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The gift of life is the greatest gift of all. No matter what our challenges are, we will always find a way to overcome them and reinvent ourselves in even the toughest of situations.
As empathetic human beings, blessed with the highest order of intelligence, we have come an unbelievably long way in the field of modern science and technology.
Modern architecture has not only given us with limitless opportunities, but it has also simplified life even for the differently abled amongst us. And, the good news is that it only gets better from here.
Modern architecture has brought revolutionary changes in the field of accessibility for the differently abled and is continuously being upgraded with each passing day for opening up new vistas for the purpose.
In this article, we’re going to look at some commendable achievements in the domain of accessibility for the disabled and discuss the contributions of modern architecture for the same.
Inclusive Architectural Designs
The main purpose of inclusive architecture is to create an environment which could provide easy accessibility to every section of the society, including as many people as it could, rather than being restricted to only one section of it. It should cater to the needs of everybody without the requirement for specific modes of adaptation or specialized design.
There have been several architectural projects worldwide that were taken up, designed and completed successfully for the differently abled people. The United Nations Convention to the Rights of persons with Disability foregrounds the rules that aim to protect, promote and ensure equal rights and respect for them.
The efforts and achievements of modern architecture is reflected in the following spheres of society.
Public Transport and Commuting
In the last few decades, immense changes have been made in every aspect of public spaces, prioritizing accessibility for the disabled, such as in the field of public transport and commuting.
Architects have brought about large-scale development and upgradation in countries like Helsinki and Finland. The existing tram systems in these countries have been upgraded to provide short ramps at the stops which on equal levels with the lower floors of the vehicle.
Countries like Beijing, China, and New Delhi in India have simplified commutation for the disabled by introducing a higher number of buses with low floors.
Public spaces are being constantly upgraded such as sidewalks of the cities, pedestrian bridges, crosswalks and alleys that are being modified to be more adaptive to the use of wheelchairs and other such supportive equipment. The barriers in these spaces which might have hindered such movement were identified and eliminated.
The desired criteria for general accessibility were established for parking lots and public telephone booths.
It is a hard fact that many of the existing buildings everywhere are not quite accessible for people with disabilities of any age group. But, renovations and reconstruction projects, especially in the post-eight-years war era have come up with revolutionary ideas for redesigning such spaces, prioritizing the factor of accessibility for differently abled people.
The absence of proper accessibility design can lead to the deprivation of this section of the community that could cause social disharmony.
Public buildings are segregated into the following sub-categories according to their types and the purpose they serve. These are:
- Commercial Buildings
- Administrative complexes
- Cultural centers
- Service complexes
- Transportation buildings
- Industrial buildings
- Recreational buildings
The projects that are always in action regarding these are enterprises that deal with the modification of certain vital and critical elements such as corridors, entrances, elevators, stairs, openings, ramps, drinking fountains, toilets, and signs. These are some of the essential features of public buildings that are significantly being revised in countries like England and Canada.
This is one of the most important sectors of the society that comes under public establishments. Educational buildings require not only effective planning and designing but also a considerable degree of empathetic and understanding mindset behind the approach. This is because such projects involve people of a certain age group and mindset. These deal with students’ developmental years.
The statistics and material required in designing educational facilities are generally studied independently due to the difference between the anthropometric data of adults and children. Such has also been conducted in Tehran, and it was so noticed that the standing height of children with disabilities was lesser than those without disabilities. This was taken as an essential basis for re-patterning school buildings.
The objectives regarding redesigning that are being efficiently considered are the elimination of barriers in accessibility to schools and other educational facilities such as at schoolyards, main entrances, openings, corridors, stairs, ramps, class furniture, wall finishings, floor coverings and sanitary spaces.
The only other space that is considered to be most important apart from educational premises is that of residential areas.
Numerous researches and statistical analysis that have been made in this sphere were taken as essential bases for establishing design foundations for residential units all over the world.
The main aim and primary objective have always been to create an environment that ensures individual independence and privacy in every aspect for differently abled people at home, which enables them to live peacefully with other family members.
The problems that are generally noticed in this sphere are improper help and support system that often comes with the dependency on another individual which could even pose a potential risk on other members too. Or, it could be related to improper provisions that create more barriers than solving the problem.
Keeping such factors in mind, the projects that have been undertaken are related to the modification of places and amenities like entrances, doors, windows, corridors, lifts, ramps, bathrooms and lavatories, handrails, stores, kitchens, balconies, living rooms and bedrooms, yards and garages.
Since the difficulty of such spaces for differently abled people is mainly the ways of adaptation, it has been taken as the primary concern and base for redesigning residential spaces.
One of the fundamental and indispensably vital space for all and especially for people with disability is the washroom which includes lavatories and bath spaces. Modern architecture has considerably revolutionized the way a traditional washroom function and has brought about innovative design regarding washroom space and fixtures for accessibility of all.
Although the task of searching for an accessible bathroom may seem challenging, there are numerous ways of finding the suitable one. Nowadays modern architectural design has made a wide range of washroom facilities available that are specially designed for people with disabilities. These help to eliminate effort and time crunch, ensuring complete privacy and freedom for the differently abled.
Some of the washroom facilities that you can easily avail have been discussed in the following categories.
- The Walk-In Bath
The one vital aspect that you need to be thought about while planning for an accessible bathroom is the levels of mobility for the people that are going to use it. A walk-in bath is a good option for someone who finds it difficult to stand for long periods of time.
It is also important to consider the kind of changes that will be required with the passage of time for aging individuals.
Various sanitation ware models come equipped with lifters for people who face a problem lifting themselves up onto the seat or into the bath. Everything from leg-lifters to lifters that help to raise the whole body and lower into the bath is available out there, thanks to superior engineering.
This eliminates any form of struggle or difficulty in movement and ensures absolute individual independence and privacy.
But, if a bath-lift is not what you’re looking for, then compact walk-in baths with low-level access doors and slip resistant surfaces should be a suitable choice for you. These are upright spaces with taller seats that can comfortably accommodate anyone without them having to put in much effort.
Walk-in showers are suitable for people with lower body and leg conditions that may require them to stretch out while having a relaxing bath. Walk-in showers can offer foldable or integrated seating structures that can really solve mobility issues.
These can additionally provide spacious arrangements that allows anyone to stretch out in their seats while having the shower or in matters where assistance is required in the washroom.
Click here to know more about highly accessible bathrooms and how they’re changing our perception.
At times there may be problems with washroom spaces for someone requiring to sit in a wheelchair while taking a bath or even needing careful assistance during showers.
In such cases, getting a wet-room should be an appropriate option that allows large spaces for locomotive purposes. This offers space-maximization providing the required levels of access. Usually, the accessibility in wet-rooms is at level with the floor which solves the problem of mobility.
You free to select a suitable door to these wet-rooms or even choose to not have one for gaining direct accessibility to the shower.
What should be kept in mind while designing accessible spaces?
The Universal Design requires specific factors to be kept in mind while charting a plan for accessibility.
- There should be enough floor space and room to accommodate a stationary wheelchair and for an easy U-turn. [at least 1965 mm (78 inches) by 1525 mm (60 inches)]
- Tables and counters or varying heights should be provided for standing and seating provisions and also for a variety of different tasks.
- Specialised shelves and medicine cabinets should be provided for people seated in wheelchairs.
- The entry door to rooms should at least measure 815 mm (32 inches) in width.
- Mounted bathroom sinks should not be higher than 865 mm (34 inches) from the floor.
- Grab bars should be installed in the washrooms and toilets.
- Make sure that the floor is even without any lumpy or uneven surfaces that could pose a risk or tripping or slipping on it.
- Rooms for people with auditory or speaking disabilities should be designed in a way that allows them to complete tasks while facing the center of the room.
- Full length mirrors should be installed for easy viewing by everyone and for all age groups.
Additionally, the requirements for planning accessible public spaces have set optimal the design criteria for all urban public areas including sidewalks, pedestrian overpasses, crosswalks, parking and urban facilities. And also for entrances, stairs, elevators, openings, toilets, ramps, signposting and corridors.
Not everybody has the same challenges, and struggles and lifestyles vary significantly. But, with the advancement of technology, we have been able to be more understanding and compassionate to each other’s needs.
Modern architecture has not only revolutionized accessibility for differently abled people but, it has also made the world a significantly close-knit community that is constantly developing ways to make lives easier and happier for one another.