Where Am I?

There are two things I have to comment on: they aren’t related, but both have been on my mind for the last few months.

I don’t travel that often, and when I do it’s usually by car as I like the independence. When I fly, or go by air, I often feel disempowered, as many people with disabilities do anyway. One thing that has really bugged me is that, what with carrying hand luggage, my handbag, reading matter etc., there is also the boarding card, your security pass to certain areas.

This is a card which, besides all the other guff, has three really important things printed on it: the time of boarding, the Gate number and the seat number. The gate number and boarding time of your flight is also easily visible on the electronic signage above the boarding desk together with your flight destination. Usually, because I need glasses for reading, I request the details of the various people asking to see my pass, as I’m too lazy to fiddle with putting glasses on and off.

Now at last, on one airline, Kulula/BA, these three important reference codes are boldly printed in a larger font on the main part of the ticket and, on the smaller section retained by the passenger, the seat number is big and bold. It was such a pleasure to see how much easier it was for me, the passenger, and the airline staff too: one less question being asked by, I don’t know, how many people.
Wayfinding is such a large part of the feeling of confidence for people, and I must congratulate whoever decided on this. The boarding pass is no larger, so all the other standard technology could remain the same.

The other matter is about the interpretation of the new Amendments to the National Building Regulations. As legal people will always tell you, you can’t just look at one section of a legal document in order to understand its impact. The whole is what explains where the new Part S (which has been substituted complete) sits in relation to all of the Regulations, and is the statutory section of the National Building Regulations. There are also adjustments to nearly all sections of the Regulations. One of the most important sections is Part A, which is the Administration. It is from this section that Occupancy Categories are taken. These are mentioned in Part S, in S1 when the exemptions from compliance are spelled out, and also in S2 where the ones not exempted are to be provided. Part A has 2 new categories:
E4 - Health Care Occupancy which is a common place of long term or transient living for a number of unrelated persons consisting of a single unit on its own site who, due to varying degrees of incapacity, are provided with personal care services or are undergoing medical treatment.

H5 – Hospitality Occupancy where unrelated persons rent furnished rooms on a transient basis, within a dwelling house or domestic residence with sleeping accommodation for not more than 16 persons within a dwelling unit.
So E4 is probably a home for elderly people, and H5 is probably a B+B. Neither of these have been exempted from compliance with Part S. The E4 seems really obvious, and no owner of such a facility would want it to be inaccessible. But H5? I think the Local Authorities are going to find it difficult to come to terms with this especially as many of the properties falling under this category are in any case converted from H4 (single dwelling on a property) which are exempted. How will Town Planners tackle this? Will they insist on this compliance in addition to their additional parking requirements? How will Owners of these establishments view the Owners of properties falling under H1 (Hotel) which are allowed 25 rooms before compliance?
My approach is that with Universal Design principles it is no big deal, but subconsciously Owners still feel this as an additional requirement, instead of an added value issue. If these amendments, which also ask that all entrances be accessible, could be embraced, it would be wonderful.
Well these are things to ponder.

There are many more anomalies, as I’ve said before, like the thought that G1 – Offices are not exempted, but are being positioned on first and second floors without access for persons with mobility impairments with impunity.
As Winston Churchill said: “It’s no use saying ‘We’re doing our best.’ You’ve got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

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