Steps are the biggest barrier to independent access for people with mobility impairments. They can also present difficulties for elderly patients and patients with pushchairs.
If you have steps to your practice (or within your practice), ensure they are clearly marked (e.g. use a contrasting colour for the front horizontal and vertical edges of each step), are free from obstacles and have non-slip surfaces.
Encourage staff to offer assistance to patients if there are steps to the entrance (but do not assume all disabled patients will want assistance). NB: ensure staff are covered by public liability insurance.
Consider making the following adjustments to overcome the barrier that steps can present:
- raise the pavement or other approach up to the level of the entrance (note that permission will be required from your local authority)
- install a suitable external ramp (in addition to the steps) that is preferably permanent (note that this will require planning permission)
- install an internal ramp if there is sufficient space
- provide full-width temporary ramps, available from commercial suppliers, that are firm and secure in use and have non-slip surfaces (note that they need to be stored somewhere when not in use and can be awkward to handle)
- install handrails on one or both sides of steps for persons with mobility impairments
If the main entrance cannot be made accessible or relocated, consider using an alternative entrance (e.g. that is normally used by staff or for deliveries) for wheelchair users and others. Ensure it is safe to use, and it is left open, clearly signed, free of obstacles and has a means of alerting staff.
Contact your local planning office before undertaking any structural alterations to your premises.