In the midst of a legacy paved by the most successful British sporting events ever – the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, why are we installing sports floors that are unsuitable for wheelchair athletes thus destroying the Olympic and Paralympic legacy?
Dynamik Sports Floors, suppliers and installers of sports floors, have brought to our attention that a number of new sports facilities are installing point elastic floors, a floor that is unsuitable for disabled participants.
Point elastic, also known as cushioned/comfort, sports floors are constructed by bonding a solid vinyl sheet onto a layer of foam. This comes in varying thicknesses, usually from 5mm to 12mm. This results in a floor that provides wheelchairs with a high rolling resistance therefore hindering free movement. This can be compared to a road cyclist trying to cycle through sand. The alternative and preferred option is typically an area elastic floor finished with a solid hardwood. An area elastic floor has a low rolling resistance which allows ease of travel across the surface and enhanced performance and development for disabled participants.
The recommendations of what floor is best suited for each sport are provided by Sport England and the Sports Governing Bodies. To name one governing body, England Badminton provide design guidance notes stating “The design of any new sports facility should take account of the needs of disabled people… Most court surfaces are suitable, but softer surfaces are generally unpopular with players using sports chairs because of the higher rolling resistance – a wooden floor is preferred”.
Failure to adhere to these recommendations can not only lead to a disadvantage for disabled participants but it is also a form of discrimination. As conditions are not the same for both able bodied and disabled participants then this discrimination is unlawful.
The Equality Act 2010 was introduced with the aim of eliminating discrimination against certain sectors of society. This replaced the well-known Disability Discrimination Act. We quote from the Act as follows: “The responsible body must not discriminate against a pupil in the way it provides education for the pupil; in the way it affords the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service [and] by not providing education for the pupil”. Under this part of the Act, a point elastic floor of any sort would discriminate against disabled pupils as they would not be able to benefit from a facility in the same way able bodied pupils.
The Building Regulations 2010 – Part M requires that disabled people aren’t discriminated against with regard to new buildings, including schools and sports facilities it states, “All people to have access to, and the use of, all the facilities provided within the buildings”. How can installing a floor that will make a disabled person struggle to use it for sport be making a reasonable provision for the use of the Sports Hall?
So why bring this to light now?
The Priority Schools Building Programme “PSBP” has recently commenced to provide 261 new or refurbished schools. Guidance issued by the PSBP could be interpreted as requiring the schools to install point elastic sports floor systems – this would be a disaster especially since despite carefully stating the importance of disabled access throughout the PSBP specification, a floor could be installed that is unusable by disabled people.
This not only contradicts legislative building compliance and sporting governance recommendations but it also brings to a standstill the development of disabled sports at grass roots level…
In conclusion if you know of a project that is underway and are an interested party we suggest you should try to ascertain the sports floor system that is proposed to be installed and influence a change for the better.
Dynamic Sports Flooring have produced a comprehensive report which can be downloaded HERE – Should we install point elastic floor systems.