps permit wheelchair users, as well as people pushing strollers, carts, or other wheeled objects, to more easily access a building. They can also be useful for the Visually Impaired & Blind to easier navigate an incline.

A wheelchair ramp can be permanent, semi-permanent or portable. Permanent ramps are designed to be bolted or otherwise attached in place. Semi-permanent ramps rest on top of the ground or concrete pad and are commonly used for the short term. Permanent and semi-permanent ramps are usually of aluminum, concrete or wood.

Ramps must be carefully designed in order to be useful. Many jurisdictions have established minimum widths and maximum slopes. A less steep rise can be easier for a wheelchair user to navigate, as well as safer in wet or icy conditions.

The South African National Standard for Building Regulations state that Wheelchair ramps or a lift) are required in new construction for public accommodations in South Africa. They also state that these wheelchair Lifts & Ramps must meet certain regulations & requirements.

People with disabilities should be able to safely enter the building (Ramps) and be able to safely use all the facilities within it.

Access for people with disabilities 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 also be a means of access that is suitable for people with disabilities to use in the event of any sort of emergency. In addition, a further clause states that departure routes must also be designed in accordance with Part T of the regulations, namely the section that relates to Fire Protection.

Ramp Design Regulations

NOTE 1: Ramps might be required for use by persons without disabilities, for example, persons pushing trolleys who require ramps as an alternative to stepped access.

NOTE 2: Ramps should only be provided where level access cannot be achieved. Where a ramp is provided, stepped access should normally accompany it for persons with ambulant disabilities who find ramps difficult to use.

4.8.1 Any ramp or series of ramps shall provide a safe, comfortable and convenient route for wheelchair users.

4.8.2 Any ramp provided in terms of this part of SANS 10400 shall

  1. have a gradient, measured along the centre line, that is not steeper than 1:12 ;
  2. have a clear, trafficable surface not less than 1 100 m wide;
  3. have a surface in accordance with 4.5;
  4. have a landing at the top and bottom of each ramp of not less than 1,2 m in length (clear of any door swing) and of width not less than that of the ramp;
  5. comply with the requirements between landings as given in table 2 and figure 11;
  6. have a handrail on both sides of the ramp or, where the width is greater than 2,4 m, a central handrail in accordance with the requirements of 4.10 where the gradient is steeper than 1:15;
  7. where ramps in the same direction are used for a vertical rise of more than 600 mm, be staggered by the width of the ramp, in order to prevent a long straight line of ramps (see also 4.8.2(d)).

NOTE: Where the total rise contemplated for a series of ramps is greater than 2 m, consideration should be given to alternative means of vertical circulation.

Table 2 — Ramp requirements between landings

1 2 3
Gradient Maximum vertical rise mm Maximum ramp length between landings meters
 1 : 12  500  6
 1 : 15  665  10
 1 : 20  750  15

4.8.3 No door leaf or window shall open onto a ramp or landing (see also 4.8.2(d)).

4.8.4 The camber or banking on walkways and ramps shall not exceed 1:50, as shown in figure 4.

4.8.5 At any point where the clear height of the area below the soffit is less than 2,1 m, and it is not enclosed, the means of limiting inadvertent access to such area shall be indicated.

4.9 Stairways

4.9.1 Stairways shall comply with the requirements of SANS 10400-M, SANS 10400-T and the following requirements:

  1. the width of any stairway, measured to an enclosing wall or balustrade, shall be at least 900 mm;
  2. a landing that serves two flights of stairs in the same straight line shall be of length at least 1 100 mm;
  3. the rise of each tread step shall be of the same height and shall not exceed 170 mm;
  4. solid risers shall be provided in all accessible routes;
  5. a stairway shall be provided with handrails on both sides of the stairway in accordance with the requirements of 4.10;
  6. The maximum height allowed in a flight of stairs, between landings, shall not exceed 1,530 m;
  7. The stairway shall not include any winders (as defined in SANS 10400-M);
  8. No spiral stairway shall form part of an accessible route.

4.9.2 Nosings shall effectively contrast with their immediate surroundings. The minimum dimensions of each nosing shall be 40 mm × 40 mm.

NOTE: Further guidance on contrast and methods of measurement is provided in SANS 784.

4.9.3 Outdoor stairs and outdoor approaches to stairs shall be so designed that water will not accumulate on walking surfaces.

4.9.4 Tactile guidance, where provided, shall be in accordance with the relevant provisions of SANS 784.

4.10 Handrails

The design and construction of handrails shall be in accordance with the following:

  1. handrails shall have an elliptical gripping surface profile that is approximately 50 mm wide and 40 mm deep, or a circular profile of diameter not less than 35 mm and not more than 50 mm;
  2. the height to the top of a handrail from the nosing of the tread of the stairs or from the surfaces of a ramp shall be in the range 900 mm to 1 000 mm and shall remain consistent along the length;
  3. handrails shall be securely fixed and shall be rigid;
  4. the surface of the handrail and wall, or any other surface adjacent to them, shall be free of any sharp or abrasive elements;
  5. the clear width between a handrail and an adjacent wall shall be at least 60 mm;
  6. handrails shall extend 300 mm horizontally beyond the top and bottom of the ramp or stairway (see figure 12 and shall return to the supporting structure or shall be finished with a positive return, and the minimum dimensions for landings on escape routes as required in SANS 10400-T shall be maintained;
  7. handrails shall be continuous between landings where this does not create a hazard; 19
  8. handrails shall be supported centrally from below with not less than 50 mm between the underside of the handrail and the top of the support;
  9. where a stairway is wider than 2,4 m, a handrail shall be provided at no more than 2,4 m intervals.

NOTE: Handrails that extend at the top and bottom of a stairway are a tactile aid for persons with visual impairments, and a balancing aid for ambulant persons with disabilities.

Accessible Routes, Doors & Doorways

An important part of accessibility is not only accessible parking spaces, passenger loading zones, ramps, Disabled Toilets & Lifts, etc but also insuring that there are various accessible routes from the public streets onto the pavements & to the accessible building entrance and to the facilities inside the building & visa versa. Appropriate accessible routes should also be made available for emergency exits. Accessible Routes include:

  • Ramps on & off the pavement
  • Wide enough walkways for a variety of size wheelchairs
  • No obstacles on these pathways
  • Wide doorways & turning areas, etc

The South African Government through The South African National Standard for Building Regulations passes  laws that insure that new buildings & structures are designed & build with a certain regulations, which includes regulations on Accessible Routes.

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.

4.4 External and internal circulation

4.4.1 General

4.4.1.1 An accessible route shall form part of an external and internal circulation route.

NOTE: The space allowances of this part of SANS 10400 should accommodate the use of self-propelled wheelchairs. The minimum dimensions might need to be increased to accommodate the full range of different types of wheelchair.

4.4.1.2 At least one accessible route shall be provided within the boundary of the site from all public transportation stops, accessible parking spaces, passenger loading zones and public streets and pavements to the accessible building entrance which they serve and the facilities inside the building.

4.4.1.3 There shall be a means of access suitable for use by persons with disabilities from the outside of the building to the ground storey.

4.4.1.4 The clear width of the walking surfaces shall not be less than 900 mm (such as between bollards in parking areas, or between planters and seating) and shall not be reduced by protruding objects. If the clear width is less than 1,5 m, an accessible route shall be provided with passing spaces of 1,5 m × 1,5 m (minimum) at intervals not exceeding 5,0 m, or an intersection of two walking surfaces which provide a T-shaped space.

4.4.1.5 Each accessible entrance to a building shall have at least one door or doorway in accordance with the requirements of 4.6.1.

4.4.1.6 Revolving doors, revolving gates and turnstiles shall not form part of an accessible route.

4.4.1.7 Pause areas, with suitable seating, shall be provided adjacent to an accessible route at intervals that do not exceed 25 m.

4.4.2 Turning spaces

4.4.2.1 The turning space allowance, e.g. for a wheelchair, guide dog or person on crutches, shall be a minimum of 1,5 m in diameter, inclusive of any toe and knee clearances.

4.4.2.2 Doors shall not be permitted to swing into the turning spaces.

4.4.3 Obstructions in the path of travel

4.4.3.1 Protruding objects shall not reduce the clear width required for accessible routes.

4.4.3.2 Hanging signs, lights, awnings and objects that protrude into circulation spaces shall have a clearance of at least 2 m above the trafficable surface.

4.4.3.3 Windows and doors shall not open across a walkway, corridor, stair or ramp. Doorstops shall be so positioned that any door will open to its maximum, and that they will not create a hazard.

4.4.3.4 Wall-mounted fire extinguishers, hose reels, telephones, litter bins and any other wall-mounted fittings shall

  1. be designed to be easily seen,
  2. be shielded or recessed to prevent injuries, and
  3. be accompanied by a feature that warns of the presence of the potential hazard and that is possible to detect by a person using a white cane or stick.

4.4.3.5 A dished channel shall not be constructed within the boundaries of a path.

4.4.3.6 A drainage grating that is within the boundaries of a path shall be set flush with the surface of the path. Such grating shall be placed so that its longitudinal elements are perpendicular to the main walking direction, and the gap between them shall not exceed 13 mm.

4.4.3.7 Where identified parking for persons with disabilities is provided, a kerb cut that has a slip-resistant finish and gradient that does not exceed 1:12 shall be provided immediately adjacent to the bay (see figure 3).

NOTE 1: Kerb cuts should be provided where required, and in conjunction with pedestrian crossings, taxi and bus ranks and parking garages.

NOTE 2: The recommended surface between a pavement and roadway is a ramp fitted with tactile guidance surface indicators. This provides a safe and trafficable surface for wheelchair users, and a detectable surface to indicate to persons with visual impairments that they are leaving a pedestrian footpath and entering a traffic roadway.

4.5 Floor or ground surfaces

4.5.1 Floor and ground surfaces form an integral part of the accessible route throughout the site, both internally and externally, as part of the continuous path of travel. They shall be stable, firm and slip resistant (see SANS 784), under wet and dry conditions.

4.5.2 Carpet, carpet tiles or other floor finishes shall be securely attached and level across all types of pile. Pile height of carpets shall not exceed 3 mm.

4.5.3 Openings in the floor finish or ground surface shall not exceed 13 mm in diameter and, where the opening is elongated, the long dimension shall be placed perpendicular to the dominant direction of travel.

4.5.4 The vertical change in level between two floor surfaces, or at thresholds, shall have a flush finish and shall not exceed 5 mm in height.

4.5.5 Where a surface is cambered for drainage purposes, the camber shall not exceed 1:50 (see figure 4).

4.5.6 Cobbles (whether fixed or loose), gravel sand and other raised or loose finishes shall not form part of an accessible route.

4.6 Doorways, Doors and Door Handles

4.6.1 Doorways and Doors

4.6.1.1 Doorways shall allow free access for wheelchair users. The clear opening shall be at least 750 mm when approached along a line that is perpendicular to the opening, as shown in figure 5.

NOTE: It is recommended that, where possible, the clear opening width should be 800 mm.

4.6.1.2 Where a two-leaf door is used, the clear opening provided by the leading leaf shall be at least 750 mm, as shown in figure 6, when approached along a line perpendicular to the opening.

4.6.1.3 Minimum access dimensions to enable wheelchair users to make 90° turns, shall be as shown in figure 7.

4.6.1.4 Where a person in a wheelchair is required to open a door towards the wheelchair, a nib of at least 450 mm shall be provided at the handle side of the door, as shown in figure 8.

4.6.1.5 The minimum distance between doors shall be as shown in figures 9 and 10.

4.6.1.6 Sliding doors may be installed in places where a hinged door would hinder circulation or manoeuvrability.

4.6.1.7 Where revolving doors, turnstiles or other barriers are installed, an alternative means of access shall be installed.

NOTE 1: Doors are a hindrance and their use should be avoided. Where doors cannot be avoided, for example, in a route used for emergency egress, doors should be held open by a mechanism that is safe, comfortable and convenient for persons with disabilities to operate, such as magnetic closers.

NOTE 2: Frequently used doors, such as main entrance self-closing doors, should preferably open automatically and be equipped with a fail-safe system that enables the door to open under emergency conditions

4.6.2 Door Handles

4.6.2.1 A handle fitted to a door leaf of a door in an emergency route or in a feeder route or in any compartment containing toilet facilities for use by persons with disabilities, shall be of the lever type, with a lever at least 150 mm long, and shall be installed at a height that does not exceed 1,0 m above floor level.

4.6.2.2 Round door knobs do not provide an adequate grip for persons with impaired dexterity and shall be avoided.

4.6.2.3 All doors shall be openable with one hand.

4.6.2.4 All door handles shall be horizontally aligned.

4.6.2.5 Door furniture with sharp protruding edges is hazardous and shall not be used.

4.7 Changes in level

4.7.1 In trafficable areas for public use, any changes in level shall comply with the requirements of SANS 10400-D, and with the requirements given in 4.7.2 and 4.7.3.

4.7.2 A raised kerb, not less than 75 mm high, or a skirting rail not more than 300 mm high, measured vertically above the surface, shall be provided on exposed sides of any ramp, stairway, balcony or any similar area where a change in level occurs.

4.7.3 Where a change in level of more than 600 mm occurs, a handrail shall also be provided.

Lifts

Thanks partly to the disability rights movement we have seen an improvement in building accessibility. With the installation of elevators or lifts, buildings are now accessible for persons wheelchairs and persons with Visual Impairments.

A lift (or elevator) is a form of vertical transportation between building floors, levels or decks, commonly used in offices, public buildings and other types of multi-storey accommodation. Lifts can be essential for providing vertical circulation, particularly in tall buildings, for wheelchair and other non-ambulant building users and for the vertical transportation of goods. Some lifts may also be used for firefighting and evacuation purposes.

The South African Government through The South African National Standard for Building Regulations therefore makes laws that insure that new buildings are designed & build with a certain regulations, which includes Lifts & the regulations set aside for these Lifts.

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.

Lifts in buildings must be able to serve the needs of disabled people. This includes ensuring that any commonly used “path of travel” MUST be free of any sort of obstacles that would limit, restrict or endanger people with disabilities who use that route. There must also be absolutely no obstacles that will prevent people with disabilities from accessing facilities within the building. The regulations refer specifically to people with impaired vision, but clearly they also relate to people in wheelchairs, or people who have trouble walking freely.

4.11 Lift Regulations

4.11.1 Lifts include passenger lifts and through-floor lifts, where:

  1. passenger lifts serve all the storeys of the building that can be accessed by the stairway, and
  2. through-floor lifts may be used to serve a partial storey (see SANS 10400-A) of area greater than 100 m2.

NOTE: A through-floor lift can be used in small buildings, as an alternative to a passenger lift.

4.11.2 Passenger lifts shall:

  1. have a minimum internal dimension of 1,1 m in width and 1,4 m in depth, clear of surface finishes;
  2. have a doorway with an unobstructed width of not less than 800 mm;
  3. be fitted with horizontal handrails the full length of the lift car sides at a height of between 850 mm and 1 000 mm above the floor level of the lift;
  4. have a mirror on the top half of the rear wall equal to the width of the lift to enable wheelchair users to back out of the lift where the lift has internal dimensions less than 1,5 m in width and 2,0 m in depth;
  5. have a clear circulation space of not less than 1,5 m × 1,5 m at the entrance of the lift on each floor;
  6. have audible and visible warnings in the lift lobby and lift car to indicate the lift car approaching, the arrival of the lift, the lift doors opening, the lift doors closing, the floor requested and at which floor the lift stops;
  7. have control buttons, including emergency control buttons, that are in accordance with 4.14;
  8. have illuminance on the control panel that is not less than 150 lx;
  9. stop level with the landing on each floor that they serve.

NOTE 1: The provision of the number and size of lifts should take into account the number of persons (persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities) using the site, complex or building. In buildings with large building-user numbers and flow, the size and number of lifts should reflect the fact that a wheelchair user needs to be able to turn when entering or exiting the lift.

NOTE 2: Wheelchair users should not have to travel further than non-wheelchair users to find a means of vertical circulation accessible to them, and they should not have to cross roads or endanger their safety to reach such means.

NOTE 3: To aid persons with visual impairments to operate automatic lifts, tactile identification, both raised numbers on buttons, in contrasting light and dark colours, and Braille lettering adjacent to the number, should be provided at the control panel within the lift car and external to it.

Links

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References

Gold Level Advert
NCPD
Tri Access
Bradshaw leRoux

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