.

  • Written by Scott Alterator, Research Fellow (Learning Environments Applied Research Network); Director at Innovation Design Education;, University of Melbourne
Designing schools to accommodate students with disabilities is a complicated task and needs a lot more research than what is out there. from shutterstock.com

Australia has scheduled up to A$11 billion on new schools and facility upgrades between 2016 and 2026. We need as many as 750 new schools to accommodate an additional 650,000 students.

Part of this spend must go towards improving school facilities, especially for students with a disability. In 2017, around 18.8% of school students in Australia were provided with adjustments at school – to participate on the same basis as other students – because of disability. The majority of these attend mainstream public schools.

This means every school (not just those for students with special education needs) should be designed with students of varying abilities in mind. We need to find ways to make all schools inclusive so children with mild and severe disabilities are not disadvantaged by facilities or services.


Read more: Most Australian teachers feel unprepared to teach students with special needs


School facility design has not kept pace with Australian inclusive education policies over past decades. Considering the diverse needs of children with disability, inclusive school architecture needs to learn from the best of what already exists to improve learning spaces for all students.

Vague universal principles

Designing more inclusive schools is possible, but complicated. When a school is designed and built in Australia, architects are often directed to follow the 7 Principles of Universal Design.

The principles of universal design don’t offer specific guidance on how to achieve it. from shutterstock.com

These include:

  • equitable use (the design must be useful to people of diverse abilities)

  • flexibility in use (the design must accommodate a range of preferences and abilities)

  • simple and intuitive use (the design can be easily understood by everyone)

  • perceptible information (there is effective communication on how to use the design, regardless of the user’s limitations)

  • tolerance for error (the design minimises accidents)

  • low physical effort (the design can be used without causing fatigue)

  • size and space for approach and use (anyone can reach anything regardless of their size or height).

These are useful as a general guide but they are too abstract to offer direction for designers, especially when student needs may shift from one year to the next.

Some examples

Two schools, Officer Specialist School in Australia and The Willows School (P-12) in the UK, offer tips about designing better facilities for inclusive education. Each sit on a mainstream school site, allowing disabled students to share facilities and participate in mainstream learning where possible or deemed appropriate.

Officer Specialist School provides adaptable facilities and spaces to respond to varying and sometimes competing needs. These include classrooms that can be configured to suit individual students’ learning needs through mobile furniture and adaptive technologies. Tactile walls and pause places where students can stand back and get their bearings play a crucial role too.


Read more: How autism-friendly architecture can change autistic children's lives


The school has designed visual and performing arts spaces for restricted mobility, hearing and sight impairments. Consulting rooms are available for health-service delivery.

Outdoor spaces also offer varying degrees of challenge for motor skills development. Sensory environments are designed to stimulate and calm students at different times of the day. This could involve stimulus shelters for quiet time or sensory rooms for physical stimulation. Labyrinth-style walks are popular with students as calming settings.

At The Willows, one wing of the school provides facilities specifically for disabled students, including a multi-sensory environment (relaxing spaces that help reduce agitation and anxiety). There are also soft play rooms and classrooms with integrated ceiling hoists and specific heating needs for students sensitive to thermal conditions.

The school worked with disabled artists to create sensory elements. The results included textured patterns along walls that support navigation across the school.

What can we learn?

Both schools were designed through consultation processes involving families, educators and service providers. Architects took the time to build trust between key stakeholders and listen to their varied perspectives.

There is no ideal school design, nor any one school that exemplifies all that is best about design for inclusive education. Making conclusions about what works is also limited by a lack of structured evaluation programs.

We need more evidence to generate a better understanding of the complex needs of all students and the role of design in supporting inclusive education.

Designing explicitly for inclusion will benefit everyone. To do this properly will need commitment from governments and schools, feeding evidence-based insights back into school systems, consultations with disabled and other students and designs that are responsive, offering multiple solutions of learning spaces.

We are developing projects at the Learning Environments Applied Research Network and the Bartlett Global Centre for Learning Environments in collaboration with The DisOrdinary Architecture Project to find out what best works for students with disability, and indeed all students.

Scott Alterator receives funding from the University of Melbourne and Catholic Education Melbourne. He is affiliated with Learning Environments Australasia

Benjamin Cleveland receives funding from the University of Melbourne, Australian Research Council and Catholic Education Melbourne. He is affiliated with Learning Environments Australasia.

Jocelyn Boys receives funding from the UCL HEIF budget for work on urban schools and community innovation. She is affiliated with the Bartlett Global Centre for Learning Environments UCL and is a co-director of The DisOrdinary Architecture Project which co-develops inclusive design processes with disabled artists.

Authors: Scott Alterator, Research Fellow (Learning Environments Applied Research Network); Director at Innovation Design Education;, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/students-with-disabilities-need-inclusive-buildings-we-can-learn-from-whats-already-working-126755

Latest Wednesday Lotto Results

Wednesday Lotto draw 3917 Lucky numbers for this draw were 43 followed by 25. The rest of the winning numbers are 44, 33, 7 and lastly 15. So, one even and five odd numbers are in the lucky num...

Viw Magazine - avatar Viw Magazine

Chinese students top the PISA rankings, but some Shanghai parents are turning away from the school system

China is fast becoming a middle-class nation. Ewan Yap/UnsplashAustralian 15 year olds were around three and a half years behind their counterparts in China in maths, according to the OECD’s lat...

Hannah Soong, Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education Practice, School of Education, University of South Australia - avatar Hannah Soong, Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education Practice, School of Education, University of South Australia

14 Surprisingly Easy Housekeeping Hacks That Will Impress Your Guests

Everyone wants to present a perfect house when guests come over. The problem is, no one also wants to spend the whole day scrubbing everything super clean. If you follow these smart hacks to prepare...

Giancarlo Stangherlin - avatar Giancarlo Stangherlin

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on Angus Taylor, medevac and cuts to the public service

Angus Taylor addresses the house during Question Time. AAP/Lukas CochMichelle Grattan talks with University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Deep Saini about the week in politics, ...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

China's failed gene-edited baby experiment proves we're not ready for human embryo modification

The team used CRISPR on human embryos in a bid to render them resistant to HIV infection. But instead, they generated different mutations, about which we know nothing. SHUTTERSTOCKMore than a year ago...

Dimitri Perrin, Senior Lecturer, Queensland University of Technology - avatar Dimitri Perrin, Senior Lecturer, Queensland University of Technology

Remember the arts? Departments and budgets disappear as politics backs culture into a dead end

The federal decision to eliminate a department of arts came as a surprise to public servants. Jade Ferguson/Opera QueenslandThe decision to merge the Department of Communications and the Arts with Tr...

Julian Meyrick, Professor of Creative Arts, Flinders University - avatar Julian Meyrick, Professor of Creative Arts, Flinders University

Curious Kids: how do we know if a dinosaur skeleton is from a child dinosaur or an adult dinosaur?

This T. rex is very big, but was it a grown-up? Shutterstock When you find dinosaur skeletons, how can you tell how old the dinosaur was? Like, if the skeleton is from a child dinosaur or an adult din...

Caitlin Syme, PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology, The University of Queensland - avatar Caitlin Syme, PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology, The University of Queensland

Western Australia looks set to legalise voluntary assisted dying. Here's what's likely to happen from next week

If the bill clears its final hurdle next week, Western Australia will become the second state in Australia after Victoria to legalise voluntary assisted dying. from www.shutterstock.comWestern Austral...

Courtney Hempton, Associate Research Fellow, Deakin University - avatar Courtney Hempton, Associate Research Fellow, Deakin University

Award winning, ASX-list data SIM card company promises BIG changes for travellers

FLEXIROAM’s attachable SIM card, FLEXIROAM X Microchip is shaking up the telecommunications industry, fundamentally changing the way travellers use data overseas.   According to Founder and CEO...

Tess Sanders Lazarus - avatar Tess Sanders Lazarus

Friday essay: living with fire and facing our fears

The smouldering ruins of a child's bike lies amongst a property lost to bushfires in the Mid North Coast region of NSW last month. Darren Pateman/AAPIt is only mid-November but we have to walk early t...

Danielle Clode, Senior Research Fellow in Creative Writing, Flinders University - avatar Danielle Clode, Senior Research Fellow in Creative Writing, Flinders University

Explainer: why homicide rates in Australia are declining

Latest figures reveal homocides in Australia are at historic lows. AAP/James RossAccording to the latest figures, homicides in Australia are at historic lows and compare well against international tr...

Terry Goldsworthy, Associate Professor in Criminology, Bond University - avatar Terry Goldsworthy, Associate Professor in Criminology, Bond University

Making space: how designing hospitals for Indigenous people might benefit everyone

Sunshine Coast University Hospital uses evidence-based design to provide outside spaces with views that Indigenous people tell us they value. Architectus, Author providedWelcome to the next article in...

Timothy O'Rourke, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, The University of Queensland - avatar Timothy O'Rourke, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, The University of Queensland

Vital Signs: Australia's slipping student scores will lead to greater income inequality

While no test is perfect but the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings are pretty useful for understanding the skills young people are being equipped with. www.shutterstock.comThe la...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

We're using lasers and toaster-sized satellites to beam information faster through space

The electromagnetic spectrum we can access with current technologies is completely occupied. This means experts have to think of creative ways to meet our rocketing demands for data. NASA Johnson/Flic...

Gottfried Lechner, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Telecommunications Research, University of South Australia, University of South Australia - avatar Gottfried Lechner, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Telecommunications Research, University of South Australia, University of South Australia

Grattan on Friday: Angus Taylor's troubles go international, in brawl with Naomi Wolf

Morrison would rather live with a problem minister in a key post than give a scalp to Labor. Mick Tsikas/AAPScott Morrison said it with a straight face, and repetition for emphasis. “I’m v...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Early medical abortion is legal across Australia but rural women often don't have access to it

Australian women can have an early medical termination – which involves taking two oral medications – up to the ninth week of pregnancy. Jonatán Becerra/UnsplashAround one in s...

Jane Tomnay, Assoc. Professor / Director of Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, University of Melbourne - avatar Jane Tomnay, Assoc. Professor / Director of Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, University of Melbourne

All hail apostrophes - the heavy lifters who 'point a sentence in the right direction'

Doing away with the apostrophe is not just the beginning of the end ... it's the end. www.shutterstock.comReports this week about the demise of the Apostrophe Protection Society may have been greatly...

Roslyn Petelin, Course coordinator, The University of Queensland - avatar Roslyn Petelin, Course coordinator, The University of Queensland

It's the 10-year anniversary of our climate policy abyss. But don't blame the Greens

In 2009, a Bob Brown-led Greens party voted against an emissions trading scheme – but they can't be blamed for what came after. Mick Tsikas/AAPFederal Labor this week commemorated a dubious anni...

Rebecca Pearse, Lecturer, Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney - avatar Rebecca Pearse, Lecturer, Department of Political Economy, University of Sydney

Morrison cuts a swathe through the public service, with five departmental heads gone

Scott Morrison has announced a dramatic overhaul of the federal public service, cutting the number of departments and creating several new mega ones, while removing five secretaries. The departments...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Latest Wednesday Lotto Results

Wednesday Lotto draw 3917 Lucky numbers for this draw were 43 followed by 25. The rest of the...

Ways Love and Relationships Benefit Body and Mind

Being in a happy relationship is great. You always have someone to greet you when you come home ...

The Importance of Smiling: How You Can Smile More

Happiness is something we all strive for and is often just out of reach. Of course, it’s impos...

5 Things to Do On Your Wedding Morning

After months of meticulous planning, wedding mornings usually find the bride excited but stressed ...