I was recently over in Melbourne for a most enjoyable stay – I love Melbourne for its vibrancy, open spaces, use of art work, reclamation of the docklands area and, more recently, its alleyways. There was a fascinating insight into this reuse of alleyways on Andreas Dalgaard’s documentary, ‘The Human Scale’ which showed how urban environments impact and enhance human life and happiness. He highlights much of the work of Jan Geld, the architect who visited Christchurch at the beginning of the rebuild planning with a view to introducing some of his ideas into the new city.
Another impressive aspect I found was the ease of access into most buildings and on the pavements. There was frequent change of pavement surfaces so that those with limited vision were aware of where they were stepping off a curb or at a traffic intersection, all public buildings visited had easily accessible ramp access and many of the shops had automatic doors. The Botanic Gardens mostly had fantastic paths for anyone pushing a child’s buggy or a wheelchair, though it would take a more athletic person to push an adult around the gardens in certain areas!
Why, you might ask, is accessibility so important? Well, the reason is that some 20% of the population lives with a disability of some kind. Add the ageing population, families with young children and anyone with a temporary injury or illness, and that’s a lot of people requiring easy access into public places. We don’t always see that many people in wheelchairs out and about, simply because of a lack of suitable access in many areas. Being in a wheelchair is only one limitation which restricts access. Others include vision and hearing impairment, language barriers, difficulty with reading and understanding things. Looking at these areas of need makes you realise that we all have access needs at some point in our lives.
The number of people visible out and about in wheelchairs and mobility scooters was a noticeable feature of this visit to Melbourne, and the reason once again, is that is a city which is easy to get around.
This idea of making a city accessible to all also applies on a smaller scale. People’s lives can be made so much easier (and more enjoyable) anywhere with some foresight and willingness. So, when you are planning changes with a home or workplace, make sure you consider accessibility. Be sure to think ahead too. You may not require easy access now, but you could in the future, and it’s much easier to build accessibility into the design when building rather than make a retrospective change once built. You never know when it will be appreciated or needed.
Contact me via email, or phone 03 326 5450 if you would like some advice on ensuring you are creating an accessible workplace for everyone.