Intellectual Disability, a Little Known and Multidimensional Disability

Intellectual Disability, a Little Known and Multidimensional Disability

People with intellectual disabilities walking in the streets

Intellectual Disability, a Little Known and Multidimensional Disability

Intellectual disability, sometimes called mental retardation, affects 1 to 3% of the global population, which represents approximately 6.5 million people in the United States. Who are they? What are their needs? How can we facilitate their participation in society?

We will see in this article that intellectual disability covers a wide variety of profiles, causes and manifestations. And the good news is that all the improvements made for accessibility to other disabilities also benefit people with intellectual disabilities. Which ones in particular? This is what you will find out.

Intellectual disability, mental retardation, what does it mean?

The terms “intellectual disability” and “mental retardation” both refer to a slower than average intellectual development. To be more precise, intellectual disability is the consequence of disorders of intellectual development in interaction with the barriers of the environment.

People with intellectual disabilities face difficulties in two areas:

Intellectual functioning, measured by intelligence quotient (IQ), which includes learning, reasoning, decision-making and problem-solving skills;

Adaptive behaviors, essential for daily life, which involve communication and interactions with others, but also the ability to take care of oneself.

Intellectual disability starts in childhood and is generally stable throughout life. No treatment is available to cure it. However, the consequences of an intellectual disability can be alleviated with specialized support and a suitable environment.

Not to be confused with mental illness or psychological disability! The pathologies at the origin of a psychological disability do not directly affect intellectual capacities but only the ability to mobilize them. However, it is not uncommon for an intellectual disability to be associated with a psychological disability or mental illness. This is particularly the case in 75% of autism spectrum disorders. In addition, people with an intellectual disability are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop a psychological disability than the overall population.

8 Clichés About Intellectual Disability

7 Clichés About Psychiatric Disability

What accessibility facilities for the intellectual disability?

Like all other disabilities, intellectual disability manifests itself in various forms and to varying degrees. The difficulties commonly encountered in the urban environment concern:

Reading and understanding,

Spatial awareness,

Time awareness,

Decision making,

Communication.

In order to improve access to the environment and to services for people with intellectual disabilities, the following recommendations should be applied:

Signage using colors, symbols and pictograms, 

Staff trained in welcoming people with mental disabilities,

Audio dubbing of visual information, in particular transport announcements,

Simplified maps with photos of the main destinations,

“Easy-to-read-and-understand” information,,

Learning workshops on transport networks,

Mobile applications for orientation, to facilitate communication, to reduce stress, to learn social interactions, etc.

5 Must-Have Apps for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Tactile paths, accessible pedestrian signals (APS) and audio beacons, originally designed for the visually impaired, are also very useful for people with intellectual disabilities. Indeed, soliciting several senses stimulates understanding.

Several degrees of intellectual disability

We speak of intellectual disability from an intelligence quotient lower than 70. As a reminder, the average intelligence quotient in the overall population is 100, the vast majority being between 85 and 115. The IQ does not however reflect the functioning in the environment. This is why the diagnosis of intellectual disability cannot be limited to an IQ test. It must also take into account the capacities of communication and adaptation in the environment.

Many forms of this type of disability are associated with psychological, motor or sensory disorders. These can in some cases complicate the diagnosis and capacity assessment. For example, the evaluation of the intelligence quotient in a deafblind person is almost impossible due to the inadequacy of the testing tools.

85% of people with intellectual disabilities are affected by a mild form. If they benefit from appropriate support in childhood, they are perfectly capable of living independently in adulthood.

The World Health Organization (WHO) distinguishes in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) six classes of mental retardation, from mild to severe, but also non-specific forms.

Note: the 11th edition of the ICD, published in May 2019, updated the terminology concerning intellectual disability. We no longer speak of “mental retardation” but of “disorders of intellectual development”.

Mild intellectual disability

It is characterized by a slight delay in acquiring language and slower development than the average child. Difficulties usually appear during schooling but can be alleviated through appropriate educational methods. Most people with mild intellectual disabilities are able to lead independent lives as adults and work.

IQ, when it can be measured, is between 50 and 69.

Moderate intellectual disability

It concerns 10% of people with intellectual disabilities and is characterized by a very slow development of comprehension and language skills. In most cases, there is also difficulty performing basic activities of daily living such as washing or dressing. Even though children with an average intellectual disability have significant academic difficulties, some of them manage to learn to read, write and count. In adulthood, they are sometimes able to work, provided the tasks are simple and structured.

IQ, when it can be measured, is between 35 and 49.

Severe intellectual disability

It concerns 3 to 4% of people with intellectual disabilities. The difficulties encountered by people with severe intellectual disabilities are much the same as those with moderate intellectual disability, but to a greater degree. Motor impairments and associated disorders are also more common. These people generally need constant assistance in their daily life.

IQ, when it can be measured, is between 20 and 34.

Profound intellectual disability

It concerns 1 to 2% of people with an intellectual disability. It is characterized by an almost total inability to understand. People with a profound intellectual disability are generally unable to move and their communication is limited to a few non-verbal manifestations. They are unable to control their bodily functions and take care of themselves. They must therefore benefit from permanent assistance.

The IQ is then estimated to be less than 20.

A disability with multiple causes

Unlike other forms of disability that can occur at any time in life, intellectual disability begins in childhood, before the age of 18.

It can be caused by a genetic defect, illness or exposure to alcohol during pregnancy, oxygen deprivation at birth, or certain illnesses or exposures to toxic substances during infancy. Little is known about whooping cough, measles or meningitis can lead to intellectual disability if treatment is delayed. Malnutrition is also a cause of intellectual regression in regions of the world prone to famine.

The three most common causes of mental disability are Down syndrome, 22q11 deletion (otherwise known as DiGeorge syndrome), and exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. There is also a rise in the numbers due to the increase in the number of preterm births.

In more than a third of cases, however, the cause of the intellectual disability remains unknown.

Intellectual disability cannot be treated, but prevention and support measures can limit the consequences.

In conclusion, keep in mind that the vast majority of people with intellectual disabilities live among others. We all therefore have the possibility of helping them to express their full potential by adapting our behavior. If you are responsible for the accessibility of a venue, a transport network or the roads of a municipality, think of all the inexpensive facilities that you can implement to facilitate their orientation and improve their sense of security.

Find out more on accessibility for people with intellectual disabilities with these articles:

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

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

Published on January 21st, 2022

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A man with Down syndrome and another man smiling

Tactile paths, accessible pedestrian signals (APS) and audio beacons, originally designed for the visually impaired, are also very useful for people with intellectual disabilities.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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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.

5 Must-Have Apps for People with Intellectual Disabilities

5 Must-Have Apps for People with Intellectual Disabilities

A smartphone screen with apps for people with intellectual disabilities

5 Must-Have Apps for People with Intellectual Disabilities

People with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome or fragile X syndrome have an intellectual development that’s inferior to the population average and learning difficulties. This means they have trouble conceptualizing, thinking, making decisions and communicating with others. 

In order to better communicate, easily make decisions or even to stay organized, they can rely on numerous apps. Plus, they enable them to remain autonomous and to challenge themselves at their own pace.

Let’s have a closer look at 5 must-have apps for people with intellectual disabilities!

Cozi Family Organizer

A great app to stay in sync with your family! You can set reminders for yourself or any of the family members. This can be helpful for those who need to be driven to medical appointments or work. 

Plus the calendar is easy to use and to comprehend.

You can also create all kinds of to-do lists to make sure all your everyday tasks are organized and set up a meal planner!

Available on Android and iOS

Evernote

Another great app to help you stay organized! With Evernote, you can create to-do lists, capture photos, record voice reminders or simply take notes. And your notes can be searchable. 

Find what suits you best and make sure you don’t miss any events!

Available on Android and iOS

Evelity

An indoor navigation app to help you find your bearings in complex venues. The app perfectly adapts to the user profile and provides optimized routes with easy-to-read and easy-to-understand instructions. 

You can also preview your itinerary to be more familiar with it. 

Besides, its simplified interface makes it easy for you to use. 

Evelity is currently being tested at the Jay Street-MetroTech subway station in New York but it’s also deployed in other sites in France, its country of origin: the whole metro network in the city of Marseilles, the Luma museum in Arles and the medical university campus Rockefeller in Lyon.

Available on Android and iOS

Breathe2Relax

We can all feel stressed from time to time or tiring by our environment. Breathe2Relax teaches breathing techniques to remain calm and serene. 

It helps people with anxiety to relieve their stress.

Available on Android and iOS

Red Panic Button

If at some point you need help, you can hit the Red Panic Button! First when setting this app up, you need to list your contacts who’ll serve as your emergency contacts. People you are comfortable with and can rely on.

When you’re in trouble, the app sends them a SMS containing a Google Maps link with your location.

Available on Android and iOS

Be careful of what you’re being promised

You may have found in your research countless brain-trainings apps to improve your memory and problem solving skills. However, there’s little scientific evidence that demonstrates their effectiveness. Much more research is needed.

For now, it looks like these apps don’t have the power to sharpen your cognitive abilities or prevent any mental decline for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. But if you feel like trying, a lot of these apps can be both free and entertaining such as Peak, Elevate or Lumosity.

You now have 5 great apps at your fingertips to make your everyday life easier! 

Want to know more about people with intellectual disabilities? Check out our articles:

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

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

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

Published on January 7th, 2022

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A person is using Evelity on the subway. They're on an escalator.

An indoor navigation app to help you find your bearings in complex venues. Evelity perfectly adapts to the user profile and provides optimized routes with easy-to-read and easy-to-understand instructions.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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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 Accessibility Solutions for Different Types of Physical Disabilities?

What Accessibility Solutions for Different Types of Physical Disabilities?

A person using an electric wheelchair is getting around in the streets

What Accessibility Solutions for Different Types of Physical Disabilities?

 

Usually, when we think about physical disabilities, we visualize a wheelchair pictogram related to wheelchair users. But physical disabilities also concern people with reduced mobility and reduced dexterity. This means that a person using a walking cane and a person who struggles picking up a bottle of water both have physical impairments even though their situations are very different.

According to their capabilities, people with physical disabilities may find it difficult to wander in their city, use public transportation and go to a museum or a shopping mall. They need to count on accessibility and on a seamless mobility chain to be able to fully enjoy everything they want to. 

Fortunately, the solutions that meet the needs of people with physical disabilities can suit every of their profile. But first, let’s figure out what physical disabilities entail! 

What are the types of physical disabilities?

Basically, people with physical disabilities find it more difficult to get around or to perform manual tasks like walking, standing up, sitting, raising an arm and closing their fingers.

For some people, a physical impairment affects their legs or arms. For others, it will impact their whole body. Plus for others, it will manifest into a speech impairment without compromising their ability to understand.

Depending on the case, physical disabilities can be permanent, long-term or temporary. For example, if you go skiing in Aspen and unfortunately have an accident and end up with a broken leg then you may need to use crutches to walk while recovering. Even if this situation is just temporary, seeing that your bones need time to heal (unless you’re Harry Potter), this means you may struggle to get around, to go to work or to use public transportation.

This type of accident is frequent and can happen to anyone as we don’t need to go skiing to break a leg. The same holds true for very bad car accidents resulting in severe physical disabilities. But there are also a lot of genetic disorders and common diseases that result in physical disabilities:

Arthritis,

Heart diseases,

Respiratory disorders,

Epilepsy,

Multiple sclerosis,

Spinal cord injuries,

Spina bifida,

Cerebral palsy,

Carpal tunnel syndrome,

Parkinson’s disease…

As you can see, physical disabilities cover a multitude of diseases and genetic disorders. Another category worth mentioning that could turn into a series of articles is dwarfism. 

We will not linger on dwarfism here but we’ll simply tell you some basic facts:

The appropriate terms you can use are “people with dwarfism”, “Little People”, “LP”, “people of short stature” and “people with a form of dwarfism” but you can let them tell you what they prefer,

If you need to use the plural form of “dwarf”, you should choose “dwarfs” as “dwarves” makes a reference to the characters created in J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,

There are around 200 types of dwarfism,

Dwarfism doesn’t link to intellectual disabilities.

Around 30,000 people have dwarfism in the USA. Although a lot of them think dwarfism is not a disability, they’re indeed protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It’s to be noted that some genetic disorders cause physical and intellectual disabilities such as Angelman syndrome or Prader-Willi syndrome. Thus, people can have additional disabilities in some cases meaning that we need to take into account all of their needs.

If using a cane or a wheelchair to get around are signs that people have physical disabilities, there are situations where their disabilities are less visible and therefore less obvious. Check out our article: Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

After World War II, a lot of soldiers came back to the U.S. with mild or severe physical disabilities raising the issue of accessibility. The whole country had to adapt to meet the needs of war veterans and truly welcome them home.

What solutions enhance accessibility for people with physical disabilities?

Here, we’ll just focus on three main areas where accessibility for people with physical disabilities takes place: public highways, public transit systems and public venues. All of them are covered by the ADA preventing any form of discrimination against people with disabilities. 

Wherever people with physical disabilities go, they need to rely on a seamless mobility chain. That is to say that to go from point A to point C, point B needs to be accessible. All the links of the mobility chain need to be accessible for people with physical disabilities to have a smooth trip. Actually, this concerns everybody, not just people with disabilities.

Let’s see what solutions you can easily implement!

Accessible public highways

As urban planner or city maker, you need to make sure the city is safe and accessible to explore for people with physical disabilities:

Large sidewalks for wheelchair users,

Lowered curbs,

Parking spaces for people with reduced mobility (PRM),

Pushbuttons for traffic lights that are easy to use and accessible for wheelchair users,

Obstacle-free routes,

Secured stairs with handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs for people with reduced mobility,

Accessible street furniture like benches,

Clear and readable signage for wheelchair users.

You can know more about making the city more accessible to people with physical disabilities thanks to these articles:

Urban Mobility of the Most Vulnerable: 5 Minutes to Understand

How to Maintain Pedestrian Accessibility When Carrying Out Street Works?

If you’re concerned about the safety of your most vulnerable pedestrians, you may have an interest in the Vision Zero movement. It aims at reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads. 

Different measures can help you make sure pedestrians with physical disabilities remain safe:

Reducing speed limits,

Improving lighting at crossings,

Regulating the traffic of alternative modes such as electric scooters, skateboards…

Cities like New York and Chicago have already implemented them and have seen significant changes in road safety. 

Plus, working side by side with people with physical disabilities and associations advocating for them represents the best way for you to meet their needs. They’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to fully be ADA-compliant and to make the city more accessible and comfortable for them. 

Accessible public transit systems

Subways, bus stations, train stations…, how can your public transit system be accessible to passengers with physical disabilities? 

Access ramps,

Elevators,

Escalators,

Large doors,

Secured stairs,

Clear and readable signage for wheelchair users,

Real-time information that’s easily readable for wheelchair users,

Lowered counters for wheelchair users to buy a ticket,

Lowered vending machines,

Dedicated airlocks for wheelchair users to go through the turnstiles,

Lowered validity ticket control,

Contactless validation,

Indoor wayfinding app like Evelity for passengers with physical disabilities to easily find their bearings inside a complex station. Evelity is currently being tested at the Jay Street-MetroTech station at the New York City subway.

Accessible seatings aboard trains and buses,

Dedicated spaces for wheelchair users aboard trains and buses,

Lowered stop buttons for wheelchair users,

Visual and audio information about the stops so that riders with reduced mobility know when they need to prepare to get off the train or the bus.

But having an accessible public transportation system is much more than putting up accessible equipment or solutions. It also means focusing on trained personnel to deal with passengers with disabilities. Riders with physical disabilities may be more or less autonomous which means they may need to rely on your staff members for assistance. Your staff members have a key role to play in making sure users are safe and satisfied. If they’ve had a good experience, they’re more likely to come back and use your services again!

Check out our articles on accessibility in public transport:

Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for Physical Disability?

How Can Multimodal Transit Centers Be Accessible for People with Disabilities?

How Innovation Promises to Revolutionize Accessibility in the New York City Subway

Accessible public venues

Whether you manage a small restaurant or a shopping mall, you need to make sure people with physical disabilities can access your building and all the services your place provides.

PRM parking spaces,

Access ramps,

Elevators,

Escalators,

Large doors,

Secured stairs,

Large aisles, 

Clear and readable signage for wheelchair users,

Lowered counters,

Accessible seating places,

Accessible restrooms,

Indoor wayfinding app like Evelity if your venue is complex.

You’ll find more detailed information in this article:

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for People with Physical Disabilities at Public Venues

Keep in mind that here you need to rely on your personnel to provide the perfect quality service to your customers with physical disabilities. A genuine smile can make all the difference! We recommend you and your staff to offer your help but be careful not to impose it. Simply ask your customers with physical disabilities if they need assistance. Some prefer to remain autonomous and others may need extra help but they’ll tell you how to best help them.

8 Tips to Welcome a Person with Physical Disability

Bringing comfort to people with physical and intellectual disabilities

As we saw earlier, some people may have both physical and intellectual disabilities. Even though in this article we mostly focus on physical disabilities, there are of course solutions that can help those who also have intellectual disabilities.

And you can easily set them up in the three areas mentioned above:

Universal pictograms,

Easy-to-read and easy-to-understand information,

Indoor wayfinding app like Evelity,

Secured stairs.

Once again, training your personnel in providing customers with physical and intellectual disabilities with the best possible service will add value to your establishment or transport network.

They just need to remain calm, be natural and speak using easy-to-understand words. Most of all, your personnel need to be patient and have empathy towards your customers. It’s not because they have disabilities that they should be infantilized. On the contrary, you should speak to them as you would anybody.

You and your personnel need to create a safe environment for them to be comfortable enough and feel welcomed.

9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability

Although there are a multitude of physical disabilities that cause people to have different needs and mobility issues, a lot of existing solutions help them have access to any place and any services. It’s up to you to implement these! 

Published on December 24th, 2021

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An employee ready to welcome customers with intellectual disabilities

Keep in mind that here you need to rely on your personnel to provide the perfect quality service to your customers with physical disabilities. A genuine smile can make all the difference!

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

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...

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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.

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

A young woman is looking sideways to the camera

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

 

Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of these categories there’s actually a whole range of hearing impairments. This means that people don’t have the same needs in terms of accessibility.

What’s a hearing impairment exactly? Knowing what this type of disability englobes will help you address the needs of hearing impaired people to best meet them. Whether you manage a shopping mall and welcome customers from the deaf community or you have a new colleague who’s hard of hearing, you’ll see that you can implement or do simple actions to communicate effectively with them. 

What does it mean to be hearing impaired exactly?

“Hearing impaired” is often used to describe people with hearing loss, from mild to profound, that is to say deaf and hard of hearing people.

It may surprise you to know that a deaf person can actually discern certain sounds. But they may not exploit them. It turns out that completely deaf people only represent a minority. Most hearing impaired people can perceive sounds or can experience difficulties in following a conversation like those who are hard of hearing.

Another noteworthy fact: a deaf person isn’t necessarily non-speaking just as a non-speaking person isn’t necessarily deaf! 

Seeing that some hearing impaired people cannot properly hear their own voice, their speech may be difficult to understand for others. In fact, all deaf people have the physiological ability to speak but some never use their voice. They may prefer to use sign language, a way of communication entirely based on manual articulations, to express themselves. Some may remain silent while using sign language while others may articulate sounds.

Other deaf people can use their voice to communicate with a hearing person but it doesn’t mean they can hear. 

As you can see, there’s a whole range of abilities and/or preferences related to hearing impaired people. By remaining open-minded, you’ll make the hearing impaired person you’re interacting with more comfortable and at ease. That’s the first step in establishing trusting communication.

If you want to break down clichés on people with a hearing impairment, read our article:

8 Clichés About Deaf People

What solutions enhance accessibility for the hearing impaired?

Whether you’re dealing with deaf or hard of hearing people, you can make sure your venue or your transit network is accessible to them so that they can have access to information, find their bearings and communicate with your staff:

Message boards, captioned videos if there are any, pictograms at points of interest to provide visual and textual information.

Audio induction loops or amplification systems at your information desk so that people wearing hearing aids can properly hear your staff.

An instant transcription app such as Ava to transcribe conversations between hearing people and the hearing impaired.

American Sign Language interpret: for example if you run a museum, an ASL interpreter is perfect to make culture accessible to the deaf community.

Transparent face masks for all your staff members: they protect them and your customers from COVID-19 and enable your deaf customers to lip-read. That way, they can understand your personnel. 

Indoor wayfinding apps such as Evelity so that deaf and hard of hearing users can get their bearings in any complex venues. Evelity, developed by Okeenea, is the perfect solution for maze-like venues such as shopping malls, hospitals or transit networks. The app provides textual information and is currently installed at the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City!

Always keep in mind that a well-trained staff is extremely valuable to your venue. We’ve come up with 12 tips to welcome a deaf or hard of hearing person!

Your staff needs to know about people with disabilities, their profiles, their capabilities and difficulties in order to best assist them. And for each type of disability, there’s a multitude of different profiles! By being aware of their profiles and by acknowledging their differences, more or less subtle, we’ll favor inclusion.

Very various profiles of hearing impairment

For the deaf and hearing impaired community, you’ll see that according to their profile, they don’t all have the same needs. Let’s dive into their specificities! 

People who were born deaf or hard of hearing

Due to genetic factors or complications during pregnancy, a baby can be born with a partial or complete hearing loss. Usually, people who were born completely deaf learned to communicate with sign language. It’s what they have always known.

People who became deaf on a later age

The terms “deafened” and “late-deafened” can be used to describe people who became deaf as adults. Their hearing loss may have been caused by a chronic illness or an ear infection. Seeing that their hearing impairment occurred later in life, they had to adapt. As you can imagine, this could prove to be more or less difficult. 

Although around 48 million people have a hearing impairment in the United States, less than 500,000 of them know and use sign language. This means that most of the deaf and hearing impaired community relies on another way to communicate with others.

Hard of hearing people

They have a mild or moderate hearing loss. But this term can also be employed as a way for hard of hearing people to dissociate themselves from the deaf community. Some of them don’t want to and/or don’t belong to the deaf community’s culture.

People with cochlear implants

Cochlear implants are surgically implanted to people with severe or profound hearing loss. These devices give the receiver a modified perception of sound which means that people with cochlear implants need to have an auditory training to feel comfortable with them.

Once again, we see that adaptation is key for those who choose to have cochlear implants. However, we need to be aware that most of the deaf community is against them. They consider they shouldn’t have to adapt to fit with society’s standards and norms. For them, cochlear implants stand against their language and culture. 

People with hearing aids

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma attached to hearing aids. A lot of people feel ashamed to have some. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), among the adults aged 70 and older who could benefit from using hearing aids, fewer than one in three has ever used them. And it’s even less for adults aged 20 to 69.

Even though hearing aids make environmental sound audible for its users, people with hearing loss are afraid of what others might think of them.

Hearing impaired people with additional disabilities

Tackling accessibility, we often discuss disabilities per family type meaning that we divide them in categories to focus on one disability type at a time. But people may also have multiple disabilities. Indeed, they may combine two disability types.

A deaf or hard of hearing person can also have a motor, a visual or a cognitive impairment.

Let’s focus here on deaf-blind people that is to say people with a combination of hearing and visual losses. Contrary to what the name could suggest, deaf-blindness isn’t a total inability to see or hear.

Even for this rare case, there are different profiles:

People who are profoundly deaf and totally blind and who can only experience the world through touch,

People who are totally blind but have some usable hearing,

People who are profoundly deaf but have some usable vision,

People with both usable vision and hearing.

Depending on their capabilities, accessibility and communication can be more or less challenging. But the thing with visually and/or hearing impaired people is that their disability may not be obvious for others. 

From an exterior point of view, they may first appear as “valid” people. It’s only when they’re in a difficult situation that their impairment can be visible. For example, you may be standing in a queue at a café and once it’s up to the person in front of you to order then they may have difficulties to read the menu or to communicate with the staff. Actually, 80% of people with disabilities have invisible disabilities!

Knowing and understanding disabilities, whatever their types are, actually represents the first step towards inclusion! We’re all different but our differences mustn’t stand in the way of accessing and enjoying everything the world has to offer. We all need to keep an open mind to make sure inclusion for all is everywhere. For the hearing impaired, that means being aware of their difficulties in order to break them down.

Plus, as we saw, how deaf and hard of hearing people identify themselves is important. The best way is to let them tell you what best describes them and what they identify with.

Sources:

Deafness and Hearing Loss (WHO)

National Association of the Deaf

Would you like to know more about the hearing impaired and their everyday challenges? Check out these articles:

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

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

Published on 12th November, 2021

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A hearing impaired man uses sign language to communicate

Knowing and understanding disabilities, whatever their types are, actually represents the first step towards inclusion! (..) For the hearing impaired, that means being aware of their difficulties in order to break them down.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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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.

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

media

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.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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 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

media

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

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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.