Friday, 10 April 2015

Barrier Free Design - Why should only the able-bodied gain?

Barrier Free Design - Why should only the able-bodied gain? 

Barrier-free design is frequently thought of as a way to accommodate a few special people called the handicapped. The wheelchair symbol, used to designate public parking spaces, toilets,telephones and water fountains, tend to foster the belief that barrier-free design offers accessibility mainly to those in wheelchairs. Actually, barrier-free design benefits everyone, because it makes facilities safer and much more convenient to use.

Physical conditions that make a building or facility unsafe or confusing or that prevent physically handicapped people from using them are called Architectural barriers.

An architect's first and primary contractual responsibility related to building a construction is design. Building design requires training, experience, an aesthetic sense, and an understanding of certain basic principles. Designer’s primary design objective should be to produce buildings that serve their intended purpose. They should be efficient in their use and operation for all types of people. 

Barrier free design benefits not only the physically handicapped, but also 1) children who are physically and mentally immature, 2) pregnant women 3) Older people who may suffer progressive degeneration 4) those disabled by size-related disorders such as obesity, dwarfism, etc 

Barrier free design is mainly into 3 broad categories:

1) Safety
Several accidents in buildings can be traced to obvious causes, such as slippery floors, the lack of grab bars, or inappropriate or faulty stair railings.

2) General accessibility criteria applicable to all building.
An accessible site, building, facility, or portion thereof is one that complies with current standards and can be approached, entered and used by handicapped people.

desg23) Recommendations applicable to buildings for people with specific disabilities
Designs that remove barriers for people with one kind of disability sometimes create barriers for those with a different type of disability. Hence both environments need to be met.

Technical considerations and design provisions or measures should be taken into account in the planning of the built-up environment so that we can accommodate people with Disabilities.
We at Masters have tried to highlight some of these here.

Basic Design Considerations

To design a barrier-free path for the safety and independence of disabled people, especially the sightless.
  • Obstructions include street furniture, traffic signs, direction signs, street plans, bollards, plants, trees, shop awnings and advertising signs, etc.
  • Obstructions should be placed outside the path of travel wherever possible
  • Obstructions in the pathway should be easy to detect, and if possible, should be placed along one continuous line.
  • Protruding elements should be avoided.
  • Spaces below ramps and stairs should be blocked out completely by protective rails or raised curbs
  • Stabilizing wires and wire netting should be painted in a contrasting colour or blocked out.
  • Barriers should be identified by stripped colour markings and should be lit at night, to guide people with limited vision.
  • All types of signages should be visible, clear, simple, easy to read and understand, and properly lit at night.
  • In general, signs should not be placed behind glass because of possible reflection.
  • To provide ramps wherever stairs obstruct the free passage of pedestrians, mainly wheelchair users and people with mobility problems.
  • Ideally, the entrance to a ramp should be immediately adjacent to the stairs.
  • A protective handrail at least 0.40 m high must be placed along the full length of ramps.
  • The ramp surface should be hard and non-slip.
To provide well-dimensioned elevators, that disabled people can use conveniently.
  • The accessible elevator should serve all floors normally reached by the public.
  • The door opening should not be less than 0.80 m.
  • For ease of reach, the control panel should be mounted 0.90 m to 1.20 m from the floor 
  • Control buttons should be in an accessible location and illuminated. Their diameter should be no smaller than 20 mm.
  • The elevator should signal arrival at each floor by means of a bell and a light to alert sightless and hearing-impaired passengers simultaneously.
To provide safe and well-dimensioned staircases for the comfort of all people, especially those with mobility problems.
  • Differences in level should be illuminated or minimized as much as possible for the comfort of disabled people.
  • All steps should be uniform.
  • Circular stairs and stepped landings should be avoided
Conclusion: Let’s aim to integrate disabled people into society in order for them to take an active part in society and lead a normal life; provide a barrier-free environment for the independence, convenience and safety of all people with disabilities.

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