Recently, we have attended an Accessibility training course conducted by COAM in collaboration with ONCE.

From all the information that we have received, we would like to highlight some conclusions.

There are 2 sentences that sum up the spirit of the course:

  • Accessibility is not only for disabled people, but for everyone.
  • Disability is the negative aspect of the interaction between people and contextual factors (environmental and personal).

We tend(ed) to associate accessibility with a physical disability, but there are more situations to take into consideration, for example, visual, hearing or cognitive impairments and even temporary reduced mobility (the elderly or people who push baby buggies).

From design, we can help to remove all these barriers and make our designs also practical for people who don´t have these difficulties.

Not only architectural design is important but also signage, technology and human and technical support. If they are included from the beginning, they can be integrated within the spatial design.

Accessibility: architecture for everyone | Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane, Australia - Conrad Gargett

Some tools to be used could be:

  • Chromatic contrast.
  • Easy reading of directional signs and informative boards by the use of pictograms (both in public transport and museums ‘exhibitions).
  • Mobile apps for orientation on the streets, residential buildings or public spaces. The latter can incorporate explanations as well.
  • Lighting/Illumination studies.
  • Physical objects like haptic plans and mock-ups (tactile or visual) or induction loops (for people who have hearing impairments).

Most of these tools belong to the Wayfinding concept: design that uses spatial information and the environment to orient people.

Accessibility also applies to the websites, not only in the appearance of the contents (appearance) but also to the information related to the level of accessibility of the buildings that have public access.

Accessibility architecture, good design

In conclusion, the architect must try to cover the SEVEN Universal design principles: equivalent, flexible, simple and intuitive, easily-perceived information, tolerance for mistakes requiring minimum physical effort and suitable dimensions for access and space purposes.

The final goal must be an unnoticed accessibility. It allows for an equitable (space) enjoyment of the space for people who need it, while for others it would be the result of a good design.

* Cover image, Narita Airport Terminal 3, Japón. / NIKKEN SEKEEI+ Ryohin Keikaku + PARTY.
* Second picture, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane, Australia – Conrad Gargett.