“A daily life with a barrier”- Author

At 5:30 a.m. on a morning, the author got up and went outside for a hike. This was able to calm his soul by ’walking’ at a pace, ’looking’ at the beautiful sky, and ’listening’ to birds’ chirpings, but everything became worth remembering within 300 meters. In the first 200-meters, he experienced a visually impaired person resting at a “worthless” bus stop, and in the remaining distance, an old man passing a “worthless” zebra crossing. But why does it feel “worthless”? The answer is simple: Barriers. Barriers, whether through a 3m high bus stop or through the barricade on the zebra-crossing, felt inaccessible to the society. “A daily life with a barrier” is difficult for someone somewhere who ’cannot walk’ at a pace, who ’cannot look’ at the beautiful sky, and who ’cannot listen’ to the birds’ chirpings.

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Visually impaired man sleeping at an inaccessible bus-stop_©Author (Anmol Billa)
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A barrier to cross the road_©Author (Anmol Billa)

A barrier for whom? A barrier-free for whom

“1 out of 7 people are specially-abled in the World”, states NPR. It proves the barrier is not for single, double, or triple digits, but about 1 billion population worldwide, and the easy route for us (remaining population) from home to office is quite arduous for others. But who are these people? Who can’t walk, Who can’t see, Who can’t hear, or Who can’t even do anything? The reply lies below.

1. Visually impaired people

Suffer from a severe vision reduction that cannot be corrected by conventional means, like refractive correction or medication. The visually-impaired people (VIP) suffer majorly at some or all tasks while being in the physical, symbolic, or social world.

In the physical world, the VIP cannot move freely and comfortably, leading to social isolation, unemployment, and psychological mal-adjustment.

In a symbolic world, the portrayal of language and the exchange of ideas and information via symbols, written word, and pictures are of no use for the VIP.

In the social world, the communication and interaction between VIP and the social environment get compromised by the range of substantial obstacles to conventional forms of reading and writing. Loss of interaction even continues due to blindness stereotypes and taboos, negative expectations and perceptions, and lower standards.

2. Hearing-impaired people

Suffer by not detecting partial or higher frequencies of sound, which typically can be heard by most people. It even continues to have low communication at social engagements, feeling of loneliness, anger, low self-worth, hopelessness, frustration, and even depression.

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Hearing impaired people – Barely able to listen_©Healthline

3. Locomotor-impaired people

Suffer from the limitation of physical function of limbs, fine bones, or gross motor ability. Specific categories are wheelchair and white-cane users. Dependency on family for economical and emotional support, inconveniences with cumbersome activities like traveling on public transport, climbing stairs, or even using household activities make them insecure everywhere.

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Wheelchair users have to stop_©University of Buffalo

4. Speech-impaired people

Suffering from communication due to inability in producing the necessary speech sounds.

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Speech impaired people- Cannot speak_©CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat

5. Intellectually disabled and ill people

Suffer from psychological patterns such as autism, multiple disabilities, dyslexia, etc. The patterns that might seem normal to the remaining are very difficult to understand because they act as a barrier to their involvement in daily activities.

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Intellectually disabled lifestyle_©Ruderman Family Foundation

6. Specific people

Suffer according to age or situation, such as children, pregnant women, and senior citizens. The unavailability of basic services everywhere like ramps, handrails, sitting at intervals, lifts, escalators, and specific reserved areas for people makes life worse.

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Old age people suffer through barriers_©The Wire

Facts speak the truth! 

The three places studied and analyzed by the author are India Gate and Connaught Place in India and Washington D.C. in the USA. The inaccessibility of transitional and recreational areas in the major parts of the country states the truth.

India Gate (Delhi, India)

The place is not only in Central Delhi but has a daily footfall of 70,000-80,000 people. If we talk about the transitional areas, the areas are 64.2% inaccessible for the specially-abled, and in the recreational areas, the percentage increased to 92.5%. If these will be the stats for the epicenter of a developed state, then what about others?

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Inaccessible transit areas of India Gate_©Author (Anmol Billa)
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Inaccessible recreational areas of India Gate, Delhi_©Author (Anmol Billa)

Connaught Place (Delhi, India)

The commercial zone of central Delhi has a daily footfall of 4,00,000-5,00,000 people. 44.1% of inaccessibility was in transitional areas, and 60.4% was in recreational areas. If these will be the stats of the commercial hub of a developed state, then what about others?

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Inaccessible transit areas of Connaught Place, Delhi_©Author (Anmol Billa)
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Inaccessible recreational areas of Connaught Place, Delhi_©Author (Anmol Billa)

Washington D.C. (USA)

The area known for the seat of the US federal government has a daily footfall of 7,00,000-8,00,000 people. The inaccessibility in transitional and recreational areas is 22.1% and 34.5% respectively. If these will be the stats at D.C., then what about others?

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Signages at transit areas of Washington D.C., USA_©Derby Telegraph
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Proper divisions at recreational areas of Washington D.C., USA_©Derby Telegraph

We fail in anthropometrics, universal design elements, level change, signages, toilet facilities, alighting and boarding areas, and transport and road planning that helps the community. It’s even proven that a barrier-free environment is not only about accessibility but a necessity likewise.

“Some things have changed, some things need to be changed”,– A visually impaired person to the author, according to realities faced by them today.

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A visually impaired thinking sufferings of day to day life_©Author (Anmol Billa)
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Stop! There is a barrier ahead_©Author (Anmol Billa)
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Move, it is a barrier-free area_©Author (Anmol Billa)

A barrier to a barrier-free environment! 

Eight areas for a barrier-free environment within the urban fabric are as follows.

  • The seven principles of Universal Design
  • Equitable use: The design is advantageous to all groups of users.
  • Flexibility in use: The accommodation of a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  • Simple-intuitive use: An understandable design, regardless of the users’ experience, language skills, knowledge, or concentration level is preferable.
  • Perceptible information: An effective-communicative design without any ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  • Tolerance error: A design minimized hazardous accidental actions.
  • Low Physical effort: The design is efficient and comfortable with minimum fatigue.
  • Size and space for approachable use: A provision of appropriate space and size regardless of the user body’s size, posture, or mobility.
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The Principles of Universal Design_©Interaction Design Foundation
  • Guidelines and space standards

Anthropometrics, Level changes, Signages, Access to toilet facilities, Alighting and boarding areas, Transport and road planning, and Public transport; are guidelines and space standards provided by the government.

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Guidelines and space standards_©Berlin Bauen
  • Technology

Assistive technology is the latest and best option, which not only overcomes the hesitation of people for community engagement but also takes them out from the zone of isolation and limited opportunities. 

Devices for visual impairment: Low, Mid, and High assistive technologies.

Low-Assistive technology– Magnifying glass, Color filters, Thick lined paper, Optical magnifiers.

Mid-Assistive technology– Large keyboards, MP3 player, Lightbox, Keyboard with high contrast.

High-Assistive technology– GPS, Scan and read programs.

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Assitive technologies_©Berlin Bauen

Devices for hearing impairment: Personal hearing aids or amplifiers, Telecommunication devices(TDDs), Relay systems for telephone calls, Infrared systems, Smartboard, Alerting or signaling device, and environmental alert system.

Innovative technologies like special wheelchairs, paralympic gears, escalators, and other mobility devices have not only provided accessibility in sports but also in transport, recreational, educational, and commercial areas as well.

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Other technologies at present today_©Berlin Bauen
  • Social awareness

Social gatherings, meetings, advertisements, empathy over sympathy for the specially-abled, and service orientation are some of the vital initiatives private and government authorities can come up with. For example, “World Disabled Day”, knowing inspirational people like Stephen Hawking, Marathons for the specially-abled, and many other initiatives

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Advertisement to support people_©Inter Press Service
  • Environment over buildings

A macro approach to a micro one makes a shift of barrier-free zones from erected buildings to other areas like Recreational, Transit, Institutional, Public spaces, and Industrial. A “barrier-free environment” perspective is to be approached rather than just a “barrier-free building”. The beautiful and creative design strategies in structures like Hazelwood school (Glasgow), Villa T-Extension (Slovenia), Cachalotes House (Lima), and others; needs to be extended to the open surroundings as well.

  • Create new and edit old- Accessibility

In the continuation of building upcoming infrastructures, we have forgotten the fundamental requirements in the current ones. Failures in barrier-free pathways, toilets, signages, ramps, stairs, lifts, and so forth, not only be understood but applied in the old and new places. The objective is to provide barrier-free environmental designs that upgrade the past, help in the present, and continue in the future.

  • Psychological focus

Humans’ experience is interlinked with psychological aspects of perception and understanding. The study of psychology in architecture has quite a large spectrum, and by using it, we will be breaking the barriers for the community. Some of them are Environmental psychology (about nature), Gestalt psychology (about patterns), and Cognitive psychology (about mind).

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Environmental psychology_©Berlin Bauen
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Gestalt psychology_©Berlin Bauen
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Cognitive psychology_©Berlin Bauen
  • Government schemes and policies

An elevated increase in national policies, schemes, constitutions, acts, and legislation will help a large-scale society not face barriers in every area they want to discover.

Equality for all is not just three words, but a lot of expectations specially-abled people, children, old-age, pregnant women, and many others have with the environment. Do make it barrier-free the barrier.

A barrier-free environmental design for all_©Author (Anmol Billa)

References:

  1. Npr.org. n.d. NPR Cookie Consent and Choices. [online] Available at: <https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2011/06/09/137084239/nearly-1-in-7-people-on-earth-are-disabled-survey-finds> [Accessed 23 May 2022].
  2. Vikaspedia.in. n.d. vikaspedia Domains. [online] Available at: <https://vikaspedia.in/education/parents-corner/guidelines-for-parents-of-children-with-disabilities/types-of-disabilities> [Accessed 23 May 2022].
  3. Federal Register. n.d. Change in Terminology: “Mental Retardation” to “Intellectual Disability”. [online] Available at: <https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2013/08/01/2013-18552/change-in-terminology-mental-retardation-to-intellectual-disability> [Accessed 23 May 2022].
  4. The Interaction Design Foundation. n.d. Learn to Create Accessible Websites with the Principles of Universal Design. [online] Available at: <https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/learn-to-create-accessible-websites-with-the-principles-of-universal-design> [Accessed 23 May 2022].
  5. Journal. n.d. Architecture For All: 10 Thoughtfully Designed Buildings for People With Disabilities – Architizer Journal. [online] Available at: <https://architizer.com/blog/inspiration/collections/design-for-disabilities/> [Accessed 23 May 2022].
  6. CDC. “Mental Health for All.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov, 30 Nov. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/features/mental-health-for-all.html.
  7. goodnet_org. “6 of the World’s Most Disability-Friendly Travel Destinations – Goodnet.” Goodnet, www.goodnet.org, 24 Aug. 2016, https://www.goodnet.org/articles/6-most-disabilityfriendly-travel-destinations.
  8. “English to Braille Translator.” WeCapable, wecapable.com, https://wecapable.com/braille-translator/english-to-braille-converter/. Accessed 31 May 2022.
  9. “Nearly 1 In 7 People On Earth Is Disabled, Survey Finds : Shots – Health News : NPR.” NPR.Org, www.npr.org, 9 June 2011, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2011/06/09/137084239/nearly-1-in-7-people-on-earth-are-disabled-survey-finds.
Author

Anmol Billa is an architect by profession, but he is also a student with a thirst for knowledge. He portrays architecture as a synthesis of art and technology, with a primary focus on the needs of the community. He enjoys upgrading himself regularly by carefully analyzing numerous parameters ranging from context to culture, origins to contemporary life, and accessibility to sustainability. "If my design fails to bring betterment and connectedness to society, I fail," he says.

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