Equity by Inclusivity
Equity by Inclusivity
Need for Universal Design in Real Estate
When it comes to public buildings, group housing or other such projects with a diverse spectrum of end-users, it is best to think of Universal Design as a part of the Ten Commandments. Accessibility may mean different things to different people, but to some it's independence itself. How every project that is birthed in the 21st century should be sustainable, likewise, it is imperative that they be barrier-free.
Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. It is not designing for the ‘minority’ and should not even be considered a ‘special requirement’. It is just another touchstone of ‘good design’, to make something more convenient and usable so all may benefit.
Need for Inclusive Design
2.1% of the Indian population is disabled, however, there is very little that is done for the community. The government has various schemes and policies in place when it comes to their education, employment or healthcare, but we still have a long way to go. According to the 2011 census, 20.3% of Indians with disabilities have movement disabilities, 18.9% have hearing impairments, and 18.8% have visual impairments. What is even more challenging is the fact that more than 65% of people with disabilities reside in rural areas, where many essential resources and amenities are inaccessible to them.
For us to support and make the world a safer place for them, we must integrate universal design or barrier-free architecture as a fundamental step. Promotion of user-centric infrastructure, services and products maximizes independence, encourages sustainable practices and assures safety. Nobody likes to be anywhere where they feel unwelcome, and finding hindrances in our path is bound to make us feel alien to the surrounding we are in. A project’s success can easily be determined by the satisfaction level of its unhappiest user.
Universal Design Features
There is no end to possibilities when it comes to universal design. It can range from lighting, finishes, automated appliances, signage to anything and everything you can think of. The market is positively flooded and constantly upgrading. Be it the entrance ramps or grab bars in your bathroom, every nook and cranny of space can be rethought and made user-friendly. It may not be possible to list down all of them, but here we have a starting point for you:
No-threshold entries: Many Indian homes still have leveled thresholds that can become quite a nuisance, not only for people using wheelchairs but also children and unwary adults. Just some quick problem-solving and intelligent use of levels can help us get rid of this man-made barrier, making our homes easier to maneuver.
Lever door handles in place of knobs: Doorknobs require greater hand strength and dexterity as compared to lever door handles, making them more usable for people with arthritis or when you have your hands full.
Low or no-threshold showers- Thresholds in showers are another notorious trip hazard that makes wheelchair access difficult. Although it may be challenging to install, it makes one’s day-to-day life easier to a great extent.
Comfort-height toilets- A common but thoughtful fixture with a hassle-free installation that can cater to your special needs. With added grab bars, they are great for people with movement disabilities.
Shower seats- This might sound targeted towards a particular section of people, but it is a feature that is being requested more frequently nowadays. Shower seats can be used by people of all age groups, regardless of their ailments. They can be fixed or installed to fold, whichever is more convenient!
Touch- or proximity-controlled faucets: Ideal for clients who have strength or hand control issues, as well as anyone with germophobia.
Adjustable countertops: Kitchen countertops are usually designed in keeping with the common notion that the user is usually standing and constantly shifting between workstations. Adjustable countertops can be brought to just the right height for the user’s comfort and can be a great addition for wheelchair users.
Pull-out shelves: Pull-out shelves that are open or transparent at the front let you see your unit's contents at a glance. You do not need to open each and every one of them to find something, as you would a drawer. That makes things more convenient for the user and these types of storage are much more likely to be utilized than other types of cabinets.
Smart & Assistive Devices
Smart doorbell with cameras: All the rage in home security in today’s climate, this smart device allows homeowners to see who is at the front door via their smartphones or television. They are motion activated and immediately alert the owner with a real-time video, as well as allowing them to talk to the visitor if they so wish.
Stove-monitoring device: A safety measure that can be of use in homes to college dormitories. A stove monitoring device with motion tracking that automatically turns off the stove if it’s left unattended for a certain amount of time. This can prove useful for individuals who might have trouble remembering to turn off the stove, someone with dementia, or ADHD who’s easily distracted while cooking a meal. It’s a low-cost way to prevent fires and injury for individuals regardless of their physical or cognitive impairments.
Smart vacuums: Found in almost any sci-fi TV show, these round devices automatically move around a space and keep it clean. A must-have for older adults with arthritis or mobility difficulty, or just anyone who finds daily vacuuming tedious.
Smart window shades: Window shades let you control the amount of light entering a space. Especially in spaces with multiple windows or multiple floors, this device is a godsend for anyone who has difficulty or is unable to physically open and close windows. These window shades can be manually controlled through an app or voice control.