5 ways to make properties more accessible
To make everyone feel welcome.
One billion people worldwide live with a disability, but unfortunately, accessibility is not a prerequisite in property design. Too often buildings are designed without a conscious consideration of how user-friendly they will be for someone living with a disability, which causes issues later down the line. Accessibility doesn’t have to be complicated, though, and this article is looking at five simple ways to ensure that a property is more accessible.
1. UTILIZE AN OPEN LAYOUT
Maneuvering endless corridors and tight doorways can be a real challenge for any individual who uses a wheelchair, walker, stick, or other mobility equipment. In light of this, it’s important that building layouts are kept open wherever possible.
Wide corridors with minimal obstructions (for example, decorative columns or raised floor elements) should be implemented throughout buildings, spaces should be combined to promote open-plan usage as much as possible, and doorways should be wide, with user-friendly opening mechanisms.
It’s also worth noting, that when designing a space, placing corresponding elements – for example, a fridge and a sink – within close proximity of one another will make life easier for those with disabilities. This way, the distance required to travel at any one time is minimized, accommodating all mobility levels.
2. INCLUDE LIFTS AND AUTOMATIC ENTRYWAYS
Entering and moving about a building can present huge barriers to someone with a mobility disability. However, there is an easy solution. When designing a property, ensuring that there are automatic entryways with a wide berth, and sufficient elevators, stair-lifts, or other technology to help individuals move around a building overcomes this issue instantly. It’s a good idea to have more than one or two of these features per floor, as this minimizes the risk of them being rendered unusable in the event of damage.
It’s also worth noting that installing ramps wherever possible, as opposed to steps, is a small but hugely important consideration. Ramps will be indiscernible adaptations for most, but for those that need them, it will make a world of difference to getting around.
3. CONSIDER INVISIBLE DISABILITIES
It can be easy to forget about invisible disabilities when considering accessibility, but it’s important to ensure these are considered as well. Disabilities such as visual, speech or hearing impairments, arthritic joints, chronic illnesses, and many more are often hidden from view, and their symptoms can be exacerbated by poor building design.
Ways of accommodating these hidden disabilities include integrating motion sensor lighting, implementing voice-activated features, having voice prompts for when certain boundaries are being approached, and including automatic taps and switches.
4. MAINTAIN CLEAR SIGNAGE
Neurodiverse individuals can often find ambiguous or vague everyday information difficult to process and interpret, and this lack of clarity can lead to confusion and frustration. The best way to avoid this and make sure that all individuals who come and go from a building, whether neurodivergent or not, can go about their business with minimal stressors is to ensure that all signage is as clear as possible.
Ways to achieve this include using sans serif fonts in large lettering, checking that it is obvious what direction any arrows are pointing in, placing the signs in areas that are clearly visible, and using contrasting colors for maximum visibility. The list goes on.
These are simple measures that when taken will help to ensure that neurodiverse individuals will be able to feel confident navigating a building with independence.
5. DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE TOILETS
Access to a toilet is a basic human need, and so it’s arguably the most important aspect of building design to get right when it comes to accessibility, in order to maintain the dignity of everyone who uses the building.
Allowing sufficient space to maneuver, ensuring floors are level and even, considering the heights of appliances aside from the toilet itself, such as sinks, hand dryers, toilet roll holders, rails, and more are all incredibly important considerations that will make the use of a toilet by a disabled individual significantly easier.
The above points are only a handful of suggestions to improve property accessibility, but they’re a great place to start. They’re all small, simple steps that will make the world of difference to a building, and transform a property from closed-off to inclusive in no time. Everyone deserves to go about their lives with independence, and making these small changes to a building’s design will help those with disabilities do so.
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