People with disabilities(PwDs) are an important part of the society. And now that they are getting equal opportunities as the abled, it is necessary to take their needs and necessities into account while designing. As architects, barrier free design is not the only option, very few spaces are designed which cater to the needs of deaf and blind peoples. Fews parameters are needed to be considered while designing the spaces.
For physically impaired users, provisions of ramps and wide corridor spaces become a necessity. While designing the interior spaces such as corridors, circulation spaces within the project, the turning radius of the wheelchair has to be considered. While designing the interior of these spaces, the furniture should be kept as close to the walls as possible in order to provide free movement within the spaces. Grab bars are the most important provision. These bars help them lift themselves up from the wheelchair and allow them to sit/lay down over the bed, at times even help them walk. A toilet specifically designed for PwDs, should be designed for their ease and comfort.
When designing for physically impaired, day centre and housing for disabled is an example for understanding accessibility to different levels needs to be resolved at its best. Elevators and lifts are an option, but in case of power cuts or break downs, ramps become an important medium of commute. Ramps for wheelchair users and ramps for walking have a different ratio, both should be catered to. Along with free movement, the heights of kitchen platforms, fixed furniture also change according to the accessibility of the wheelchair. Parking facilities for special vehicles should be provided closer to the entrance or elevators of the building.
For users with visual impairments, the sensory organs play an important role. These organs are the guides to move around in a project. While designing these spaces, water, plants and materials become the guiding element. Center for blind and visually impaired by Taller de Arquitectura, is the perfect example. The architect has here used the sensory organs like sound, touch and smell as a key element while designing the project.
A water channel has been designed that guides the users across the spaces, acting as a circulation element. The flow of the water and the sound it makes is followed by the users and then the sense of smell comes in play. Each and every function has a dedicated plant placed outside the space. These plants secrete smell and this smells guides and indicates where to stop and where not to. Even the textures of the surfaces change and indicate the change of a function. The textures are at hand levels which can be conveniently experienced by the users. The compound wall has a stone and rocky texture whereas the inside of the project has a brick texture which is coarse, such textures are also guiding the users.
MAC house by So & So Architects, is a house for a blind women. Here in this project circulation is resolved at its best, to avoid getting hurt. Glyphic language is applied in the flooring, with texture, which leads the users in a movement. This gives the users an idea of which and what space it is and which direction to take. This house also has textured walls which also supports the user by guiding them towards openings and other spaces.
While designing spaces for deaf and mute, a good quality of diffused light is necessary. The spaces should be designed such that they allow the user to gather and communicate with sign language. Mirrors are installed in order to reflect light as much as possible. People with partial deafness may use hearing aids, in such spaces ample amount of space should be provided, to avoid vibrations and background noise. These noises and vibrations cause distractions in their communication and concentration. A spatial orientation of spaces is necessary for them to read the sign language and emotions and expressions while in between the conversation.
Spaces for intellectually impaired, need to have a sensitive environment, to keep them at ease and calm. It is important to have calm interior colors which give them peace and not instigate them and lose control. A prototype should be followed in the design, which runs across the entire project, which helps the users in remembering the sequence of spaces. Deyang deaf and intellectual disability school in china is designed based on a prototype following courtyard-atrium-rooms relationship. Such a user always needs a connection with the outside, a constant connection between the interior and exterior is established by the openings at different levels. The planning of the spaces should be with minimal circulation and placed as closed as possible, the simplicity in arranging the spaces help the user and make the circulation easier for them. These users need constant care and attention and hence the transparency in the spaces becomes a priority for the users.