What is accessibility?
By accessibility we mean the characteristics, transport or means of communication that make it possible for someone to reach something in their environment, whether that is regarding the aspects of a physical space such as a home or accessibility in terms of, for example, access to the internet for people with special needs.
Good accessibility is that which exists but goes unnoticed for the majority of people except for people with serious problems in their mobility and/ or with sensory, visual and /or auditory limitations.
To carry out the design of spaces, elements, transport and products around us we have to take into account these features in order to improve the quality life of everybody. If we want to improve the accessibility in public and personal environments, buildings, transport and in existing media we´ll have to remove some of the architectural barriers that still exist in them. The architectural barriers are those obstacles, impediments or physical hindrances that limit or prevent freedom of movement and autonomy of individuals. They can be classified as: Urbanistic architectural barriers: which are those located on roads and open spaces for public use, and these can be resolved through urban accessibility.
Architectural barriers in public or private buildings: are those who are inside buildings, and these can be resolved by building accessibility.
Architectural barriers in transport: are those found in transportation and can be resolved by the different means of transport accessibility.
Communication barriers: any impediment to the expression and reception of messages through the media whether or not mass media. They can be resolved by communication accessibility.
But why must we remove architectural barriers or sensory impairments? Isn’t it too expensive?
The answer is because we can improve our quality of life. It´s expensive only in some cases like rebuilding in an existing space in which we meet space limitations. So all the actions of new construction must incorporate accessibility in all its forms and in this manner it´ll go unnoticed and will be included in new projects and help everyone individually; i.e. if a visually impaired person needs a label with sufficient contrast, it is clear that anyone with an index of normal vision can identify it more clearly too.
The disabled are those who have temporarily or permanently limited the ability to move on, while a person with limitations is one that has temporarily or permanently limited the ability to use the medium or relate to it.
We can establish three large groups of people with physical and / or sensory impairments:
1) Ambulant disabled people: are those that execute certain movements with difficulty, either with or without the help of braces, canes, etc. Among them are: old people with degradation of the physical and mental capacity, in plaster, amputees, pregnant, people with heart or respiratory failures ..etc..
2 2) Wheelchair users: they are those who require a wheelchair even to carry out their activities, either independently or with third parties. Among them are: paraplegics with paralysis of the lower body including the lower extremities, or both upper and lower body including legs and arms; quadriplegics, with paralysis of both upper and lower body, including legs and arms.; hemiplegics, amputees, unable to walk, affected major diseases (polio, sclerosis, etc..) or malformations.
The main problems that affect them are: Inability to overcome abrupt slopes and stairs, inability to overcome steep gradients, danger of falling over or slipping. Due to restrictions in their ability with visual and manual reach, large spaces to turn or door openings require adaptation.
3 3) People with reduced sensory abilities that have perceptual difficulties due to a limitation of their sensory abilities, mainly visual or hearing. Among them are: blind, amblyopic, hard of hearing , deaf and in general all kinds of people with impaired vision., and hearing disorders.
In our society there live many hundreds of people with physical disabilities, illnesses, other disabilities or with large barriers that limit their chances. This also affects their right to work, leisure and culture, so sometimes the disabled are those who we inadvertently deny the possibility of a decent life, to which they are entitled.
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