Imagine you were restricted to a wheel chair, or needed the assistance of every passer by to accomplish mundane tasks like getting in an elevator, finding a bathroom or even entering a mall. How would one feel if they were to fall at the mercy of a total stranger’s help? I for one would feel like a ghost. The truth is (and please pardon me for seeming crude or presumptuous) but there are countless members of society who feel that very way. I wouldn’t blame them for feeling that, because the truth is, we have grossly neglected our disabled brothers’ and sisters’ needs in the public.
Have the rights of a few been drowned out by the noise and demands of the masses? “But every mall has a ramp, and every toilet a special disabled cubicle!” says a person in front of a modern Saudi mall. If that is our idea of providing for disabled citizens, then one gets a grasp on the size of the problem. We as a collective society have allowed this gross neglect to fester. Sorry for the guilt trip, but you wouldn’t feel guilty if you thought there wasn’t a problem.
Yes, criticism is easy. But then again, solutions are no longer inaccessible. We find ourselves in the year 2012, where most cell phones are smart, most 6 year olds are tech literate, and what ever happened to common sense? That mythical tool that we once weighed so dearly.
So, now that the problem is clear, let’s forage for solutions. www.shellclub.com sheds some light on why buildings and structures should (as they state) adhere to accessible design. The entire purpose of accessible design is give everyone, whether able bodied or not, safety and autonomy.
The interior of any structure is purposed for comfort and convenience. It is where we seek shelter from the elements, and where we do most of our work, shopping, resting and seek to fulfill some of our other needs. But merely putting a ramp on the entrance of a mall is not the answer. What of the needs of the blind or the needs of those with hearing impairments? In light of these questions, here are some things to keep in mind when designing a scheme that is thoughtfully all-inclusive:
• All doorways, passages, elevators, escalators and seating areas adhere to gracious allowances of space to accommodate wheel chairs, strollers and walkers. • Braille engraved on all entrances, exits, spatial guides, facilities and floors.
• Easy-to-grab railings where possible, to aid in autonomous movement.
• Identify all hazards and barriers and creatively deal with those problems.
• Easily accessible control switches and knobs for easy use.
• Providing signs that are both visually prevalent and also accommodate the blind.
• Messages not only announced via mass announcements, but also displayed clearly on screens and signs.
• The availability of telephones with voice dialing capabilities.
• Providing more handicap parking spots.
• Allow larger dimensions for the entrances to buildings.
• Providing proper ramps at those entrances and facilities.
• Providing guiding lines on the pavements, intersections and facilities of the city. • Facilitate specialized public transport solutions like wheel chair friendly buses and taxis.
• Provide special signs and notification methods for the vision and hearing impaired.
There is a great need for improvement when it comes to designing environments which are easily accessible to all. As is the case in cities like Tokyo, Japan (which has a tremendous appetite for innovation and an ethos of order). The streets, boulevards, pavements and crossing intersections of Tokyo are all fitted with directional Braille-like patterns to help those with impaired vision navigate the city.
Recently, there have been seriously prevalent efforts in the improvement of building codes, like in Saudi Arabia for example. But, why can’t we aspire to be better and better still. It is part of our civil duty to give our best efforts to all our endeavour’s. However, this endeavour’s particular importance transcends all members of society. It serves a community directly.
The precedents have been set in cities all over the world. Gone are the days where facilitating for was an option. Especially when it’s the only conscionable option for a complex society.