Monday, 22 January 2007

Is it Access you want, or Wheelchair Access?

Just back home after working on site (in my role as an access consultant).
It is always good to do site visits with clients, and even the architect joined us today. The architect was quite young and intelligent, and didn't fall into the usual mindset of thinking that, as an architect, he knew all about access and the issues involved.
However, both client and architect were falling into the usual trap of only considering wheelchair access (whilst not even thinking about emergency egress). I realise that I must use the statistic with caution, but it can be useful to point out to people, like this, that only 4% of People with Disabilities (PWD) actually own a wheelchair, and of that % only half of us need to are a wheelchair all the time. Sure, wheelchair access is often the most difficult and expensive to "fix" but all too often people forget to design to include other impairments.
I was once accused of "favouring" sight impairments by a certain (really awkward) person, who thought they knew a lot about Disability in general, & access in particular, but in reality knew very, very little - the old saying of a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing was true here, and unfortunately is often the case in the Disability sector. I was really quite annoyed, and frustrated, by that accusation (although it did cause me to step back lo look at my work to see if that were valid). To me, it showed a misunderstanding of the Access Audit process. Many people view it as a very simple exercise. Indeed, I have had self proclaimed (although untrained) "Access Auditors", who happen to be wheelchair riders, claiming that "if I can get into a building and get to all the facilities, then it must be accessible"! Complete Nonsense, but unfortunately quite common. Access Auditing is about finding and addressing facets of the building, which, due to than design, do not allow equitable use to all people. We do not focus on any one impairment; rather we are looking to 'cure' the building of problems.
Anyway good visit today, but damn hot; the can registered 42°C on the way home!


Anonymous said...

Guy,your Access post reminded me of an article I read on "Accessible Environment for All" by Brian Black.

Gloria CESSG member in SC

Guy said...


Thanks - i will certainly have a look at that article

Anonymous said...

Nice post - you are able to get your point across very well. Interesting blog!

Pierre said...

As a wheelchair rider myself, I must admit that I had thought that access really meant wheelchair access - thank you for correcting me. Could you expand some of the other issues that you mention? I would appreciate that.

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