why you need an accessibility consultant

Accessibility is known to be mandatory for public buildings and buildings with public access.

It is often mistakenly assumed that this refers to wheelchair accessibility, but of course it goes far beyond that.

About 30 % of the German population (and this is calculated conservatively) are not within the „norm range“ of DIN, but depend on accessibility of various kinds. These 30% are extremely diverse. This shows that attention is required if one does not want to risk that many people feel excluded or are actually physically excluded. In the ideal case, however, we are not talking about corrections or additions being adapted retrospectively, but about an awareness being developed during the design process in order to produce good, aesthetic and impeccable „design for all“.

Of course, we know accessibility in everyday life without perceiving it: The seat and steering wheel position of a car can be changed for accessibility only. The typewriter, the straw, the bicycle, the touch screen, the pizza cutter, audio books and much more are based solely on considerations to support people with handicaps in an activity.

Barrier-free designs do not require any compromises in aesthetics (unfortunately this is a widespread prejudice). Accessibility is not ugly but a concept and design tool and design basis.

My task is to be a motivating contributor of ideas and a point of contact between clients, architects, interior, product and graphic designers, who has an eye on the diversity of the people out there and thus makes comprehensive solutions possible. Ideally, I’m involved in the design process at an early stage in the meetings – to bring in the idea and the enthusiasm for the project. A kick-off meeting to raise awareness in advance makes a lot of sense. During the actual implementation there are always a lot of questions and a learning process starts.

Factors for accessibility are cognitive understanding, optics and blindness, age, mobility, height, acoustics and hearing impairment or deafness, mobility, phobias, orientation and much more. Of course, this also applies to living spaces, housing estates, public squares and parks, museums and exhibitions, schools, event rooms, malls, hospitals and much more.

I hope to have clarified the idea and the background. Design and architecture without this background is not really possible and is hardly welcomed in the current competitions.

Therefore every architecture and design office needs knowledge and empathy to create good solutions.

Current references:

  • Museum Lichtenberg;
  • Senate of Berlin, public park and nature park exhibition;
  • German Museum of Technology, accessible art education,
  • AOK Nordost, accessibility and orientation system in counselling centres and medical centre;
  • Prevention centre VBG BGW Hamburg Accessible guidance and orientation system;

Schreiben und Sprechen über Menschen mit Behinderungen und ältere Erwachsene

Die Vokabeln ändern sich ständig, aber die folgenden Hinweise behalten ihre Gültigkeit.

  • Vermeiden Sie das Wort „Behinderter“;  es ist eine Person – und falls das für den besprochenen Aspekt wirklich relevant ist, „mit einer Behinderung“.
  • Ein Mensch mit einer Behinderung hat Dinge nicht „trotz seiner schweren Behinderung“ erreicht, sondern er tut es als Mensch – mit seiner Behinderung.
  • Beziehen Sie sich immer zuerst auf eine Person und nicht auf deren Behinderung; dies betont den Wert und die Fähigkeiten einer Person. Verwenden Sie niemals eine Behinderung als Adjektiv. Es ist kein blinder Schriftsteller, sondern ein Schriftsteller der blind ist. Konzentrieren Sie sich auf die Person, nicht auf die Behinderung.
  • Sehr missverständlich wirkt die Floskel „sie leidet an …“, oder „Personen, die unter … leiden„. Sofern die Person keine Schmerzen hat und dies selbst so äussert, ist dies nicht passend.
  • Verwenden Sie nicht „besonders“; dies trennt den Einzelnen von der Gruppe. Zum Beispiel sind Informationen nicht zu den „besonderen Bedürfnissen der Gruppe“ notwendig, sondern einfach wegen der „Bedürfnisse der Gruppe“.
  • Das Wort „Betroffene“ impliziert ein schweres Schicksal oder Leid und stellt die Personen als scheinbar bemitleidenswert dar.
  • Verwenden Sie keine Euphemismen wie „körperlich gefordert“ oder
    „herausgefordert“. Diese sind herablassend.
  • Benutzen Sie keine Etiketten: „Behinderte“, „Blinde“, „Gehörlose“ oder gar „normal“. Das Etikettieren von Menschen ist nicht angenehm. „Normal“ impliziert, dass eine andere Gruppe „nicht normal“ sei.
  • Denken Sie über Floskeln nach wie „an den Rollstuhl gefesselt“. Der Rollstuhl ist das Gegenteil: er bedeutet Freiheit für Menschen, die ihn nutzen.
  • Sprechen Sie niemals von krank, Krankheit oder umgekehrt von gesund, wenn es um angeborene oder bleibende Eigenschaften eines Menschen geht.
  • Unterlassen Sie es von einem Schicksal oder Schicksalsschlag zu sprechen. Oder von „Opfer“. Die Worte „betroffen“ und „Opfer“ implizieren alle Hilflosigkeit und emotionalisieren und sensationalisieren die Behinderung einer Person)

 

Consulting mandate for the new construction of the VBG BGW Prevention Centre in Hamburg

Architektursimulation

(Foto: Auer Weber Assoziierte)

The Ippolito Fleitz Group GmbH Identity Architects commissioned Steffen Zimmermann as a consultant for accessibility for the planning and design of the new centre of excellence in Hafencity of the two associations VBG and BGW

The new centre is to be a beacon project for accessibility and future and trend-setting preventive work.

The Berufsgenossenschaft für Gesundheitsdienst und Wohlfahrtspflege (BGW) and the Verwaltungs-Berufsgenossenschaft (VBG) are the building owners and operators in Hamburg HafenCity. From 2022, they intend to launch new qualification, event and consulting services there, among other things, and make it possible to experience both healthy and safe working in theme worlds. The two associations are two of the largest in Germany.

Inclusion is a priority right from the conceptual approach

The building is to be highly accessible and exemplary in the way that training institutions can be designed to be inclusive. In addition to model workplaces, the planned Prevention Centre will feature theme worlds and exhibitions that make the prevention of occupational accidents, occupational diseases and work-related health hazards tangible. The services will also be available in part to the general public. In addition, individual advice and training for insured persons with work-related health problems is planned. My expertise is particularly evident in the orientation and guidance system as well as in the information services, whether digital, passive or active. This also applies to the revision of the house font for a tactile typeface, which is used in the guidance system as a raised relief font. Furthermore, all elements of the system are equipped with Braille (braille for blind visitors) and high-contrast large print. Orientation in the building and guidance through the building is supported by a floor guidance system. Everything is wheelchair accessible and conveniently accessible for people of all ages.