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  • Jacqueline Le Sueur

Just 6 Weeks Less-Abled : S + 12 | Design & Access Awareness

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

Part of the work I do is consulting on the design of spas and wellness centres. I have worked on projects in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. In many countries the provision of disabled facilities and access is provided for in planning regulations. At least, I have been in many a design meeting where local architects have been guiding international designers in this area: Over and above this there is also discussion about the moral obligation of a business to provide for the less-abled even if it isn't a legal requirement.

This background means I'm fairly aware at the best of times of building design in general and accessibility in particular, as my tummy mesh does mean that certain built and seated environments can be a bit of a challenge for me sometimes.

We were lucky when we arrived at the hospital yesterday that one of the disabled parking bays right by the main entrance was free. My friend parked, I wrote a note to leave on the dashboard and then commenced the rigmarole of getting out the car. And what a rigmarole it was. You can imagine my dismay when I walked a few paces to the nearest of the three ways up into the lobby that it comprised of not 1 but 2 steps. The ramp is on the opposite side of the entrance.

I have arrived to and left from this hospital 3 times before yesterday and I have never noticed this.

There may be other disabled bays on the opposite side of the porch where the ramp is, this is true, however I'm talking about access from the ones where we were parked. When you are ambulatory these steps would not matter. If you are in a wheelchair they do mean the journey into the lobby is further as you have to go round to the other side of the rather large entry porch; if you are on crutches and walking the furthest you have in almost 2 weeks you have a decision to make. Shortest route but up 2 steps or take the longer, easier, flat route. I opted for the former. It matters not these steps are non-slip with deep treads, it was still a difficult task, especially with one very painful foot in a clumsy wedge shoe that is too big which I can only use the heel to walk on.

When we came out I opted for the same route, with the help of my friend, as I just wanted to get to the car. I was exhausted and my foot was screaming in pain. I did, however, stop a wee while and look at the space available to see if this situation could be rectified. Strikes me a ramp could be put on the side of the entrance closest to the disabled parking bays we were in however I am not an architect and it is also possible that the layout of the parking has been changed since the hospital was built in the early 1960s.

Just an observation and so it was I left the hospital wondering if anyone has given a thought to this or is this simply what I call 'unaware design' from a period when planning regulations were less strict.

Perhaps it has been noticed and considered and is there really is nothing that can be done however I am not convinced of this and I'm going to have another look when I go to the hospital again tomorrow. Even if not a wheelchair ramp as these need to be of a certain gradient and therefore length, plus there is one already then perhaps a normal ramp instead of the steps as I am sure this would make it easier for people like me using crutches and also for those who have trouble walking. It is not just physically challenging tackling stairs when you are not fully mobile; it is mentally challenging too.

Like I say, I am no architect and I do like to give benefit of the doubt; I would like to think the hospital management are aware of this issue, that all options have been explored and are impossible for whatever reason to implement. However I really would like to know so I shall share with them my thoughts.

I do so hope they are less-abled aware rather than blissfully ignorant.

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