About 20% of Americans have a functional disability that impacts their ability to hear, see, walk, or grasp objects, making public building accessibility not only a common implementation throughout the United States, but also a crucial one. You may notice that most public places, especially those with newer construction, have wheelchair ramps, handicap parking spaces, and other accessible building modifications. Creating public spaces that are accessible to individuals with disabilities is crucial to ensuring that everyone in the community feels safe, seen, and accounted for.
Architectural Barriers for Adults with Disabilities
Perhaps you haven’t given it much thought before, but there are many architectural barriers that make public spaces and buildings inaccessible to people living with physical disabilities. Some of these everyday obstacles include steps, narrow doorways, poor signage, and heavy doors. These architectural barriers add hurdles to certain individual’s lives, making public spaces either inconvenient or completely inaccessible.
Buildings are accessible when they are designed to be user-friendly and safe for everyone, regardless of physical ability. Providing this barrier-free physical environment to public spaces isn’t just about law compliance, it’s about promoting equality.
Accessibility in Public Spaces
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law in the United States that establishes design standards for public spaces to ensure accessibility. These laws have been put into place to help aid people with disabilities and make their lives a little bit easier while they’re out and about.
How to Make Public Spaces More Accessible
- All new construction and alterations of public facilities must be wheelchair accessible.
- Physical barriers in front of exits must be removed to ensure accessibility when exiting.
- Private entities, such as hotels, restaurants, and retail stores, are not permitted to discriminate against people with disabilities.
- Auxiliary aids, such as braille signage for blind individuals, must be provided in public spaces.
- All new bus and train stations must be accessible to people with disabilities.
- Buses and trains must be accessible to people with disabilities, including accessible exits in rail systems. There must be at least one accessible car per train. To learn more about the importance of accessible transportation and paratransit, read our blog: Accessible Transportation for People with Disabilities.
Everyone has the right to be able to participate in public spaces. These laws promote equality and help individuals with disabilities lead a fulfilling life with the same opportunities as everyone else.
If a building does not comply with accessibility requirements, there’s always room for improvement. All public buildings should take the following elements into consideration, especially when going through construction or renovation. They may seem like small adjustments, but they will make a world of a difference for someone who needs them.
Building Accessibility Checklist
- Handicap parking spaces
- Wheelchair ramps
- Braille on signage
- Power-assisted doors
- Handrails on both sides of stairways
- Wheelchair-accessible bathroom stalls
- Grab bars in bathroom
- Large-font characters on signage with contrasting background
For more ways to improve building accessibility, take a look at the ADA’s Checklist for Existing Facilities.
Covey Cultivates Accessible Living
As a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families, we know firsthand the importance of accessibility in public spaces. Everyone has the right to feel comfortable entering buildings and confident that they will have proper accommodations for their physical needs.
At Covey, we make sure that our buildings are accessible to our clients, because nothing is more important to us than the safety and wellbeing of everyone who enters our doors. Not only are our spaces catered towards our clients, but the surrounding community is becoming more accessible every day. GO Transit, the public transportation service in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, recently unveiled new accessible technology on all of their buses. This technology gives wheelchair and mobility scooter users the ability to independently use the bus with a push of a button. This allows the rider to secure themselves into place without assistance from the driver, increasing both efficiency and accessibility.
When it comes to accessible living, Covey has some exciting plans in store. We are proud to be opening Adult Family Homes for our clients this year! Each home is designed to be accessible for our residents’ individual needs. As important as it is to feel comfortable in public, feeling safe at home is paramount. Adult Family Homes are a place where our clients can live happy, healthy lives and foster personal growth every day. To learn more about our Adult Family Homes, launching later this year, follow us on Facebook.