“Me & We” Truly-Modern Accessibility Thinking

Written by Posted On Monday, 02 December 2019 05:30

Doesn’t everyone want to get in and out of every building and room without having to think about it or face a physical struggle? PJ Wade shares Five Modern Insights on Inclusive Accessibility to make your next real estate decision—and life—easier.

“Accessibility” is still an add-on and not yet fully-integrated into every building and interior design or construction code.

Forward movement into fully-accessible, modern, inclusive communities and environments remains painstakingly slow.

Accessibility is still considered to be all about “you” or “them,” not “me & we.”

A significant part of the problem is the word “accessibility.”

“Mindless, uninterrupted enjoyment of public and private spaces for every individual, regardless of personal or physical limitations” is what “accessibility” should mean. There is no absolute definition. Ask five people what “accessible” means and you’ll get at least eight different definitions. None will be from their personal point of view unless the individual has a disability or a close friend or relative with one.

Many professionals and the public assume that this term is interchangeable with “wheelchair accessible” and is for “them” and that it has nothing to do with able-bodied individuals.

The lack of consciousness regarding accessibility for able-bodied people does not mean they aren’t faced with barriers to access and enjoyment of public and private spaces. It’s just that they can overcome obstacles and poor design with a little effort or by walk-arounds, or they avoid these non-inclusive barriers or spaces altogether.

Considered only a mild nuisance for the able-bodied, people-interrupting barriers may not be thought of or noticed at all—stairs, high thresholds, hard-to-open doors, lack of handrails, slippery-smooth marble floors, poor lighting, lack of proximity, no seating…—unless the individual has an injury, is carrying heavy items, or is sick, tired, or lazy.

In contrast, those with disabilities may not have the physical or mental strength or agility to “fight” their way over or around the same obstacles, so they are very aware of these barriers.

If you’re designing a new build, planning a home renovation, buying your next home, purchasing a recreational property, plotting a resort holiday, or setting out on a local shopping trip, don’t you want to get in and out of every building and room without having to think about it or face a physical struggle?

Here’s Five Modern Insights on Fully-Inclusive Accessibility to make Your Next Real Estate Decision—and life—easier for you and those around you:

1. It’s not “you” or “them,” but “me & we”

Why create new or modified space that is not universally accessible to everyone—that’s me and we? When planning your new space, whether you’re building or buying, consider ensuring it’s universally-accessible and barrier-free to all who will or may use the space, from toddlers to able-bodied individuals carrying packages, children, or pets to those who use mobility aids.

Why create barriers where none need exist? Old-fashioned views on accessibility meant coldly-institutional environments. Most of the design and technology barriers are carry-overs from pioneer and Victorian building standards, which were inherited from centuries-old European techniques. Why perpetuate things like door knobs instead of levers and sunken areas—that didn’t work well to begin with—instead of one-level living?
Wide-spread acceptance of open-concept environments should make integrating fully-inclusive accessibility the essential practical step forward—a foundation for ground-breaking truly modern design.
Open, one-level spaces without odd steps, obtrusive walls, and narrow halls have wide appeal. Open-minded design makes space feel more light and airy. People-friendly, barrier-free environments provide everyone the freedom that today’s “modern” is all about.

To do: If you’re using an architect, ask for a few universally-designed spaces to visit. You’ll benefit from experiencing these positive, inclusive, high-functional environments first-hand. Hopefully, your architect has designed some of them.

2. What’s “their” definition of “accessible”?

When “accessible” labels a space you’re going to buy, build, or spend time in, like a hotel suite or cruise ship, ask exactly what is meant. Too often the word concentrates on wheelchair access or the absence of it, ignoring problems for those who use walking aids like walkers or need help with stairs like parents with buggies. For instance, on cruise ships, safety handrails are usually on one side of cabin hallways to steady yourself (“one hand for the ship; one hand for yourself”). If the rail is on the right and you use your right hand for a cane, you’ll not have access to the steadying handrail as the ship rolls.

To do: Make no assumptions. When the word “accessible” is used, ask exactly what is meant. Discover exactly what is provided and what is not? For instance, pool and bathtub access often involves handrails on one side. If you don’t have use of the arm on the rail side, then a handrail on your weak side is of no use.

3. Ask users “What works?” for experienced, highly-observant feedback

Associations and government offices provide guidelines, broad concepts, and other generalities for barrier-free, universal design, or variations on accessibility. Municipal zoning bylaws may concentrate on wheelchair access.

On the other hand, people with disabilities can tell you exactly what works and what is a barrier. For instance, if your walking ability is limited, being told that what you want is “on the other side of the building” or “up a few stairs” may mean you’re shut out.

4. Not a monolith but a rich diversity

Not all people with limitations have the same disability. Nor is one accessible solution going to improve access for everyone with a disability.

As mentioned above, one-sided solutions are common and commonly also represent barriers. Design concepts and strategies that remove barriers and consider the broad spectrum of physical and mental limitations and abilities involved are necessary to give everyone access to accessibility.

5. Accessibility creates valuable inclusive environments

If only one or two aspects of accessibility are addressed, there’ll be more changes ahead as individuals using the space change. Our aging, long-lived society, dictates a lot of adaptation ahead, but will this involve forward-thinking solutions or more of the same old-fashioned thinking?

Real estate professionals increasingly take barrier-free, open-concept design into account in market-value evaluations. Those working with buyers may be given criteria for purchasing a barrier-free home.

To do: What barriers would you like to eliminate, now and into the future, in your home and community? Be a trend leader and move forward to inclusive modern living.

For more on inclusive “Me & We” modernity: PJ’s blog What’s Your Point?

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PJ Wade —       Decisions & Communities

Futurist and Achievement Strategist PJ WADE is “The Catalyst”—intent on Challenging The Best to Become Even Better. A dynamic problem solver and author of 8 books and more than 2200 published articles, PJ concentrates on the knowledge, insight, communication prowess, and special decision-making skills essential for professionals and their clients who are determined to thrive in the 21st-Century vortex of change.

PJ Wade's latest business book, What's Your Point? Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick! further proves PJ's forward-thinking expertise and her on-point ability to explain technical, even non-verbal, communication details in practical, actionable terms. Print publication: Fall 2021.

PJ: “What's Your Point?the pivotal 21st-Century business question—must be answered before you open your mouth, hit a key, tap anything or swipe. Too often 'Your Point' is not clear to you and communication remains an expensive illusion.”

As The Catalyst, PJ concentrates on enhancing communication ROI for experienced advisors, executives, entrepreneurs, business owners, and other savvy professionals, who may not have received as much formal training in communication as they have in their own field.

PJ’s on-point professional development programs and featured presentations kickstart innovation and catalyze action. What's Your Point? programs, presentations, and content present the rich combination of practical suggestions, game-changing concepts, and on-point perspectives essential to those rising to the challenge as effective business communicators—online & off.

Onward & Upward—The directions that really matter! Reach PJ at pjwade@TheCatalyst.com and visit her What's Your Point? Blog. Keep up-to-date with PJ's popular column  Decisions & Communities


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