Why Is Accessible Design Good for Everyone? | ARTiculations


Have you ever encounter a situation like this,
your hands are full of grocery bags. You get to a door. You realize, there’s no way you can open
that door knob without putting the stuff down? In that case – it’s possible you’ve encountered
a round door knob. For many people – encountering a door without
an easily operable lever is usually just a minor inconvenience. But for people with manual dexterity limitations,
hand injuries, and other related disabilities a round door knob may prevent them them
being able to go through that door. If that door had a lever style handle, it
could be operable with a closed fist, or even an elbow – making it much more accessible
to people with or without disabilities. Similarly – even though power door operators
are often designed for people with disabilities the reality is that they make going through
a door easier for all kinds of people – including people using wheelchairs, crutches and walkers,
people carrying handful of shopping bags, parents with strollers, and delivery people
carrying boxes or pushing trolleys. I’m an interior designer and I often think
about how everyday environments could be improved with good design. From overall circulation flows throughout
spaces to details like door hardware. And a part of good design is having the awareness
and consideration for people of different abilities. While many accessible design components may
have initially been designed with disabilities in mind – the vast majority of accessible
improvements to products, fixtures and environments actually end up providing better access for
everyone. Automatic toilet flushes, faucets and soap
dispensers are easier to use for people who cannot reach or cannot operate levers, buttons
and valves, but it also makes using a washroom more sanitary and more convenient for most
people. Visually contrasting flooring transitions,
tactile warning strips, and cane detectable barriers help many people, whether they have
a visual impairment or not, to see and detect oncoming hazards more easily. Over the last few decades, some designers
have also adopted the principles of “universal design” – which is a design approach that
considers many different human factors, including abilities, age, genders and cultural backgrounds. Universal design reframes the approach to
how we think about people with disabilities where their needs are not seen as “special
circumstances” but a part many different human factors that require consideration. For instance – drinking fountains, lavatories,
and service counters with high and low surfaces, or desks and tables where the heights are
adjustable, are not only designed for the use of wheelchair users, but also for children,
older adults, people of different heights, and people with different usage preferences. Simple, easily navigable wayfinding with visual
and tactile signage help people with visual and auditory impairments, but can also improve
the experience of people who speak different languages, and people with cognitive disabilities. Universal toilet rooms can accommodate not
only wheelchair users, but also individuals travelling with caregivers of the same or
opposite gender, families with children, as well as people who prefer to use non-gendered
washrooms. Often, the concept of “providing accommodations
to disabled people” is misunderstood as “making disabled people dependant on society
to help them.” When in fact – accommodating disabilities
is pretty much the opposite of that. While some disabled people do require caretakers
or guide animals to help them with their day to day life, the goal of accessible design
is actually to provide independence for people with disabilities. If we provide ways for people to independently
open doors, go up levels, use the toilet, get around safely, obtain services, and find
information basically go about their day to day life like most other people. Then technically, they’re not disabled anymore. It’s important to realize that traditionally we have built our environments to exclude certain people. Disabilities are not inherently possessed
by the individual they’re shaped by the barriers we have put up. While it’s obviously not practical to immediately
rebuild everything, there are still things we can do and steps we can take to remove
these barriers. Some may argue that designing and building
accessible products and environment can be costly. While that may be true in some circumstances,
when it comes to building new spaces and creating new products – there is often not a cost difference
to implementing accessible features. Choosing a more visually contrasting colour
at a change in floor level usually costs nothing as long as the product is the same. And installing one type of door lever over
another will result in minimal price differences, if any. But of course – there are still costs to some
accessible features, and the retrofitting of existing non-accessible spaces could have
a high initial cost. However – in many cases – it is arguably more
economically detrimental to ignore accessibility. According to the World Health Organization,
around 15% of the world’s population live with disabilities, a percentage that’s expected
to rise in most developed nations due to the increase in the older adult populations. Communities and businesses all benefit from
the participation of people with disabilities as consumers as well as being productive
members of the workforce. Even in private homes, inaccessible design
will also directly and indirectly cost individuals money – such in the loss of productivity,
as well as in the cost of caretakers or people taking time off work to care for disabled
family members. By building spaces that accommodate people
with disabilities, we can provide them with economic empowerment and independence, and
in most cases, we will also improve the quality of life for just about everybody. If you look at it this way, accessible design
may just be one of the most morally and fiscally responsible things we can do. So what do you think? What are some design improvements that you
think would benefit accessibility and usability in your life – whether it’s at home, work,
school or a public space? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for watching, this video is a part
a series where I discuss the various aspects of the interior design profession. If you are interested, here are some more
videos to check out and please subscribe for more. Until next time!

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