Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

View on a rotunda, a great example of accessibility for all

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

For sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s citizens, all have a part to play in creating a safe and comfortable place for everybody.

Because that’s what accessibility for all aims at: improving everybody’s lives, starting with some of the most vulnerable populations. People with disabilities face a whole different world than the one “able” people live in.

But we share common points and situations where accessibility for all takes its full meaning and truly improves our lives whether we are shopping, commuting, using our phone, wandering in a museum or the streets…

Let’s see what accessibility can do for us all! And how we can design it to suit us! You’ll discover that some technologies we use every day come from accessible solutions!

What’s accessibility for all?

Accessibility for all suggests that we are all concerned about this concept, regardless of our profile. Thus, whether some of us are visually impaired or have motor issues or are simply older or have none of the above, accessibility represents a goal for all of us to reach.

A reminder of what accessibility entails: enabling everyone to have access to everything. It occurs when obstacles are removed. For example, when an elevator is installed instead or in addition to stairs in a building for wheelchair users or when adapted equipment is provided such as screen readers for visually impaired people to use their smartphones. 

Consequently, the goal of accessibility is to find accommodations so that people with disabilities can have the same experiences as any other person, whether they’re in a public venue or at home. 

Taking into account that accessibility is about making sure people with disabilities have the same chances and access as anybody else, can there be one solution to suit everybody? Especially since there are a lot of different disabilities and types. 

Well, that’s universal design’s take: one solution that meets everyone’s needs. Let’s take the example of a video. If it both has audio and captions, it can be as accessible for visually impaired people as it is for those with a hearing impairment. Plus, if the language used in the video is clear and easily understandable, people with an intellectual disability can also enjoy it. As for users with no disabilities, they can watch the video on the subway without bothering other riders simply by muting it and reading the subtitles.

Considering that in 2019, there were 3.97 billion Internet users in the World, a number constantly on the rise, digital accessibility for all is more than necessary. 

And it’s also mandatory as stated in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Making sure a video is captioned is just one task among others. Another useful tip we can all follow is providing alt text for online images. In that way, blind or visually impaired users aren’t excluded. They can easily access the same content as any other user.

For those who would like to know more on this field, check out our article: 

Digital Accessibility: Why? For Whom? How?

How to design for all?

Now that we all acknowledge that there are indeed solutions that can be accessible to everyone, only one question remains: how can we design for all?

What’s to keep in mind is that accessibility for all concerns and impacts all aspects of our lives: the college we study to, the shopping mall we do our Christmas shopping in, our place of work, the restaurant that serves our favourite meal, the museum that enlightens us, the public transit we use to commute every day… To sum up, the very city we live in.

For people with disabilities to get around freely and in complete autonomy, how can designers, architects and city makers conceive a city that’s accessible to them and ultimately to all?

By applying one simple rule: when it comes to designing a venue, a park or a subway station, always put yourselves at the shoes of users with disabilities. Show empathy and open mindedness to understand their needs and meet them. And also, think of accessibility at the earliest stage of your design process.

This means asking directly to those involved: associations representing people with disabilities. What are their needs? What can you do to make them heard? You’ll be sure to implement solutions that are truly useful and helpful for all. 

Focusing on a user-centered approach is one of the key components of inclusive design. A concept that provides accessibility for different groups of people. Inclusive design acts as in between accessibility and universal design. But what matters here is that there’s constant research and feedback from users with disabilities to make sure that the solution perfectly meets their needs.

And for the urban planners among you, designing for all can be a simple thing such as lowered sidewalks. They’re essential for wheelchair users and pedestrians with reduced mobility who use a walker or a cane to get around in the city without any difficulties. But lowered sidewalks are also useful for people carrying luggage or pushing a stroller or even for children.

Every little thing implemented counts, especially regarding accessibility for all. If you take the example of the European Union, since 2010 they’ve been rewarding the most accessible European cities with an access city award.

This award represents the perfect opportunity for candidate cities to shine and show how they’ve enhanced equal access and inclusion for all their inhabitants. From ensuring barrier-free accessibility in buildings, streets and natural spaces to providing accessible buses and metro networks and easy-to-understand information. 

Check out this year’s initiatives with this downloadable report on Examples of best practices in making EU cities more accessible!

It’s true that cities from all over the world are renewing themselves and are rethinking what they can provide their citizens with. New York City is living proof: the Big Apple happens to be a trailblazer in the latest innovations regarding inclusive mobility!

Indeed, New York City’s bold take on mobility issues has permitted it to implement an indoor navigation app designed especially for people with disabilities. The app Evelity, installed at Jay St-MetroTech subway station, provides step-by-step instructions according to the user profile. For blind and visually impaired users, Evelity gives audio instructions but for deaf and hearing impaired users, the app gives textual information. The optimized routes it offers enable wheelchair users to avoid being confronted to stairs. As for users with a mental impairment, Evelity gives easy-to-understand information to help them get around without having to depend on someone else.

This type of solution demonstrates exactly what accessibility for all means: a one-size-fits-all solution! Because if Evelity guides users with disabilities in a complex venue, it can also help any other type of users find their bearings in an unknown and maze-like facility.

Examples of solutions that were first invented to help disabled people but are now commonly used today

If the app Evelity isn’t currently being used in every major public transportation system of every large city, other solutions which were first designed for people with disabilities are now part of everyday lives. You’ll be surprised by some of them!

The remote control: we use it without even thinking. Can’t move because your cat is taking a nap on your knees but you want to change channels? That’s simple: just use your remote control. Thanks to it, we barely need to lift a finger to watch TV. And that’s what its sole purpose has been!

Indeed, the wireless remote control was first invented in 1955 for people with limited mobility by American engineer Eugene J. Polley! An invention that also improved the lives of the elderly and is now a convenience for all of us.

The typewriter: well, alright, we may not use it anymore but we can sure look at it as the computer’s ancestor. Francesco Rampazatto, an Italian inventor, created a typing instrument in 1575. The device was composed of cubic wooden embossed characters to help blind people communicate with others.

The telephone: we all know it was invented by Scottish engineer Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 (of course we all knew that). But what may be less known is that Alexander Graham Bell was strongly involved with the deaf community having a wife and a mother that were both deaf. He taught people with a hearing impairment and that’s his work with them that gave him the idea of “electronic speech” that turned into the telephone.  

The office scanner: another invention that emerged from meeting the needs of disabled people. In 1976, American engineer Ray Kurzweil invented a reading machine to transcribe written text to blind people after meeting a blind man who told me he’d like books to tell their stories. To do so, Ray Kurzweil had to conceive a flatbed scanner and a text-to-speech synthesizer, two technologies that were unheard of at the time. His invention evolved to turn into the office scanner many of us use every day. 

SMS text messages: even though the first SMS was sent in 1992 by one of the engineers who worked on developing this type of communication, British Neil Papworth, the idea of text messages actually emerged in 1984. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen came up with it as a way to communicate with deaf people. Thanks to the work of both engineers, now billions of texts are sent each day worldwide!

For sure, without these groundbreaking innovations, our lives wouldn’t be what they are today. We use them on a daily basis and yet we probably take them for granted. But what an eye-opening experience to realize that these innovations emerged thanks to engineers who first focused on improving the lives of disabled people! 

We can only but wonder what other innovative solutions will see the day, solutions that benefit us all. Because it seems that inclusion was what guaranteed the success and the longevity of these major innovations from the two last centuries.

Why does accessibility for all matter?

Now, you’re starting to understand why accessibility for all is so important. And the key role of thinking in terms of inclusive solutions. 

As we’ve mentioned at the beginning of this article, over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. That represents roughly the whole population of India! We need to remove accessibility barriers now!

Especially since there’s a growing aging population. According to the United Nations, by 2050 one in six people in the world will be over the age of 65. In 2019, it amounted to one in eleven. As you’ve realized, this type of population is concerned with accessibility issues and ultimately, accessible equipment: easy-grip handrails, contrasting and non-slippery stair nosing, universal pictograms… Seeing that we’re all getting older, we may need accessible solutions later on in our lives.

But it’s true that when we think of disabilities, wheelchair users are usually the ones that first come to mind. It’s simply due to the fact that people with motor disabilities have the most “obvious” disabilities, as in the most visible ones. The thing is that there is a whole range of disabilities and that most of them are invisible. It means that at first glance you can’t know if someone has a disability. It’s only when you see this person struggling at a task that you realize they might have a disability. For example, deafness doesn’t appear obvious when you pass strangers in the streets. 

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Disabled people and the elderly aren’t the only ones to be concerned by accessibility issues. Indeed, we can all at some point be in an incapacitating situation. How can you use the subway with a broken leg? How can you find your bearings in a venue when you can’t speak the language of the country you’re visiting? Or what does it happen when one of your relatives is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? You may need to act as caregiver so what can you do to make the living conditions of your relative more suited to their needs?

That’s why accessibility for all matters… You never know what life has planned for you. Besides, it’s unfathomable to enjoy all the opportunities the world has to offer knowing that over 1 billion people experience difficulties accessing them! This way of thinking makes us grow, feel stronger as empaths and act to make the world accessible to all! We all benefit from accessible solutions, regardless of our profile. 

As Neil Armstrong would have put it, accessibility for all represents one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind. So are you ready to aim for the moon with us? Inclusion is within our reach!

Check out another area where disabilities inspire change and improvement:

Disability as an Innovation Driver for the Smart City

Published on October 15th, 2021

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A wheelchair user and a woman using a cane side by side

When it comes to designing a venue, a park or a subway station, always put yourselves at the shoes of users with disabilities. Show empathy and open mindedness to understand their needs and meet them. And also, think of accessibility at the earliest stage of your design process.

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Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

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Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us AllFor sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s...

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Intellectual Disabilities at Your Venue

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Intellectual Disabilities at Your Venue

A crowded café that welcomes customers with intellectual disabilities

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Intellectual Disabilities at Your Venue

Intellectual disabilities probably represent the less known impairment. What do they entail exactly? What are the needs of people having an intellectual impairment? By replying to these questions, you’ll be able to better understand your customers with intellectual disabilities. This will mark the first step in providing them with the best possible experience.

Of course we all know that word of mouth is still one of the most efficient ways to attract customers but quality service remains key to retain them. And for customers with intellectual disabilities, accessibility truly rimes with attractivity! It goes beyond complying to the ADA. Indeed, accessibility is the perfect opportunity for you to step up your game and enhance inclusion for all.

Ready to open your doors to everyone? Let’s see what you need to implement to welcome customers with intellectual disabilities!

What’s an intellectual disability?

First of all, it’s important to know precisely what we’re talking about. Having an intellectual disability means having difficulties learning and lacking adaptive behaviors. People with intellectual disabilities may struggle with problem-solving, reasoning, communicating and performing practical tasks in their everyday lives.

Some genetic disorders result in intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome. Down syndrome, also called trisomy 21, is the most known intellectual disability. Generally, people with Down syndrome have the mental ability of an eight-year-old child but of course it depends on the person. 

But intellectual disability isn’t to be confused with cognitive impairment nor psychiatric impairment. 

Cognitive disability: this diminishes intellectual functions but not as severely as an intellectual disability. People with cognitive disabilities have brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Actually, a lot of cognitive disabilities affect memory.

Psychiatric disability: this regards schizophrenic people, people with bipolar disorders or anxiety disorders. But psychiatric disability doesn’t affect their intellectual capabilities, this simply makes them more difficult to use under certain circumstances or emotional states. 

Keep in mind that it’s not always obvious that a person has an intellectual disability. Indeed, 80% of disabilities are invisible! That’s why it’s best to avoid any type of judgment. You never know what a person may go through…

How can your venue be accessible to customers with intellectual disabilities?

Now that we know what’s hiding behind the words “intellectual disabilities”, we can focus on helping your customers living with intellectual disabilities having the best possible experience at your venue.

Enforcing the ADA

If your business has been open for a while, you may already be familiar with the ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects people with disabilities against all types of discrimination. 

This means that customers with intellectual disabilities need to receive the same welcome and have access to the same places and services as anybody else. Any type of public venues is concerned and needs to be ADA-compliant: newly constructed venues and existing ones. Obviously, making existing venues accessible can be challenging because of major works renovation, the historicity of the building or its topography.

What’s sure is that providing all your customers with easy access to your building is just the first step. It’s more complicated once your customers with intellectual disabilities need to reach a service or find their bearings within your venue… Indeed, you need to create a safe and reassuring environment for them to feel comfortable.

Providing easy-to-read and easy-to-understand information

Seeing that people with intellectual disabilities can struggle to think, conceptualize and make decisions, the best way to help them understand what your venue and your services have to offer them is to make your information the clearest and the simplest possible. 

How can you do it exactly? If your venue has a billboard to convey information to your customers, make sure to use easily understandable words. Make sentences that don’t have any particular idioms or expressions that could confuse your customers.

The same applies if you rely on videos or other types of mediums to welcome your customers. 

If your venue is particularly complex, a map at your information desk can truly be helpful. We’ll give you an extra tip: think of taking photos of the different areas and laying them out. That way, your customers can see what to expect and better recognize the area when they’ve arrived. 

Easy-to-read and easy-to-understand information is essential for customers with intellectual disabilities to explore in complete autonomy your venue. 

Establishing a clear navigation system within your venue

Another difficulty that your customers with intellectual disabilities may face is getting around and finding their bearings. Especially in a complex and large venue such as a hospital, a museum or a shopping mall.

Fortunately, you can set up easy solutions that will help them navigate their way by themselves, at their own pace. Plus, you’ll see all your customers will benefit from them!

Universal pictograms

They may represent the easiest and the simplest solution of all: pictograms. No need to explain anything at length, a colored icon will do the trick. 

A perfect way to let your customers know where they can find such and such services. Thanks to pictograms, they’ll be less likely to feel anxious, stressed or lost. 

Moreover, using universal pictograms will not only help customers with intellectual disabilities find the elevator or the restrooms but they’ll also be helpful for those who don’t speak the language or deaf people who rely on visual information to get around.

We’re all accustomed to universal pictograms. They speak the same language, that’s the beauty of it. In just a few seconds, everybody can understand what they signify and adjust their direction accordingly. This enables your customers and your employees to save time.

Navigation app to guide your customers with intellectual disabilities

You can rely on innovative technology to help your customers with intellectual disabilities find their bearings within your venue. More and more apps are dedicated to provide indoor navigation for people with disabilities. After all, 84% of them use a smartphone in their daily lives. It has become an essential tool for them to remain autonomous.

Let’s focus on a great navigation app you can easily implement at your venue:

Evelity: this app has been conceived to guide people with disabilities, regardless of their profiles and abilities, inside complex venues. For visually impaired users, the app provides audio instruction to guide them. For people with intellectual disabilities, the app provides easy-to-read instructions. Created by Okeenea Digital, a French startup company, Evelity now equips the entire Marseilles metro and the Luma Foundation, a museum in Arles. Both are located in the South of France. But this indoor wayfinding solution is crossing borders since it’s currently deployed at the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City! 

Simply using an app, your customers with intellectual disabilities can freely get around and in complete autonomy. They don’t need to rely on your staff to locate a service.

Setting up a navigation app within your venue can be a great solution for you if you can’t undertake major renovation works to make it accessible. This can truly complete the current equipment you may already have.

Secured stairs

Depending on your venue, you may have implemented elevators or escalators even. But are you sure your stairs are accessible and safe? Can your customers with intellectual disabilities go up and down your stairs without any difficulties?

Here’s a recap of what your stairs need to be equipped with:

Easy-grip and continuous handrails,

Detectable warning surfaces at the top of each flight,

Contrasting and non-slippery stair nosing,

Contrasting risers on the first and last step of each flight,

Adequate lighting.

Once again, this type of equipment doesn’t only help people with intellectual disabilities safely get around within your venue. It actually serves different user profiles such as blind or visually impaired people or the elderly… Accessibility has enabled us to focus on bringing more safety for all.

Enhancing communication between your staff and your customers with intellectual disabilities

For people with intellectual disabilities, putting thoughts into words and understanding others can be difficult. What can you do to make communication with them easier?

Here, your staff has a key role: they need to do the utmost to provide the best possible service. And this actually holds true for any interaction with any customers. 

Providing your staff with the proper training to best assist customers with intellectual disabilities will enable you to create a safe and trustworthy environment for your customers. They would be more likely to come back to a place where their needs were heard, understood and met. All of that without being judged. 

Check out our 9 tips to best welcome people with intellectual disabilities! You’ll see that smiling, remaining calm and reassuring can make the difference. 

Besides, just as we saw earlier regarding access to information, make sure to use a clear, simplified language without any idioms or metaphors. This will help you and your employees better communicate with them.

You can also use different types of mediums to get your message across: make sure to always have some paper and a pencil nearby in case you need to draw something. No need to turn into Leonardo da Vinci, just do a clear and basic drawing if necessary.

Remaining patient and respectful will make your customers with intellectual disabilities get more comfortable and at ease. They may ask you or your staff a lot of questions and even be blunt. But it’s all just a casual conversation so stay yourself. 

Now, you know what challenges people with intellectual disabilities face and what you can implement to help them enjoy your venue! It’s up to you now!

Want to know more on intellectual disabilities? Read on these articles:

8 Clichés about Intellectual Disability

Public Transport: Accessibility Solutions, Also for the Intellectual Disability! 

7 Clichés About Psychiatric Disability

Published on October 1st, 2021

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An employee ready to welcome customers with intellectual disabilities

Providing your staff with the proper training to best assist customers with intellectual disabilities will enable you to create a safe and trustworthy environment for your customers.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us AllFor sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

A coffee shop with staff serving customers

8 Key Points to Ensure Accessibility for Customers with Vision Disabilities at Public Venues

Are you sure that your facility meets all the conditions to properly accommodate blind or visually impaired people? The standards for accessibility set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 apply to all forms of disabilities. Behind the technical constraints that are sometimes obscure and off-putting for non-specialists, regulatory obligations meet the specific needs of certain categories of users. To help you see more clearly, we have detailed in this article all the fundamental principles to know so that your public accommodations or commercial facilities offer a high-quality welcome to all visitors who are blind or have low vision.

Follow this checklist, you will then have an exhaustive vision of the improvements you can make!

What are the needs of blind or visually impaired people in a public venue in terms of accessibility?

Like any visitor, blind or visually impaired people go to public venues to benefit from the services offered there. To access the building and services, the main difficulties experienced are as follows:

Orientation: knowing in which direction to go,

Location: finding their bearings and being able to identify them,

Access to written information,

Risks of falling or bumping into obstacles.

Take a notepad and a pen, exit your facility, and walk the route from the outdoor access, putting yourself in the shoes of a blind or visually impaired person. Write down anything that could be problematic, we guide you through each step of the travel chain.

Accessible tools to prepare the trip before your visit

Do your customers or users have access to all the information about your facility before their visit? Do you have a website? Does it meet digital accessibility standards? Can you find all the information on access to your facility?

Service areas: public transport stops, location of the parking area, drop-off point,

Description of the surroundings if the main entrance is not accessible directly from the street,

Location of the reception point, description of the route to get there,

Instructions for use of the access control device, if applicable.

Are your reception staff able to provide all this information over the phone? Here’s a tip: make a summary sheet that you will leave permanently near the switchboard.

Make the outdoor walking path detectable and safe

Is the entrance to your facility directly accessible from the street? 

If not, people with blindness or vision loss may find it difficult to reach it, especially if the space is large and devoid of cues such as a parking lot for example.

The path from the access to the outdoor area to the main entrance to the building must be easily detectable and recognizable thanks to a visual and tactile contrast. We can then play on the differences in floor coverings: asphalt, exposed aggregate concrete, resin, cobblestones, lawns, etc. In the absence of natural tactile contrast, it is possible to add directional or guidance tactile paving.

Regarding safety, several points must be checked:

If there are stairways on the outdoor walking path, they should be fitted with raised warning stripes at the top of each flight, contrasting and non-slip stair nosing, but also high-contrasting risers at the top and bottom.

If the walking path crosses a lane used by vehicles, it must include a textured surface such as truncated domes upstream and downstream of the pedestrian crossing.

If glass walls are located near the pedestrian path, they must be marked with high-contrasting elements to avoid the risk of bumping into them.

If there is a step of more than 15 inches close to the walking path, this drop should be protected with a guardrail.

Keep in mind that a person with a visual impairment cannot walk upright if they do not have a guidance path to orientate themselves. The notion of “walking path” must therefore be considered in the broad sense, namely all the space accessible to pedestrians and not just a virtual strip of 36 to 56 inches wide.

Make the main entrance easy to reach and to recognize

Is the entrance to your facility recognizable by a visual contrast or a particular architectural treatment? Is it equipped with an audio beacon? Is the name of your business clearly visible?

If the walking path leading to the main entrance is well defined and clearly identifiable, you have already done a good part of the work. However, people who are blind or have low vision need to confirm their position. For those who retain visual abilities, signage in large characters, using high-contrasting colors. And for people who cannot read, an audio beacon allows them to trigger a verbal message announcing the name of the business, using their standardized remote control or their smartphone.

Make sure your access control system is accessible

Does an intercom or a call button restrict access to your facility? If so, is it usable by a blind or visually impaired person?

So that the access control systems are not an obstacle for the visually impaired, it should above all be of a contrasting color compared to its support and have keys with writing in large characters, numbers and of raised symbols. So that your blind or visually impaired visitors are aware of the presence of this device before their visit, it is important that its existence be mentioned on your communication media. As we said before, this typology of visitors is used to prepare for their trips.

Finally, be aware that intercoms with name scrolling cannot be used by blind people. It is therefore necessary to provide an alternative if necessary: ​​communicate an access code, offer a welcome at the door, the possibility of contacting a person on arrival, etc.

Make your reception easy-to-access and detectable

Is your reception desk easy to find for your visually impaired visitors?

Blind or visually impaired people rely a lot on reception and human support to find their way around a building and benefit from the services offered there. To facilitate access, your reception desk must therefore be located as close as possible to the main entrance. It should be easily identifiable by visual contrast and suitable lighting. If it is necessary to cross a large area to get there, we recommend installing a guidance path that will make it easier for everyone to orientate themselves.

We draw your attention to the use of queue management systems. It is difficult for a blind or partially sighted person to stand in a queue and know when their turn is. Note that the systems cannot be used by this audience unless the person in charge of the distribution speaks aloud the number appearing on the ticket and the same applies to the order of passage. It is therefore recommended that visually impaired people be given priority access, on the same basis as people with standing problems.

Make indoor navigation easy and safe

Is it possible for a blind or visually impaired person to move around safely in your facility? Can they easily orientate themselves there?

It is likely that a person with a visual impairment coming to your facility for the first time will need human assistance to find their way there. However, there are certain arrangements to be made.

First and foremost, indoor hallways should offer the best possible security. Thus, the lighting must be sufficiently intense and homogeneous, that it must not create shadows. Floor lighting should be avoided due to glare.

Indoor paths must be free of any obstacle. Be sure to remove overhead obstacles or, if this is not possible, to force them to be bypassed by a piece of furniture. The glass walls located along the path must have contrasting elements to avoid the risk of bumping into them.

To facilitate the orientation of visually impaired people in complex spaces, the installation of guidance paths or directional paving is recommended, possibly associated with audio beacons. The Evelity indoor navigation application tailored for all types of disabilities is also specially designed to allow visitors with disabilities to move around independently within a complex building such as an administrative center, museum, university, or hospital.

Finally, all stairs must be secured with:

Easy-grip and continuous handrails on both sides,

Detectable warning surfaces at the top of each flight,

Contrasting and non-slippery stair nosing,

Contrasting risers on the first and last step of each flight and

Adequate lighting.

If your facility has one or more elevators, for them to be usable by visually impaired people, they should have:

Visually and tactile contrasted call buttons,

Visually contrasted numbers, raised and in Braille,

A vocalization system for floor numbers and cabin movements.

Make your signage visible and readable to visually impaired people

Do the doors to rooms, bedrooms or offices in your facility have signage that can be read by blind or visually impaired people?

After crossing a hall, walking through mazes of corridors and stairs, what could be more natural than wanting to confirm your destination. Am I in front of room 212? For the visually impaired to be able to do this independently, the door signs must include the name or number of the room in large letters. These must be of a contrasting color compared to the support and be raised by 1 to 2 millimeters for tactile reading. The inscription must also be in Braille.

Similar signage must be found at the restrooms to distinguish the male toilets from the female toilets.

Specific provisions for equipment and materials accessible to the public

Can all the equipment made available to the public in your facility be used independently by a blind or visually impaired person?

ATMs, vending machines, drink machines, photocopiers…, anyone should be able to use them. To achieve this objective with visually impaired people, it is above all necessary to provide written instructions in large, contrasting characters. An operation vocalization system is also desirable for anyone unable to read.

If you have followed our journey, you now know everything there is to do to make your business accessible to blind or visually impaired people. To prioritize the work and investments that will allow you to reach your goal, we recommend that you turn to qualified accessibility professionals. Better than anyone, they will know how to support you in the implementation.

Would you like to know more about visual impairment? Dive in with:

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

The Smartphone: a Revolution for the Blind and Visually Impaired!

How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

Published on September 17th, 2021

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An audio beacon at Okeenea's entrance

To facilitate the orientation of visually impaired people in complex spaces, the installation of guidance paths or directional paving is recommended, possibly associated with audio beacons.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us AllFor sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s...

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?July celebrates Disability Pride Month! A month to support and raise awareness on disability. It gives people with disabilities an opportunity to be seen and heard. Obviously, everybody has their own...

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

Two people sitting face to face and chatting

6 Tips to Communicate with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

Do you feel uncomfortable, distraught, clumsy… when you see a blind person? No need to worry, we’ve made up a quick survival guide with 6 key points to make sure everything goes well. Before all, stay natural and relaxed, simply start the conversation naturally and the rest will follow!

1. Speak first

It’s the easiest way to break the ice. If you speak first, the visually impaired person will be able to locate where you are thanks to the sound of your voice and will know who to speak to. Say hi to them as soon as they arrive and ask them if they need anything.

2. Introduce yourself

Even if you’re clearly speaking to them and that you’re wearing a name tag or a uniform, a blind or visually impaired person will struggle to spontaneously know if you’re a staff member or not. Simply say who you are so that they’ll know what they can ask from you.

If you’ve met them before, they may spontaneously recognize you with the sound of your voice. But recognizing a voice isn’t as reliable as recognizing someone’s facial features. The context, the intonation, and some circumstances like a cold can make your voice unrecognizable. So don’t hesitate to say your name, you’ll save time!

3. Make sure the person you’re talking to has understood you’re speaking to them

If several people are present in the same place at the same time, like in a line for example, it’s difficult for those who can’t see or see poorly to know when someone is speaking to them.

When a visually impaired person enters a room, call them by their name if you know it. Or you can try by getting closer to them and speaking facing them, calling their Sir or Madam. And if that still isn’t enough, get their attention by slightly touching their arm. If you’re not standing by them, you can ask their neighbor to do it.

4. Describe the situation

If you’re not available right now, say it. The visually impaired person will know their presence has been noticed and that they just need to wait patiently.

For example: “I’ll be right with you after finishing to take care of the three people who have been waiting”, “I’m on the phone, I’ll be right with you as soon as I’m finished”. 

5. Offer to help but don’t impose it

Nothing is more unbearable for a visually impaired person than being grabbed by the arm by a person they haven’t seen coming, being led to an unknown destination without being spoken to at any given moment. Unfortunately, this type of situation happens all the time and yet, the intentions of the unknown person are generally laudable.

The missing step can be summed up in one sentence: “Hi, can I help you?”

The person you’re talking to will be free to accept or not, according to the situation and their autonomy level. Then, they’ll tell you what they need. They’re the ones who can best tell! Just listen to them!

6. Be specific

Avoid giving indications that depend on sight: “over here”, “no, not there”, “here”…

Use landmarks: right, left, in front of, behind, and don’t hesitate to describe situations.

For example: “You’re facing a staircase going down”, “You should walk around the chair to come up to me”, “There’s a pole in front of you, you can get around it on your right”. 

If you want to know more about how to best assist people with disabilities, you can follow the course At Your Service: Welcoming Customers with Disabilities provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You’ll be able to better understand the needs of people with disabilities.

Be more familiar with blind and visually impaired people with these articles:

8 Clichés About Blind People

The Smartphone: a Revolution for the Blind and Visually Impaired!

Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know on Braille Mysterious Writing

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A white arrow pointing left on a green wall

Avoid giving indications that depend on sight: “over here”, “no, not there”, “here”…

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us AllFor sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s...

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?July celebrates Disability Pride Month! A month to support and raise awareness on disability. It gives people with disabilities an opportunity to be seen and heard. Obviously, everybody has their own...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Deaf People at Public Venues

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Deaf People at Public Venues

People having lunch in a restaurant

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Deaf People at Public Venues

If your venue welcomes and receives people then accessibility for deaf people isn’t something to take lightly! How can your venue be accessible to the hearing impaired? What do you need to implement to be ADA-compliant?

Deaf people face three types of challenges when they go to a venue, whether it’s a restaurant, a shop or a museum: accessing information through the appropriate mediums, navigating within the venue and communicating with the staff. Accessibility barriers need to be removed for them to be able to fully enjoy your venue. See it as an opportunity to reach other customers. Don’t forget that satisfied customers are more likely to come back and to spread the word about a venue that fits their needs!

Let’s see what it entails for you and your venue to meet the needs of your deaf and hard of hearing customers! We’ve listed all the necessary requirements and equipment to properly welcome them!

Accessibility for deaf people: what does the law say?

You may already be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, also called ADA. Established in 1990, this law prevents discrimination based on abilities or disabilities. Its goal is to ensure that disabled people can have access to the same rights and services as anybody else.

Specifically applied to public venues, the ADA requires buildings and services to be accessible to people with disabilities. If your venue is listed below, then you’re concerned:

Shops and shopping malls,

Hotels,

Bars and restaurants,

Hospitals,

Banks

Colleges and universities,

Public services such as city halls,

Amusement parks,

Places of worship,

Sporting facilities like stadiums

Cultural places such as museums, movie theaters…

Whether it’s an existing building or a new one, there are some easy solutions for your venue to be ADA-compliant.

How to make your venue accessible to the deaf community?

To better understand accessibility, picture yourself driving on a highway: you’re enjoying a smooth and perfect ride with no obstacles nor potholes. Every exit is marked and can easily be accessed for you to carry on on your journey. Or if you’d prefer a less imagery scenario, you can call this concept by its regular name: a seamless mobility chain. This actually applies to all your categories of customers, whether they have disabilities or not. They need to easily go from point A to point C. This implies for point B to properly link points A and C. If you keep in mind this, it’ll be easy for you to picture where accessibility barriers need to be removed within your venue. 

Let’s see more precisely the three breaking points you need to pay attention to! 

Providing accessible information to deaf and hard of hearing customers

In a world where audio is the most common way to provide information, then the deaf community is excluded. Luckily, there are other ways for you to enhance accessibility for deaf people!

Web accessibility

Maybe your deaf visitors haven’t been to your venue yet and need to be more familiar with it beforehand. They may do some research directly on your website. You can help them apprehend your venue by focusing on your web accessibility. In fact, it’s part of the ADA requirements. For the deaf community, it means providing videos with subtitles or enclosed captions or a transcript and multiple contact methods in case deaf users need to speak to someone. Phoning is the usual method but you can also include other options such as email, live chat or text SMS. That way if a deaf person needs more information, they can easily contact and communicate with you.

Visual and textual information 

Since you can’t use audio to provide deaf or hard of hearing people information, you need to focus on visual and textual information. Make sure any necessary information such as opening hours, points of interest within your venue (reception desk, restrooms…) can easily be read and identified with the proper signage. You can combine text information with pictograms. It’s the best way for your deaf customers to reach the adequate service.

Any video you may have on display needs to be subtitled or have enclosed captions.

Enhancing navigation within your venue

Obviously, with a clear signage system and pictograms, your deaf customers can find their way within your venue in complete autonomy. Being autonomous and independent enables your customers to freely apprehend your venue at their own pace and without having to constantly ask a staff member. 

If you manage a shopping mall or any maze-like and large venue of that sort, keep in mind that it can be difficult for your customers with hearing impairment to find their way. They could feel overwhelmed and frustrated. But you can help them by choosing an indoor navigation app such as Evelity. It was especially designed to meet the needs of people with disabilities, regardless of their profile. Meaning that for those with a hearing impairment, the app only focuses on text instructions and icons to guide them. 

Evelity can suit public transit systems: it’s already fully implemented at the Marseilles subway network in France and even equips the Jay St-MetroTech Station in New York City. But the wayfinding app can also apply to museums where in addition to navigation instructions, it provides cultural content on the exposed artworks. The Luma Foundation in Arles, France chose Evelity to guide its visitors with disabilities, proving that culture can be accessible to all. 

Communicating efficiently with hearing impaired people

It’s probably the most challenging issue regarding accessibility for deaf people. Let’s take a look at all the solutions you can implement!

Trained staff

Your personnel have a key role to play to welcome the hearing impaired and offer them the best possible experience. That’s why your staff needs to be trained to deal with people with disabilities. Check out our article with 12 Tips to Welcome a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person! Even a simple thing like making your staff members wear a name tag with their job title can be helpful!

But a good tip to keep in mind is to speak clearly and distinctly for deaf people who can lip read. And also to use a common vocabulary without word plays so that the American Sign Language interpreter (ASL) can easily translate what your staff is saying to the deaf person they’re with.

Equipment for hard of hearing people

Audio induction loops or amplification systems improve hearing quality of those wearing hearing aids. They’re easy to set up and to use. Always make sure your reception desk or information point is equipped with one of these devices. 

Technology to enhance accessibility

For sure, technology can be a powerful tool regarding accessibility for deaf people especially with smartphones. Indeed, a lot of apps help the deaf community understand and be understood by hearing people thanks to artificial intelligence. AI has truly become an asset to enhance accessibility and inclusion! You can make communication between your personnel and deaf customers easier by supplying your staff with work smartphones that have instant transcription apps such as Ava. This app can transcribe conversations between hearing people and the hearing impaired. Thanks to Ava, your staff doesn’t need to learn American Sign Language to understand deaf customers and deaf customers don’t have to lip-read what your staff is saying.

Both parties can follow a conversation without feeling frustrated. 

You’re probably wondering what you need to do to communicate with them by phone. No need to worry, your deaf or hearing impaired customers have probably installed RogerVoice on their smartphones. This app directly subtitles any conversation they have.

You now know everything you need to do to improve accessibility for deaf people at your venue! As you can see, solutions exist to remove accessibility barriers. Make a difference and make sure your deaf customers have the best possible experience!

Would you like to know more about hearing impairment? Dive in with:

8 Clichés About Deaf People

Public Transport Information Accessibility: 5 Solutions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users

media

Staff members from a coffee shop

In a world where audio is the most common way to provide information, then the deaf community is excluded. Luckily, there are other ways for you to enhance accessibility for deaf people!

writer

Carole Martinez

Content Manager junior

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us AllFor sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s...

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?July celebrates Disability Pride Month! A month to support and raise awareness on disability. It gives people with disabilities an opportunity to be seen and heard. Obviously, everybody has their own...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

People with invisible disabilities partying

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! 

Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible disabilities” is an unnoticed disability at first glance, that is to say when the person in question hasn’t made their difficulties known. What are the types of invisible disabilities? How can you identify them? What are the best practices to best welcome people with invisible disabilities at public venues? Follow the guide, we’ll explain everything!

Several types of invisible disabilities

Although we usually arrange them in main categories, there are as many disabilities as people with disabilities. The same holds true for invisible disabilities! They include most sensory disabilities (visual and hearing impairments), most of the mental and psychological impairments, cognitive disabilities and a lot of chronic diseases generating incapabilities.

In concrete terms, the following situations are part of invisible disabilities:

Hearing impairment,

Visual impairment,

Certain forms of autism,

Bipolar disorders,

Alzheimer’s disease,

People with a heart condition,

Dyslexia,

People with post-traumatic-disorders (war veterans or terrorist attack survivors), etc.

A lot of elderly people have an invisible disability, some may even have several.

Illiteracy is also a cause of invisible disability, even though it’s rarely acknowledged as such by the administration. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of adults between 16 and 74 years old lack proficiency in literacy. That represents around 130 million people who can read below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. Illiteracy has direct consequences on people’s quality of life and their integration into society.

Invisible disabilities creates multiple difficulties

The consequences of having an invisible disability vary according to the type of disability and its severity. Having disabilities can lead to being easily tired, having attention deficit disorders, difficulties to take initiatives or to put up a strategy, memory disorders.

Many people with invisible disabilities prefer not to disclose their disabilities. Some even feel ashamed because of them. This is due to the fact that being different is often regarded as a problem by relatives or work relations. Sometimes invisible disabilities can have an impact on our intimacy. For example, those with Crohn’s disease have to use the bathroom very often. Endometriosis also has a strong impact on the everyday lives of women with it. More than 6 million women have endometriosis in the U.S.

Contrary to people whose disabilities are obvious, people with invisible disabilities are often suspected to lie or to be lazy. They’re more likely to be misunderstood, laughed at or insulted. Their specific needs are rarely taken into account. However, many of them are legitimately entitled to use a parking space for people with reduced mobility (PRM), to ask for a seat at public transportation or to have priority in a line.

A lot of invisible disabilities have variable manifestations according to the situation, the events, the fatigue people feel or their mood. These fluctuations increase how misunderstood people with invisible disabilities may be by their relatives. Consequently, they have to make more of an effort to adapt which makes them much more tired. 

How can you best welcome people with invisible disabilities?

The tricky part is that by definition invisible disabilities aren’t obvious. In order to provide people with invisible disabilities with the best possible welcome, it’s important you build a climate of trust so that your visitors can freely express their specific needs. To do that, you can directly ask them: “Do you need anything in particular?”. This can be a seat to wait, some help to fill up a document, a handwritten note with the main directions to follow to get to a place or any other action that will enable them to better have access to your services.

A good thing to set up: make sure to systematically provide a field in all your subscription forms for people to express their specific needs.

And also make sure not to judge particular demands and to leave behind any negative prejudices you may have. As we said earlier, people with invisible disabilities mostly suffer from being accused of lying or taking advantage. Keep a positive and respectful attitude in all circumstances! For any situation, you can use our 7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities.

To conclude, invisible disabilities are far from being uncommon. Always keep in mind that the person you’re talking to may have specific needs you may not have thought of at first. By remaining open-minded and by listening to them without judging, you give them the opportunity to express themselves. Thus you’re more likely to meet their needs and to make them have access to the services your venue provides more easily!

Published on August 6th, 2021

media

People with invisible disabilities sitting on a bench at the beach

Having disabilities can lead to being easily tired, having attention deficit disorders, difficulties to take initiatives or to put up a strategy, memory disorders.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

follow us!

more articles

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us All

Accessibility for All: Why Removing Barriers Benefits Us AllFor sure, accessibility for all isn’t something to take lightly. And neither is it something that can easily be discarded considering that over 1 billion people in the world have disabilities. We, as world’s...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.