Posts in Lifestyle
How Becoming A Parent Has Taught Me About Accessible Design
 
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I must admit that before studying design, and specifically the building code, I was somewhat uniformed and even oblivious to the various accessibility challenges that many people experience in everyday life.

I think for the most part when you ask people what barrier free or accessible design means to them, they would associate it with someone being in a wheelchair or in crutches, which I’ve learned is only a small piece of the pie.  

This perception would perhaps lead people to feel that there isn’t much of a need to consider accessible design on a day to day basis as the frequency of a person requiring accessible design might be ‘highly infrequent’. It is important to remember that the term “accessible design” addresses a broad range of physical limitations, many of which are not always visible and in the following example, not always because of a disability.

I came to this realization when my daughter was about eight weeks old. We were at a restaurant when the inevitable happened, she needed a diaper change.

With a crying baby in one hand and a diaper bag in the other, I made my way to the restroom. A journey that would have been so simple had I been alone, felt like a small obstacle course. There was a long narrow hallway with no turning space, a door handle (as opposed to a push open door for people that have difficulty with grip) and no push-button to open the washroom door.

Getting into the restroom was a challenge, but when I realised there was no change table I had to call my partner to help. My next instinct was to look for the barrier free stall so that we would have more room to maneuver, but of course it didn’t exist.

As a new mother it made me realise the challenges that millions of mothers experience everyday as well as the millions of people that struggle in spaces that do not take their requirements into account. 

In the restaurant, where I had my bad experience, a person in a wheelchair or using a walker would have found it extremely difficult, if not  impossible to access the washroom stall.

Considering other limitations, this could also pose difficulty for someone dealing with an adult that needs an area to be changed or who needs extra space and support to sit down and stand up.

Accessibility takes in many factors, by way of example, the design and height of sinks. Perhaps you are below the “average” height. Are the knobs easy to turn or could they pose limitations to someone who has arthritis or difficulty with their grip? Does a paper towel dispenser work for everyone?

These challenges go outside and beyond the restroom. For example, reaching for items at the grocery store, walking up to a teller at the bank, opening a heavy door, were the transition between steps visible to everyone? All these mundane actions that most of us take for granted may cause incredible moments of stress and anxiety for others.

This experience highlights the importance of accessible design in everything we do and provides us an opportunity to create spaces that are truly inclusive for all people to enjoy.

Pushing design to the limit, even beyond the minimum requirements, only creates more ideas and possibilities, rather than restrictions. To me this is one step in the right direction to changing the world people live in and experience every day.

Below are some resources to help you with you AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act).

Aoda.ca / Employerline.ca


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TERILYN AUGUSTINE

Project Coordinator at SDI Interior Design & Project Coordination

Formally trained as a designer, Terilyn has a thorough understanding of the design process and uses her knowledge to ensure projects get done on time and on budget.  

terilyn.augustine@sdi-design.com | Linkedin

 
Life Lessons From Abroad
 
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I love to travel, I always have. For me the attraction has rarely been the tourist sites, but in the people and how they live their lives. There’s always something to be learned from another culture, and immersing yourself in an unfamiliar environment is a fascinating way to temporarily step away from your own life. It gives you the opportunity to observe the world from outside your usual bubble and to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and in so-doing to reflect on both your own life and the society you live in. Speaking personally, travel plays a major role in honing my sense of empathy, a skill I consider essential to the practice of design.

The small Caribbean island of Vieques forms part of the American commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and lies about 8 miles to the southeast of the main island. We've been regularly travelling there for winter vacations for the past 23 years. Vieques was hit very hard by Hurricane Maria in late 2017, and in fact had lost its electricity even a couple of weeks earlier while weathering Maria's predecessor storm Irma. Power was not fully re-established for over 6 months and to this day reliability is tenuous. Needless to say the island's residents had a very rough winter.

If you're reading this it's a safe bet that you're living a life that the average Viequense would envy. We live in a prosperous country with a reliable infrastructure and have established resilient institutions to help us in times of need. But as we are well aware, the downside includes living with the stresses that our culture places on us in order to maintain the safety nets we’ve built. Many of us are just too busy to pause and enjoy a moment or two of happiness.

Rancho Choli is a little food bar on a residential street in Esperanza, one of two towns on Vieques. They specialize in "comida criolla", Puerto Rico's traditional fare, with dishes such as roast pig and rice and beans. The place is essentially a shack, colourfully painted with a street-facing walk up window where you give your order when the lady slides the screen open. Her greeting is always jovial, full of laughter, teasing and flirting. Choli is a master griller and a man of quiet dignity and good nature. The portions are hearty and the flavours addictive and there's always a cold cerveza nearby, all of which make it a mandatory stop for us. One small addition we noticed this year is that the Styrofoam clamshells that the food is served in now bear hand-scrawled words of positivity such as those in the picture above.

These would probably come off as a cloying gimmick if they were handed to you from your local trendy urban food truck, but the fact that they've been personally written (mostly as a message to his neighbour patrons) by someone who has seen their town suffer major damage, has scrabbled their life back together while receiving next to no help from government safety nets, and who has managed to return to doing what they love with immense good humour, makes them sincere and heartfelt in my eyes.

And once again, travel has shown me the best in people and reminded me to appreciate all that I am blessed with!

Aprende a Perdonar : Learn to forgive / Choli dice: Olvida tus Penas y Baila!! : Choli says: Forget your troubles and dance!!


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BRUCE FREEMAN, ARIDO, ICD, LEED

Bruce contributes over 25 years of experience in Interior Design and Project Coordination.  He is an expert in programming and planning and has earned a reputation for meticulously overseeing technically complex projects. In conjunction with his extensive Facility Programming work Bruce has become extremely knowledgeable in the area of Workplace Standards and Change Management. 
 

Bruce.Freeman@SDI-Design.com | Instagram | Linkedin