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Accessibility in County Hall
Galway County Council provides of a range of services, regulatory and enforcement functions including the planning, design and construction of important infrastructural facilities. The Council is the custodian of the environment and through it’s polices seeks to promote the sustainable development of the County while enhancing its business, economic, social, arts, heritage and cultural identity.
Galway County Council is committed to providing services that are accessible and user friendly to all its customers. As part of our commitment to addressing the needs of customers with disabilities, we have compiled this information booklet to highlight the various aspects of our accessible services and the physical accessibility features of County Hall.
Our main customer service centre is located in County Hall on Prospect Hill, Galway, consisting of a ground floor and two additional floors above street level.
Our main service delivery locations
Our services are provided throughout the County including the Islands. Our main administration centre is located In County Hall in Galway City. We have a Regional and Area Office network in 12 locations including the Ballinasloe Civic offices. A branch library network extends to 25 locations and fire stations are strategically located in 10 areas.
County Hall is located approximately 100m off Eyre Square on Prospect Hill.
Services available from County Hall
Galway County Council approaches the accessibility of County Hall and the services provided in a structured and planned manner under our internal Customer Services Group. Management of accessible customer services can be categorised into three primary areas, as follows.
Environmental Access, Customer Services and Information Communication Technology
The main public and support services available from County Hall include:
|Motor Tax and Driving Licences||Ground floor|
|Planning Services||Ground floor|
|Map Shop||Ground floor|
|Cash Office||Ground floor|
|Housing Service||First floor|
|Law Agents||First floor|
|Information Systems||First floor|
|Roads and Transportation Services||Second floor|
|Corporate Services||Second floor|
|Higher Education||Second floor|
|Human Resources||Second floor|
|Register of Electors||Second floor|
Most of the these services can be accessed from public counters fitted with induction loops and accessibility aids. All services are signposted by accessible way-finding signage located throughout the building.
Accessibility of County Hall
County Hall can be approached from two entrances. The most accessible entrance for wheelchair users is to the rear of the building where accessible parking spaces are clearly marked out and available.
Access to the rear entrance from the parking bays is clearly waymarked for wheelchair users and the back door can be reached from a gently sloping permanent ramp with appropriate hand rails clearly distinguishable in yellow. Surfaces in the area on and around access ramps at rear of building have been modified to ensure less than 5mm height change.
External steps outside the rear entrance are fitted with handrails, colour contrasting step nosing and corduroy hazard warning tactile markings. The rear external door is wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users and is fitted with an automatic sliding door. Entrance to the main foyer from the rear entrance is through double doors fitted with power automated door openers.
Entrance to the front of the building can be gained through a revolving door or side access door. Warning notices are located on the glass panels to notify customers not to push the doors and to enter the building slowly. External steps outside the front entrance are fitted with handrails, colour contrasting step nosing and corduroy hazard warning tactile markings. Customers may avoid using the steps by accessing the entrance directly opposite the front door from Prospect Hill.
The foyer is a large open plan space and houses the main reception desk fitted with induction loop and accessible aids. The large open space ensures, for example, a user friendly environment for our wheelchair-using customers. In addition there are no steps or weather mats which might obstruct the customer in the foyer area. Seating and desks are available at a number of locations to assist form-filling and waiting.
A purpose built reception and customer service desk will be installed which is fully accessible to all customers. Low level counters and induction loops will be fitted.
Accessible meeting rooms
A number of meeting rooms located off the foyer, towards the lift, are accessible through power automated doors and can be reserved as meeting space if required. A mobile induction loop is available. This lightweight unit is a stand alone wire free system which members of staff can use while accompanying audio impaired customers about the building. Accessible meeting rooms are also located on the first and second floors.
The Council Chamber is fully accessible through a series of power automated doors. Portable ramps are available for use in the Council Chambers for ease of access. The Chamber is also fitted with an induction loop.
Accessible toilets are located on the ground floor and second floor close to the lifts. Accessible toilets are alarmed and can be activated by pulling on the correctly positioned alarm cord. In order to ensure access can be gained to a person in difficulty, all accessible toilets are fitted with a lock which can be opened from the outside.
The main customer lift is located close to the accessible toilets and will bring customers to the first or second floor. The lift is fitted with an induction coupler with colour contrast between the lift control face plates and the wall, correctly positioned handrails and control panel. The lift is also fitted with audible and visual indication oflift location and direction of travel.
Motor Tax desk
Motor Tax and Driving Licence counters are located to the right of the front entrance and are fitted with induction loops and a low level counter. A visual notification system is in place above each counterto notify customers of the next available staff member. A low level writing desk and transaction aids are also available to assist customers with form filling.
Ali-curved framed and bilingual directional and information signage is located throughout the building. The signage features colour contrast, tactile and Braille. All signage uses internationally recognised symbols and fonts to ensure consistency.
13 fixed hearing induction loops are located in County Hall. Appropriate signage is located at these points to alert persons who may wish to use the system. Loops are located at main reception counter, ordnance survey office, planning counter, housing counter, law agents counter, roads counter and corporate services counter. Cash office, Speech transfer systems are located in the motor tax and cash offices.
Low level writing desks
Two low level writing desks at located on the ground floor, one at the Planning counter and one in the Motor Tax area. Low level writing desks are also situated beside the Housing counter and the Human Resources counter on the second floor.
Information display boards
Information and display boards containing leaflets and brochures are located at a number of public counters. Where possible these display boards are at low level to enable all users access information.
Clear visibility panels have been installed on a number of internal doors. Colour contrasting signs have been placed on door handles with text ‘push to open’ on internal fire escape doors. Automatic door openers have been installed at a number of locations on each floor, including access from the main internal stairs to corridors, access to council chamber and meeting rooms on the ground floor. The height of internal door entry controls have also been repositioned.
Internal staircases which act as an alternative access around the building have also been fitted with a number of accessible features including tactile flooring and colour contrast steps.
A public telephone is located on the ground floor towards the lift and is located at an accessible height for wheelchair users.
Customer Safety and Evacuation
Galway County Council has a fire safety and emergency evacuation procedure and specialised equipment in place in the event of an emergency occurring in the building. This procedure includes fire wardens who have been trained to ensure each area of responsibility is evacuated safely. Fire drills are carried out to ensure staff are familiar with the fire safety and emergency evacuation plan.
People can have disabilities of various types and of varying levels of severity. Our fire safety and emergency evacuation procedure takes account of the evacuation needs of all customers. These disabilities can take the form of:
- Mobility impairment, where the range or speed of movement is affected to varying degrees
- Sensory impairment, where the ability to gather information through the senses such as sight or hearing is affected
- Cognitive or mental health impairment, where the capacity to process information and react appropriately is affected
- Hidden disabilities, where the disability is not physically apparent, but the stress of an emergency may trigger the condition. Hidden disabilities could include such conditions as asthma or heart conditions.
The presence of a disability can have a very significant impact on the time it takes for someone to escape.
Emergency Escape Plans
Floor plans of the escape routes to be used in an emergency evacuation are prominently displayed within the building at key locations and are clearly marked and identified. These plans clearly indicate a point on the plan where you are located, the escape routes and stairwells, and the locations of fire fighting equipment. (see example below)
The purpose of an evacuation procedure is to evacuate all staff and visitors (members of the public) as quickly as possible and in an orderly fashion. Evacuation procedures are posted throughout the building in conjunction with the emergency escape layouts. These procedures can be provided in a number of formats on request, including large print, braille and audio by completing the ‘request for information and assistance in an alternative format’ application form.
In the event of an evacuation, all security doors automatically release. Persons such as wheelchair users are can be evacuated using Evacuation chairs (by consent) which are located on each floor, adjacent to the lift and refuge points. Where a customer is visually impaired, a staff member can act as a designated buddy to ensure the safe evacuation of that individual.
There are currently eleven members of staff trained in the use of the Evac chair in an appropriate and sensitive manner. Evac chairs can provide a fast, safe, reliable means of evacuation.
They can also provide people with walking disabilities an equal opportunity for escape in an emergency.
Personal Emergency Egress Plan (PEEP)
It is essential that potential evacuation problems are identified and appropriate measures put in place to facilitate safe evacuation of the building. This is best done by undertaking a Personal Emergency Egress Plan (PEEP). This plan will state the individual’s requirements for emergency evacuation and identify what measures/steps Galway County Council may need to undertake to ensure the individual can evacuate or indeed be evacuated safely in the event of an emergency. Customers with a disability who are visiting County Hall are encouraged to complete an Emergency Egress Questionnaire in advance (Appendix 1) so that a PEEP can be prepared if requested. Disabled customers may notify a staff member who is trained on the procedures involved with helping a disabled person evacuate the building.
Refuge points are located on the first and second floors adjacent to the main customer and staff lifts and beside Evacuation chairs. In the event of an evacuation, disabled customers can be provided with egress assistance from these locations.
Fire Alarm and Assembly Point
The fire alarm system in use throughout the building includes a visual warning on all fire alarm sounders. The designated Fire Assembly Point is at the bottom of the rear car park.
An Automated external defibrillator (AED) is located in the ground floor foyer. These simple to use units are based on computer technology which is designed to analyze the heart rhythm itself, and then advise whether a shock is required. They are designed to be used by lay persons, who require some training. The automatic units also take time (generally 10-20 seconds) to diagnose the rhythm. A number of staff have received training in its use.
Accessible Services and Features
Transaction aids are located at most public counters to assist staff with reading and writing difficulties. Customer Care kits are designed to help blind or visually people complete written transactions and those with arthritic hands to hold pens.
Magnifiers can assist customers with sight problems enlarge small print. Pen grips help people to hold pens and can be removed an used on any suitable pen. Signature templates can assist customers write in confined spaces.
Public access terminal
A public access terminal is located on the ground floor outside the Planning office. Customers can request assistance from a staff member for ease of use. The kiosk is specifically designed to accommodate wheelchair users with accessibility features designed to assist those with audio and visual disabilities. The kiosk includes JAWS screen reader technology.
Large print documents
In a number of cases we can provide large print versions of text including application forms and leaflets. Customers seeking a large print version of a document should complete the ‘Request for information and assistance in an alternative format’ application form and we will endeavour to provide assistance as soon as possible.
Braille and audio format
Where a customer identifies they have a visual impairment, we can supply Braille versions of some documents through our in-house Braille printer. The printer is located in the Corporate Services Unit on the second floor. It is not feasible for all public documents to be readily available in all formats. In line with our Accessible Information Policy we will make readily available the following documents in Braille and Audio: Corporate Plan, County Development Plan, Customer Action Plan, Social Inclusion Strategy, Disability Action Plan, Annual Report and Annual Budget.
Documents available (on request) in alternative format may include application forms for all services, information and guidance leaflets on services, drafts of policy documents and Galway County Council Unit Policy / Strategy / Action Plans.
Requests for documents in an alternative format can be made by completing the ‘Request for information and assistance in an alternative format’ application form.
A myReader page magnifier is located outside the Planning counter on the ground floor. The magnifier is a low vision auto-reader that captures documents as images and rewraps the text on the screen according to your preference. You can view text as a wrapped paragraph (column layout), as a continuous line (row layout) or one word at a time. The unit is operated via a separate control panel with large, easy-to-use dials.
All of our application forms can be made available in large print on request. All internal application forms have been revised to meet accessibility, plain-language and user-friendly requirements using appropriate font size, weight, word spacing and alignment.
Sign language interpreter
Sign language interpreters may be provided for certain public events, meetings, interviews and other events where necessary and where requested in advance. Sign language interpreters will accept and abide by the organisation’s confidentiality policy. Customers seeking the use of a sign language interpreter should complete the ‘Request for information and assistance in an alternative format’ application form and we will endeavour to provide assistance by the date required.
Our website www.galway.ie speech-enabled, which means that you can download free software onto your personal computer and have the site read aloud to you. The free software is called Browsealoud. Browsealoud is a Windows browser plug-in designed for use with Internet Explorer 4 upwards or Netscape Navigator. It should be noted that Safari and some other browsers have screenreader features built in. If you install the Browsealoud plugin onto your PC, you can have the web pages on the Galway County Council website read to you (and other sites that are speech-enabled).
For additional information on procedures and policies to assist customers with a disability please refer to our;
- Accessible Information policy
- Alternative Format Request policy
- Disability Action Plan 2007 – 2015
Our Website www.galway.ie offers a number of accessibility features.
Post your comments
If you feel that we have overlooked an area of accessibility or you feel the accessibility features of County Hall could be further improved, please let us know. You can do this by posting a comment on our website http://www.galway.ie/Comments/ or by contacting:
 National Disability Authority (NDA) “Promoting Safe Egress and Evacuation for People with Disabilities”
EMERGENCY EGRESS QUESTIONNAIRE
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You may contact the Access Officer as below...
Áras an Chontae
Galway Councy Council
Tel: 091 509312
Please use our request form to obtain information in an alternative format.
You may use our online comments system to report Access issues or make a complaint. See http://www.galway.ie/comments/