At the beginning of May I was involved in a seminar/workshop at theUniversity of Western Cape, organized by the Department of Disability Law.Other speakers had been asked to discuss various legislations relating touniversal access for persons with disabilities so I decided to talk about allthe things one doesn’t have to do which enhance sustainable universalaccessibility, in other words: the un-imperatives. I hope this approachencourages an attitude of cooperation - from architects, clients and the publicin general.

Integration of environmental and social concerns into all developmentprocesses is really important. In general this has caught the imagination ofthe public and I have been envious of the successes of proponents of the greenscene in persuading everybody. It has been promoted by what is now called “thetriple bottom line”: Economic Prosperity, Environmental Quality and SocialEquity

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. There is potential for longterm maintenance of well-being and sustainability meets the needs of thepresent without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirown needs. Green development prioritises environmental sustainability. In thebuilt environment this seldom extends beyond monuments.

The picture shows the west entrance to the Tate Modern Gallery inLondon, which is a recycled building (it used to be a power station) This is inthe form of a wide sloping floor with a narrow staircase on each side, onlyabout 1.5m wide, I’m not sure of the gradient of the ramp. There are alternateelevators, in the main body of the building. I think this is really a lovelyuniversal access example which has the same grandness as St Peters, but is muchmore sustainable and inclusive.

One of the main things that Persons with Disabilities have in commonwith each other is a lack of confidence and self esteem. Not only people withdisabilities suffer from this; it’s one of the main topics in popular monthlymagazines too! Confidence and self esteem are not something which islegislated, or set out as a right, but is fundamentally important to achievefor users of all built environments.

Wayfinding inside and outside a building is extremely important to howsuccessful a development is. Landmarks are a part of how the urban setting andprecinct areas and buildings work; moving from one to the other, in order fororientation to exist. Landmarks provide strong cues - and locations - witheasily remembered identities.

Signage is usually seen as a start to this process and, in the scheme ofthings, it is usually needed. However - on its own it is not broadly useful.Maps provide a more robust representation of the spaces and are usuallysuperior to other strategies.

They also make it easy to backtrack if a mistake is made so clearindications of exits are as important as those of entry.

Whether navigating a college campus, the wilds of a forest or a websitethe basic process of wayfinding involves the same four stages: orientation;route decision; route monitoring and destination recognition. Even finding yourcar in a parking lot goes back to these: the numbering on the bays should beconsistent and consecutive. Sounds obvious, but I’ve been in quite a few wherethey are not!

The map of London’s Underground was designed in 1933 by a Mr Beck. Theactual network has been added on to, and altered, yet the same principles havebeen applied, and it has stood the test of time. Even though there is no boringgrid over this city, I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t found it easy to findtheir way around! As well asfeeling happy and confident about the place!

People with hearing loss often think they arethe only ones who are confused and put out by high reverberation areas. Peopleare often subjected to these sorts of environments, especially in recreationalbuildings, but even in boardrooms and lecture theatres. Perhaps this accountsfor the people who doze off in the Houses of Parliament! The sound is sodissipated, and the amount of attention required to keep track so debilitating,that concentration time spans are short. It isn’t against the law to design anenvironment like this, but it certainly isn’t good architecture either.

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