Accessible Property for Schools
Information, guidance and legal requirements for making schools accessible.
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As a Board, you must meet the legal requirements for making your school accessible for students, their caregivers and staff with learning support needs
- Inclusive access to education
- Inclusive access to school property
- Universal design principles
- Legal requirements for access
- Further information
Inclusive access to education
The Ministry of Education aims to deliver an inclusive education system, where all students have barrier free access to quality education. Part of providing an inclusive education system is ensuring that the built environment is accessible and supports the needs of people with disabilities.
Investment in infrastructure has long term effects, it shapes how well the education system functions for future generations. It is essential we accelerate progress to improve accessibility of school buildings and sites in ways that benefit all users including ākonga, kaiako and the community.
Inclusive access to school property
As a Board, you need to work towards making your school accessible for students, whanau, caregivers and staff who have disabilities. You must meet the legal requirements for access to your school and we encourage you to go beyond the minimum requirements.
Accessibility is a broad, all-encompassing term that is more inclusive than just mobility access.
With every upgrade or building project planned at your school there is an opportunity to include accessibility upgrades at the same time. This is a more efficient and cost effective way to progressively make your school more accessible even if your school doesn’t currently have any disabled students, staff or caregivers.
When working with your project manager, property planner or designer on a building or site upgrade, consider how you can make your school property accessible. It’s important to consider how school buildings, property and infrastructure work together to increase overall accessibility.
Universal design principles
When planning property projects at your school, pragmatically follow universal design principles and aim to provide equitable access, dignity and respect for all school users.
Universal design in the built environment principles:
- Everyone should be included, irrespective of their capability, knowledge, skill level, race, religion, gender, age or size.
- Everywhere should be physically accessible – to everyone and achievable in an easy, safe, independent and convenient way.
- Everything should be equally accessible, understandable and usable by everyone everywhere.
- Design for variability from the start of the life of a building.
- Every solution should seek to accommodate the needs of building users without excluding or segregating anyone.
While it won’t be possible to achieve the aims of universal design all of the time, considering these principles from the very start of a project will help integrate these ideas through the design, construction and occupation phases.
Legal requirements for access
As a Board, you must meet the following legal requirements for access to schools for students with disabilities. Some of these provisions also apply to access for staff and caregivers.
Education and Training Act 2020
Section 34 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) gives students who have special education needs (whether because of disability or otherwise) the same right to be enrolled at, attend and receive education at State Schools as students who do not.
The school property must be able to accommodate their specific physical requirements.
Human Rights Act 1993
Under Section 57, Human Rights Act 1993(external link), it's unlawful for a school to deny access to a student because of their disability.
Building Act 2004
Under Section 118, Building Act 2004(external link), when a school is being built or altered, the school must adequately provide for people with disabilities in terms of:
This requirement covers all people who might use or visit the school, including:
- any others who might visit the school.
Under Clause D1 (Access Routes) Building Code(external link) a Board must make sure all students and other people with disabilities can enter the building and carry out normal activities and functions.
New Zealand Standard 4121:2001
Under NZS 4121:2001 Design for access and mobility(external link), buildings and associated facilities is the design standard for access and mobility. The Ministry has adopted it as mandatory and schools must follow it.
Refer to our Designing Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand standard for clarification on accessibility design requirements.
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