It is almost guaranteed that at some point every Architect across the United Kingdom has despaired at them. Building regulations regarding the access to and use of buildings, otherwise known as Approved Document M are more often than not, at the least, a minor annoyance, if not a full blown architectural headache. With a continuous drive from clients and developers to minimise costs, and with space at a premium, there are a number of times that you can be left berating regulations that require universal wheelchair access. But are we missing the point? Would it be possible to change an industries attitude to disabled access?
Within an architect’s 5-years of University training, perhaps we are missing an opportunity. Surely within that time, 1 or 2 weeks could be dedicated to a practical experience designed to give the trainee architects a real appreciation of what it is like to live with a disability.
The user could be refined to a wheelchair for that time, perhaps then they would gain an understanding of why such big spaces are needed for manoeuvring in previously compact house designs. Maybe they could be blindfolded and left to explore the city around them without assistance. Or perhaps they could have their senses heightened, testing their tolerance of noise and light to see how this can have such a detrimental effect on autistic users.
This wordpress blog is not having a go at architects for sticking to the modern design standards, implementing them so the right boxes are ticked in their designs. Nor is it asking for those standards to be changed, that will probably not help matters. Instead this is a plea to architects to make a real attempt to gain an in-depth understanding of why those standards exist and how we can make small alterations to current practices, that can have a big impact on those most in need.
Are you ready to rise to that challenge?
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