The reception facility in a school is often the first point of contact for parents and other visitors.

As with all other facilities, it should be designed to meet the needs of all people.

The height of the reception desk should be designed to accommodate students, wheelchair users, and people of tall and small stature. If a desk is to be used for form-filling, it should have a knee space so that a wheelchair user can pull into the desk.

An induction loop with appropriate signage should be provided to assist hearing-aid users to communicate with the receptionist.

It is important to avoid light sources such as windows behind the desk that could cause glare. Also, patterned backgrounds should be avoided, as these can make it difficult for people with hearing loss to lip-read.


Figure 11 Reception Area

Accessible features:

This reception desk has surfaces to suit both standing and seated users, and there is a recessed section to provide knee-space on the corner.

There is good visual contrast between the floor and the walls.

What could be improved?

The glazed screen behind the reception desk could make it difficult for someone to lip-read.

There is no signage to indicate that an induction loop has been installed.

Providing visual contrast between the doors and the surrounding wall would make it easier for people with vision loss to locate their position.


Accessible toilets are a fundamental requirement for many people with disabilities.

Provision of toilet facilities

The minimum accessible toilet provision usually includes providing larger-than-standard-sized cubicles with grabrails in separate sex washrooms for ambulant people with disabilities. It also includes providing separate unisex wheelchair-accessible toilets.

Unisex accessible toilets are designed with extra space and fittings to allow for independent use by wheelchair users. These are also commonly used by people with other mobility disabilities and vision loss. Providing a unisex cubicle with separate access allows for assistance to be provided by an assistant of either gender.

In general, accessible toilets in schools should be provided in the same location as other toilet facilities. In primary schools in Ireland, toilets are usually provided within the classroom. Consideration should be given to providing adjacent accessible toilets in some classrooms, so that students with disabilities do not have to travel further than other students. Principals can then consider students' toileting needs when allocating classes to classrooms.

Some students may prefer to use accessible toilets away from the classroom, for reasons of privacy and dignity. They may want to avoid drawing attention to the time required for toileting or the need for assistance. It is therefore important that at least one accessible toilet is available outside the classroom, within a reasonable travel distance.

Some students with disabilities may require additional assistance with toileting. A separate facility with a toilet designed for assisted use, a shower, a hoist, and a changing bench should also be provided. These are sometimes known as hygiene rooms or 'Changing Places' facilities.

Some students with disabilities may need the toilet immediately on arrival at school, so the travel distance from the entrance to the nearest accessible toilet should be minimised.

Toilet facilities for staff should also include accessible toilets.

Design of toilet facilities

Controls in toilet facilities should be easy to understand and use. Door handles, cubicle latches, taps, and flushing mechanisms should be operable with a closed fist. The operation of these items should be uncomplicated.

For younger primary students, WCs should generally be of a lower height, and grabrails at a reduced width. The seat of an accessible WC should be at a similar height to the seat of the user's wheelchair. The US Access Board produced the following advisory guidance on dimensions (in inches) for children's toilets in healthcare settings:


3-4 years

5-8 years

9-12 years

WC Centreline

12 in

12 - 15 in

15 - 18 in

Toilet Seat Height

11 - 12 in

12 - 15 in

15 - 17 in

Grab Bar Height

18 - 20 in

20 - 25 in

25 - 27 in

Dispenser Height

14 in

14 - 17 in

17 - 19 in

The following documents give further advice on the detail design of accessible toilet facilities:

Building for Everyone - A Universal Design approach (National Disability Authority), http://universaldesign.ie/buildingforeveryone

BS8300:2009 + A1:2010, Design of Buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people - Code of practice (British Standards Institution) - clause 12.6

Building Bulletin 102, Designing for disabled children and children with special educational needs, guidance for mainstream and special schools (Department for Children, Schools and Families, UK)


Figure 12 Drinking Fountains

Accessible features:

Hydration is important for all students: it impacts concentration and alertness. These drinking fountains have been designed with a range of users in mind.

The different heights suit students of different ages and heights.

Knee space is provided under the lower level fountains to allow wheelchair users to use them.

The fountains are recessed in the circulation space to avoid creating an obstruction on the route.

Lockers and Cloakrooms

Students with mobility difficulties can sometimes have difficulties using lockers or cloakrooms. Problems can arise with:

  • The height of coat hooks
  • The type of lock used on the locker
  • The capacity of the locker to store mobility aids or assistive technology
  • The space available around the locker

Schools should ensure that lockers are of adequate size and are usable by all students.

Managing Toilet Facilities

Ensure that the accessibility of all school facilities are regularly monitored and maintained.

Some of the issues to address include:

  • Keeping transfer areas in accessible toilets free of obstruction
  • Ensuring any alarm pull cords are located within 100mm of the floor
  • Ensuring that somebody will respond to alarms from an accessible toilet
  • Ensuring toilets used by people with disabilities are kept particularly clean, as some people depend on the WC surfaces for support
  • Providing sanitary disposal bins that are emptied regularly and positioned within reach of the toilet, but that do not block transfer areas