Architectural and Design Considerations in Mental and Physical Disability
Architectures and designers occasionally tend to forget that some users will use their designs and are mentally and physically challenged. The architectures and designers are maybe assuming the mentally and physically challenged existence because they occupy a minority portion of the human population. Therefore, this means they can easily be forgotten when it comes to making plans. Conversely, in my viewpoint, when designs are being drawn or architectural plans being put in place, they should always put into consideration those that are mentally and physically challenged since they can as well be users of the designs when they are erected. Designers should also design innovations that are friendly to the disabled.
According to Imrie Rob, designers tend to forget about the needs of the challenged people when they do the planning. Imrie reveals what people know and say about the disabled and the frequency of designs in offices that support the disabled (Imrie 201). However, to make sure that they are remembered, architects and designers should be well educated on matters that concern the well-being of the disabled by creating awareness among themselves. The architectures and designers should be able to empathize with their conditions and consider them when drawing and coming up with structures for the erection of houses, offices, and public malls and places. Designers have to make their innovations friendly to persons with disabilities. However, many people tend to be less attentive when it comes to considerations that can help the physically and mentally challenged individuals to access places such as malls, offices, public spaces, and homes. Designers and architects need to acknowledge the mentally and physically challenged when they bring up innovations and come up with designs for new structures. And, it can also be done by considering the following:
Ostensibly, the consideration of the sensory organs is crucial for people with mental disabilities. The designers occasionally are doing the design of an office or a house; they need to put in mind the individuals that are mentally disabled. The sensory organ that they need to be more careful with is the eye. Visual sensory is the essential sensory in a mentally challenged individual. Therefore, the design is not supposed to be overdone or underdone. It needs to be neutral in the sense that it is not too bright or too dull. When the color of a room is too bright, it will distract a person that is mentally ill, and when it is too flat, it can be tedious. There needs to be different patterns and textures in the space. In an office setting, the employer needs to make sure that the employees are comfortable by putting their needs at the forefront (WTBLOG225). In case it is their houses, then the same should be done, placement of different patterns and textures.
The sunlight and lighting must always be dealt with attentively. Individuals that are coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) need the sunlight to help them feel at ease. The places that they live in or work should be able to be designed in such a way that they make perfect use of the natural light. In case there is no natural light due to the weather changes, then LED lighting should be enabled. The furniture arrangement in the houses and offices should be arranged in a way that they accurately make use of lighting (WTBLOG225). In case it is in the place, the flexibility of being able to control the lighting in the home should be considered. The control buttons should be within access to dim lights when needed or to open up curtains for the entry of more light during the day.
Placing Greeneries in Homes and Offices
The design of the offices and the houses should include some green elements. There should be flowers in the interior space since greenery has been proven to increase the performance of an individual with a mental illness. The availability of more greenness in the area helps to keep the psychological state of an individual at peace. Nevertheless, it means that if it is in an office, the individuals will be more productive because of the state of relaxation mode. In a house set up, the mentally challenged individual will be at ease since they will be comfortable.
Considerations of Good Air Quality and Supply in Buildings
The design of the house or office should be in such a manner that there are enough air conditioning units that are fixed in the spaces. The quality of the hair supply helps not only the mentally challenged but also the well-being of any individual. Most of the mentally challenged people cannot stand places that are stuffy in the slightest ways. The architects need to make sure that there is a link between the outside environment and the inside by making sure that there are exterior staircases that can connect the individuals to the external environment in an easy way. This means that the staircases can be on every single floor so that they do not have to go far away from the office just to have some fresh air. They can also put balconies that can be helpful in case one wants to catch some air without leaving the office.
Acoustic and Density Considerations
When designing a workplace, public place, or even a home, the architect needs to put into consideration the estimated number of people that will be able to access the place. The place should not be too small when the number of people who might see the need to access it is high. Employees should also make sure that they employ professional designers who will design their offices to accommodate the mentally challenged individuals and the mental health of the employees at large. When the place is densely populated, there will be a higher chance of employees, especially those who have an anxiety disorder, to get overwhelmed and decrease their production rate. The designers also need to make sure that the acoustic system in the building is one that does not distract other individuals. Individuals that have a mental disability are very likely to be affected by noise. The workspace should be designed in such a manner that there are enclosed rooms that can help reduce the noise created by people’s conversations (WTBLOG225). In a home set up, the architect can make use of soundproof walls to prevent noise from outside from accessing the house and becoming a distraction. As much as the problem of sound cannot be easily controlled, it can still be reduced.
Designs for Consideration of Autistic People
Autism is a mental challenge that is sometimes usually forgotten when it comes to designing. These are individuals that have a specific routine that they follow every day, and they have extreme sensitivities when it comes to sound and light. When there is a case of an autistic individual, the architects have to come up with solutions such as the creation of paths that are clear, the clear identification of different places by maybe use of different colors for different objects because people with autism lack abstract thinking and they will have a hard time telling one object from the other if they are of the same color. The exact paths are advisable so that the autistic people can be spatially guided (Pomana). These designs are usually applicable in hospitals, schools for the mentally challenged, and homes where there are autistic people.
Ramps or Concrete Slabs for Easy Access
Placement of ramps instead of stairs goes a long way into helping the physically disabled people. A person that uses a wheelchair or any source of support cannot use the staircase to access a building. Architects who design public spaces need to consider the disabled who might want to access the area. When planning, they need to make sure that there is the option of a ramp to access the floors that are higher or even when accessing the building itself from the entrance (Stevens). These individuals usually feel good when they support themselves and are not seen as a burden to others. A ramp can either be built with concrete or wood. If the wood is used, then the architect needs to make sure that the quality is long-lasting, and it should be treated from time to time to avoid decay in the future. When painted, the most appropriate paint to be used is the skid-resistant type. To prevent the wheelchair from accidentally rolling over from the ramp because of the slippery nature of the ramp, the finishing of a concrete ramp should be slightly rough or have a brushed finishing. Since inside ramps take up a lot of space, the maximization of outside ramps is advised in buildings.
The Availability of Restrooms Meant for the Disabled
Toilets that are more assisted should be included by architects when they are designing a building. Anyone can access any public building, and it is only logical that toilets that can accommodate them to be built for their convenience. The restrooms should be designed in such a way that the taps are a bit lower to maximize access. The space inside the rooms must be sufficient for ease of mobility. The mirrors should also be placed a bit more down to the ground, and the sizes of the toilet should be wide so that those using wheelchairs can use them.
Placement of Handrails in Key Areas
There are those individuals that are challenged in a way that they cannot control themselves when walking because of poor balance and low mobility. Those that cannot walk for a long distance without the need to hold on to something lest they fall. To help such individuals, designers and architects need to make sure that there are handrails in the buildings so that they can easily find something to hold on to (Mercer). When in public places, the physically challenged will feel a sense of independence when they can hold on to something for their balance instead of holding onto someone because sometimes, they may feel like they are a burden. In homes, these handrails will help the individuals to support themselves in case the caregiver is not around, or they don’t see the need to alert their caregiver for help.
Consideration of Easily Wide Doorways
Architects, when designing houses and buildings, need to make sure that the openings are wide enough for ease of entrance by people who are disabled. For example, the doorways should be at least 3 feet wide to be able to accommodate the passage of different sizes of wheelchairs and the other equipment that people with disability use. In case leaving such a wide opening seems like too much, then the use of pocket doors should be applied. If it is a home, the architect should consult the owners of the house to know which option they prefer to go by about. Pocket doors are those that can recess into the wall and provide more passage areas and can be retrieved back from the wall to close up the area (Stevens H). In cases where the place is a public one, the doorways should be as wide as possible because of the traffic that might be present due to many people looking to access the building. The use of wide openings will reduce the jam while allowing the physically challenged people also to have ease while accessing the facilities. Wide openings can also be helpful to individuals that have a disability with their eyes. They will be able to access the door quickly, and the chances of going head-on with the door will be very minimal.
Since the use of ramps inside the building is not advisable, they eat up too much space, the use of elevators can be maximized. Architects can consider to include elevators in building structures to make mobility simple and easy. Consider an individual who is physically challenged and wants to access the second, third, or fourth floor, and so on, there is no way they will easily access those floors without the help of an elevator. When constructing the lifts, the control panels should be kept as low as possible because some physically challenged people might be using wheelchairs hence cannot reach top places. The advisable height should be 0.90m to 1.20m above the floor and the diameter no smaller than 20mm so that they can be easily seen by those with challenges with the eyes (Platform Disability and Development Cooperation).
Consideration of Wide Corridors
Architects need to consider the width of corridors when they are designing. For instance, narrow and long corridors pose a difficulty when it comes to mobility more so when one is using a wheelchair. The goal that an architect should put in mind when designing is a well dimensional corridor than can enhance ease when it comes to moving around from one place of the building to the next. Also, designers should make sure that the obstacles that are sometimes placed in the corridors should be placed outside of the circulation path. These obstacles are things like public telephones, and fountains, etc. a point to note is that for two wheelchairs to pass each other with ease, the minimum width of the corridor should be 1.50m. However, this means that the aisles that are narrower than 1.50m will not facilitate for two wheelchairs side and by the side, and this means that one individual in a wheelchair will have to wait for the other one to pass before they can pass.
Architects need to design pathways that have a defined different path with different materials including different texture of tiles. Conversely, this will help the individuals with the disability of vision so that when they walk, they can feel the different surface of the floor and know that they are on the right track. If it is the case of a house, the designer should make sure that the furniture in the home is not arranged in such a manner that a person who is visually impaired can collide with them from time to time. There should be the inclusion of space so that they can quickly move from one place in the house to the other with ease.
In conclusion, individuals with mental and physical disorders are sometimes usually assumed when it comes to designing and architecture work. Architects and designers always need to look at the possibilities at hand. They need to do a background check and know what exactly they can do to make the lives of people with disabilities less strenuous because they already are suffering. We can all try to make them feel loved even though obstacles such as noise are hard to erase. Architects and designers play a huge role in the enhancement of a comfortable lifestyle for people with mental and physical disabilities. All they need to do is to remember to put them into consideration.
Imrie, Rob. “Responding to the Design Needs of Disabled People.” Journal of Urban Design (2000): 199-219. Document.
Mercer, Kelly. 101 Mobility. 1 April 2019. Document. 5 May 2020.
Platform Disability and Development Cooperation. “Accessibility for the Disabled.” A Design Manual for a Barrier-free Environment. n.d. Document.
Pomana, Andrei. Architecture for Autism. Improving Designs for Autistic Integration. March 2015. Document. 5 May 2020.
Stevens H, John. “A Barrier Free Home: Considerations and Recommendations for Design.” Information Support Packet. Washington DC, October 1996. Document.
WTBLOG225. Weber Thompson. 21 June 2018. Document. 5 May 2020.