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What is accessibility?

In its most general sense, accessibility refers to everything that can be accessible, that is, usable by everyone in the most autonomous, natural way possible, regardless of physical or cognitive difficulties. Accessibility makes it possible to use resources, services, tools, objects, infrastructures, etc., through techniques, spaces, technologies, and designs.

A more specific term has been proposed in addition to it: universal accessibility. This implies a set of characteristics and requirements that certain physical environments, products, services, objects, and devices must meet so they can be used in a practical, safe, and comfortable way by people, with no need to adjust their design.

When talking about a physical space, a good accessibility chain is considered to entail access, use, and exit in a way that’s easy, independent, and poses no interruptions or accidents. If these three guidelines are met, the space can be considered accessible.

What types of accessibility are there?

  • Physical accessibility: this refers to environments that allow people to use them and get around without physical limitations through, for example, ramps, sloped sidewalks, large bathrooms, handrails, etc.
  • Sensory accessibility: these are environmental elements that are accessible in visual, tactile, and auditory ways, such as traffic lights, tactile pavement or flooring, lighted warning signs, etc.
  • Cognitive accessibility: this makes it easy to understand text, posters, technologies, and pictograms.

What is accessible construction?

Accessible construction aims to build or renovate a building or infrastructure with the aim of ensuring easy access for people, as well as achieving a certain level of comfort. Some objectives in line with this approach include autonomous, safe mobility; proper signage in spaces and at entrances; and an appropriate lighting system.

Planning is very important for accessible construction because it prevents modifications from being needed for projects in advanced stages of development or the need to carry out renovations in projects that have already been completed.

Why is accessibility important in the construction industry?

  • It reduces barriers between the environment and people.
  • It boosts independence and autonomy for everyone.
  • It reduces architectural and urban barriers to people’s typical, autonomous, safe movement. 

What does a building that is considered accessible look like?

According to a study conducted by the Spanish Association for Standardization (UNE), a building complies with accessibility guidelines when:

  • It has elevators, stairs, and ramps. 
  • It has proper signs posted for emergency exits. 
  • It has platform lifts and stair lifts. 
  • Floor plans are included in the building, as is signage for getting around.
  • It has reserved accessible parking spaces.

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