TRANSED, September 2012 An approach for the evaluation of the accessibility of the physical infrastructure and the educational process in Universities. The case of the Aristotle University of ThessalonikiProf. Aristotelis NaniopoulosAristotle University of Thessaloniki
Contents of the presentation • Purpose of the presentation • Methodology for the evaluation of accessibility of Universities • Implementation of the methodology in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki • Evaluation of routes • Evaluation of buildings • Educational process • Discussion and use of results • Conclusions • Suggestions • Actions under implementation
Purpose of the presentation • People with disabilities, often face barriers in accessing the Universities’ built environment and services. • Although the right to education is considered fundamental, the accessibility of educational institutions leaves a lot to be desired. • The growing number of students with disabilities was helped in Greece by the implementation of the 3794/2009 law. This law allows students with disabilities to enter University schools in a percentage of 5% without taking the normal accession exams.
Purpose of the presentation • To present the methodology used for the evaluation of accessibility of Universities and its implementation at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh), Greece. • In order to evaluate the accessibility offered in educational premises, two major issues were examined: • the accessibility of the mobility chain, infrastructure and services for people with disabilities • the accessibility of the educational process itself.
Methodology • A task model concerning the mobility chain and the educational procedure was created through literature reviews. • The needs of people with disabilities were determined via communication with students and associations of people with disabilities, in situ observation of the use of infrastructure, communication with experts specialised in accessibility. In addition, regulations and design guidelines have been taken into consideration. • Structured checklists for accessibility evaluation were created. The first checklist concerns open spaces, (408 check points), the second checklist interior spaces, (433 check points) and the third checklist access to educational procedure (95 check points).
Implementation in AUTh • The methodology was applied in AUTh during 2009 – 2010 in the frame of the ACTUS project which was a collaboration between the Transport Systems Research Group of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and the University of Mersin in Turkey. • The same methodology was applied during a graduate Thesis at the AUTh Civil Engineering Department, continuing the work of ACTUS for AUTh open spaces • Individual assessment essays were created for each building and route and info on the obstacles identified at open spaces was provided on a GIS database.
1. Evaluation of Routes • In total more than 4 Km of footways were examined inside the AUTh campus • The following points of interest were identified: • 40 Permanent obstacles • 69 Temporary obstacles • 20 Signing issues • 17 Ramps • 28 Different height levels • 22 Cases of insufficient surface maintenance
Ramps – Different height levels • The occupation of ramps from parkedvehicles is common • Most of the ramps are old and are not constructed according to the latest accessibility guidelines • Parking on the ramps led to the installation of bollards, in certain places, that hinder unobstructed movement
Surface of footway • The use of several different surfaces of footway is common • Poor constructions that affectpedestrian movement were observed
Movementcorridors • Footway is used asparking space • In certain areas, a footwayis available in parallel with the pavementswhere thecars park, which is not easily visible • Tactile Surface Indicators are installed in some parts of the campus
Obstacles • The most common obstacles are parked vehicles along the pavement • Other obstacles include erroneously placed garbage bins, flower-stands etc. • Improper design may pose dangers, particularly for pedestrians with restricted vision
Signage • In many routes TGSI has been installed • Since the guidelines have varied during the years, different types of TGSIs have been installed • Obstacles next to the TGSI may pose danger for its users
Signage • In general, signageis not sufficient • Some signs are not placed appropriately, creating obstacles
Problems caused from the METRO line works • The ongoing METRO line construction works led to the creation of temporary pavements with restricted width, height differences and various obstacles
2. Evaluation of buildings • In total, 26 buildings were assessed comprising: • 94 entrances, • 35 external ramps, • 13 internal ramps, • 47 elevators, • 65 staircases, • 150 toilets, • 11 toilets for use by people with disability, and • 9 platform lifts.
Parking spaces • 14 parking spaces are designated for use by people with disability • There is clear signage with yellow markings, a sign depicting the International Symbol of Accessibility, and, in certain cases, the whole parking space painted blue
Approaching the buildings • In some cases, the route from the parking spaces to the buildings’ entrance is too long • At some buildings, the height differences are covered only by stairs • Recent constructions include implementation of TGSI, staircases with double handrails etc.
Ramps • Some of the ramps have inappropriate slopes and lack proper equipment concerning handrails, signage etc. • Recent constructions are created with proper dimensions and equipment
Entrances • Most of the main doors have aluminum frames with glass panels of sufficient width • In most cases, there is no color contrast between the doors and their surroundings. • There are various kinds of doorknobs used, not all of them easy to use • Automatic doors are rather scarce
Horizontal movement • All buildings assessed have a large hall after the main entrance, leading to elevators / platform lifts or staircases. • Various permanent and temporary obstacles can be found. • Reflections can pose problems to users with restricted vision.
Vertical movement • Accessible elevators, according to Greek guidelines, can only be found at three of the assessed buildings. • Stair-lifts, due to their characteristics, are not frequently used.
Services • Eleven accessible toilets were identified. Some of the designated toilets do not meet the accessibility criteria. Recent constructions are built with sufficient dimensions and equipment • There is an information desk at all the assessed buildings, not always accessible.
Signage / Acoustics / Emergency cases • Signage is inadequate. The signs used do not have the same format, and many of them suffer from reflections. No orientation maps or Braille signage is available. • Fire safety studies include plans for evacuation in case of an emergency. However, these plans do not take into account the needs of people with disability. • Acoustics are satisfactory at all the buildings. • Illumination is considered adequate.
3. Educational process • In general, most of AUTh Schools lack provisions in the educational process, with the exception of the Schools of Law and Education. • Classrooms lack assistive technology and books are not always available in alternative formats. • Only one sign language interpreter is available. • A keyboard with refreshable Braille display is available in the central library.
Discussion and use of results • No particular problems were noted in the implementation of the methodology by the researchers. • The methodology developed can provide a tool that could be applied to Universities at a wider level. • The evaluation’s results were disseminated to the Accessibility Office for People with Disability of AUTh and the Social Committee. The results were used in various accessibility improvements, such as the construction of 12 accessible toilets and the planning of 15 more, the planning of constructions about the horizontal and the vertical accessibility and the accessibility of open public spaces.
Conclusions • The methodology developed, through its successful implementation in AUTh, proved its validity. • The following problems were identified in AUTh: • The large number of buildings makes the creation of a network of accessible facilities difficult. • Many deficiencies at the buildings. • Lack of proper signage. • Extensive illegal parking. • Recent actions for the improvement of accessibility (introduction of TGSIs, creation of accessible parking spaces) have significant results.
Suggestions • The following main suggestions were made to the University’s authorities: • Facilitation of the Accessibility Office with the provision of the necessary personnel and resources. • Establishement of an accessibility policy. • Creation of a basic network of accessible routes. • At least two accessible elevators and toilets at all the buildings. • Improvement of signage, including maps, tactile signage, signs with pictograms, use of Braille where appropriate, etc. • Creation of emergency evacuation plans.
Suggestions • Prohibition of parking and imposing of penalties in case of illegal parking. • Regular maintenance and checking of existing infrastructure. • Removal of obstacles, examination of street furniture and replacement, where necessary. • Assistive technology, material presented in alternative forms, sign language interpreters, accessible cultural halls etc.
Actions under implementation • As a result of the above, the following are currently under implementation: • Two sub-committees dealing with the accessibility of the physical environment and the educational procedure have been established. • The Rectorate decided that at least 3% of the annual budget of the Public Investments Programme for AUTh will be allocated for accessibility improvement interventions. • A strategy is followed that addresses four main issues: • Construction of at least one accessible toilet per building. • Horizontal accessibility. • Vertical accessibility. • Accessibility of public spaces, where the transformation of the whole campus into a “traffic calming” zone is proposed.
Actions under implementation • 12 new accessible toilets have been built and 15 more are under construction. • A special transport service has been established, servicing 21 students with restricted mobility, 11 of which are wheelchair users, using 2 accessible buses. • A society of voluntary students to assist students with disabilities has been established. • The University authorities consider to establish a special “task force” of professors and external specialists for speeding up studies and constructions.
All the above, show that the first serious step towards an accessible University should be the identification of the accessibility problems and obstacles through a scientific approach similar to the one presented above. This first crucial step has as a result both the rise of awareness about the problem and also a first guide on what the following steps should be. Accessibility is not a reachable end but a goal, requiring continuous efforts.
Thank you All those interested in University Accessibility can visit the Transport Systems Research Group website (www.tsrg.gr) and download documents, including the ACTUS project Guidebook email@example.com