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  • Writer's pictureBenny Kuriakose

Design Consideration For Differently Abled Students in Schools

It is important for the school layout to be sensitive to the differently abled, and implement some techniques into space planning, catering with their needs. Due to lack of knowledge, this section of the design process is generally neglected completely.

Some of the elements that need to be considered while planning the layout are ramps, entrances, door widths, corridor widths, window sill heights etc.

Design Considerations for Differently Abled
Design Considerations for Differently Abled

List of Contents

Ramp Design

The slope of a ramp with a minimum width of 1000 mm can be 1:12. This means that for a height of 1 metre, a horizontal distance of 12 metres must be provided. If possible, provision of a 1:20 slope of ramp is preferred.

A landing can be introduced after distance of every 9000 mm, to pause and prevent wheelchair runoff. The minimum length of a ramp landing can be about 1525 mm. The ramp can have a non-slippery floor finish.

The illustration depicts the minimum width and slope of a ramp with the aid of handrails
The Illustration Depicts the Minimum Width and Slope of a Ramp With the Aid of Handrails

Ramps required for moving from different building heights may also be considered. In this case, a comparison between ramps and lifts has been done to understand the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Ramp

  • Ramps take a large floor area.

  • Ramps have a high cost of construction, even higher than that of lifts.

  • Ramps require no maintenance costs.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Lifts

  • Lifts take much lesser area.

  • Lifts have a high cost of installation.

  • They require regular maintenance and running costs.

Corridor Design

The measurement of the space occupied by a wheelchair is 760x1220 mm. The minimum width of a corridor for two wheelchairs to pass can be 1800 mm.

Minimum width for two wheelchairs to pass is 1800 mm
Minimum Width for Two Wheelchairs to Pass is 1800 mm

Corridors of the Sankalp School
Corridors of the Sankalp School

Handrail Design

Handrails can be provided along walking spaces, on either or one side of the ramp, stairways, corridors etc to assist the people who are physically challenged.

The height of the handrail can be about 800-900 mm and a gap of about 50 mm between the railing and the wall must be provided. A consistent height for the handrail can be followed.

Illustration showing handrail provision for the physically challenged
Illustration Showing Handrail Provision for the Physically Challenged

Handrails  provided on either side of the stairways in Sankalp School
Handrails Provided on Either Side of the Stairways in Sankalp School

Lift Well

The width and depth of a lift well with respect to a wheelchair user can be 1600 x 1800 mm, with a clear opening of 800 mm.

The opening width provided in most of the lifts is 700 mm, which is not sufficient for a wheelchair user.

The illustration shows measurements and use of lift for a differently abled within the school
The Illustration Shows Measurements and Use of Lift for a Differently Abled Within the School

Toilet Design

The minimum size of a disable friendly toilet is 2500 x 2200 mm. The water closet in the toilets can be positioned adjacent to a wall, to provide the aid of a grab rail. The space around the toilet seat that must be provided for turning space is 1500 x 1525 mm.

The door of a physically handicapped toilet shall open outwards or have a sliding door
The Door of a Physically Handicapped Toilet Shall Open Outwards or Have a Sliding Door

The door of the toilet needs to have a clear opening of 900 mm, and must have an outward swing or a sliding door, so that it is easier for the disabled person to move inside the toilet and close the door.

The toilet can preferably avoid a level difference, and can rather demarcate using difference in the colours of tiles. Suitable arrangement for vertical and horizontal grab rails shall be provided.

Minimum standard measurements for a disable friendly toilet is shown
Minimum Standard Measurements for a Disable Friendly Toilet is Shown

The height of the wash basin from the finished floor level can be 700-750 mm till the top of the fixture. The height of the urinals can be about 430 mm from the floor level.

The illustration shows the height at which the toilet components are to be fixed for differently abled students
The Illustration Shows the Height at Which the Toilet Components Are to Be Fixed for Differently Abled Students

The height at which the toilet seat is fixed can be such that it is easy for the disabled person to transfer from the wheelchair to the closet.


In a school layout, specific pathways can be planned to provide access for the disabled. Outdoor spaces, grounds, administration block, library, kitchen spaces, sanitary block can all be connected by a clear accessible route.

Pathways for disabled persons
Pathways for Disabled Students

Minimising levels in between routes can help movement of the disabled person easily.

Pathways of Sankalp school
Pathways of Sankalp School

It is crucial that the design of the school consider students with special needs and incorporate strategies and these design aspects into space planning that are accommodating of their confident and independent life as others. This stage of the design process, which is typically totally overlooked due to ignorance, should be given top priority.

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