Building accessibility: explaining why

Front cover of the New Zealand resource. Building accessibility
Front cover of the resource

There are good reasons why revolving doors are not a good idea for a lot of people. But how many designers know this. Unless the building code says don’t do it we will continue to see these in new buildings. The New Zealand Government produced a useful guide to support their building code. It covers building accessibility and explains why some designs are just not helpful. 

Buildings for everyone: Designing for access and usability is a good practice guide which goes into fine detail. For example, problems with sudden changes in light levels, issues with highly patterned flooring, and how wheelchair users might inadvertently damage doorways or tiling. The guide also links to features to the relevant sections of the Building Code. 

While this is a New Zealand publication, there is good information for other jurisdictions. The main contents are:

    1. Builder user activity
    2. Surrounding area and transport
    3. Pedestrian circulation
    4. Vehicle circulation and parking
    5. Building entrances
    6. Internal circulation
    7. Interior space
    8. Fixtures and fittings
    9. Building types
    10. Means of escape 
    11. Building management

This guide explains the “why” of the specific designs. So there should be no more thinking, “near enough is good enough because a little change here and there won’t matter”. It does matter. The publication is from the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

A book to help

Ed Steinfeld holding his book next to his face. Building accessibility.
Ed Steinfeld with his book

Published in 2012, Steinfeld and Maisel’s book, Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments, is still relevant today as a standard text. It introduces designers to the principles and practice of designing for all people. It covers the full range from the foundations of accessibility to the practice of inclusive design.

Topics include interiors, products, housing and transportation systems. Best practice examples demonstrate the value of universal design as both a survey of the field and reference for researchers. Trove has a copy, otherwise it is available for purchase through Google Books or Wiley publishing.   

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