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Accessibility & Inclusive Design

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When working with clients to make a home or work space welcoming, accessible and without barriers, one can incorporate the ancient art of Feng Shui.

 

Feng Shui (pronounced fung schway) is for everyone. How a house or work space is designed, decorated and put together can ultimately influence your clients to experience positive energy tied to happiness, fulfillment and harmony.

 

To start, there are four classifications of Feng Shui:

 

Practical Feng Shui, where you logically design a space for happiness and success;

Energy Feng Shui, where types of energy openly flow through a space, which ultimate affects a person's well-being;

Symbolic Feng Shui, where personal belongings reflect a person's personality, passions and mementos; and

Personal Feng Shui, where physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies influence a person's path to fulfillment.

 

To fully embrace Feng Shui and all its components, it's essential that you open a particular space to the many levels where the ancient art has meaning.

 

Start by walking into a room/space with your client and ask them what they see.  If the response is lots of clutter - stacks of papers, bills and unopened mail; clean laundry that needs to be organized and put away; or hoards of collectibles without any true "place" - then the natural flow of energy is displaced, scattered and has created a feeling of "chaos".  If the response shows meaning - deep connections to pieces of furniture, décor, and artwork that are present in the space - then your client has already begun to create a self-made sanctuary that is fulfilling and replenishing of the mind, body and soul.

This is just one of many examples of the power behind Feng Shui.

 

To incorporate Feng Shui into a space, start with the following series of simple steps that will help your client see and feel the positive and lasting impacts of this ancient art:

 

  • Clean up the clutter. Actively work with your client to keep their home or work space clean of clutter in order to create a space that promotes happiness, efficiency and peacefulness. 

 

  • Make room for the things that matter most. If a space is overwhelmed with "stuff", ask your client to prioritize the items that matter most and store away the things that he/she won't miss.

 

  • Let there be light. Natural light instantly boosts your spirit, expands your vision and enhances feelings of life, creativity and productivity. Don't let your client close themselves in with darkness - which is associated with feelings of confinement, hibernation and sadness. Instead, open the shutters lift the blinds and let the natural light shine through!

 

  • Bring the outdoors in. Nature creates natural feelings of harmony and healing to its surroundings.  Incorporate some natural greenery into your client's space - the added oxygen from plants or the soothing sound of flowing water create feelings of serenity, calmness and relaxation.

 

  • Experiment with colour. Colour has a powerful influence on your mood. Help your client bring in colours that speak to their personality and energy levels - Red and orange colours spark feelings of passion and excitement; blue and green colours create feelings of calmness and relaxation; and yellow and gold colours add feelings of wealth, optimism and influence.

 

  • Have a dedicated work space. Create a room/space that's dedicated to your client's work, which gives them the freedom to leave their stresses behind and soak in the positive energies associated with the other rooms of their space.

 

  • Display positive pictures of you and your loved ones. Encourage your client to hang photos that capture feelings of happiness, healthiness and confidence - this will automatically make your client feel more happy, healthy and confident.

 

These steps are the first of many that can be done to improve accessibility and enhance a client's space as they overcome any physical, mental or spiritual barriers in their own life. Accommodating mobility, cognitive or sensory impairments will be of primary importance, but why not consider some Feng Shui concepts as a secondary goal? 


For more information and steps to incorporating Feng Shui into a home or work space, visit your local bookstore and pick up the book, Feng Shui Your Life, by Jayme Barrett. This book is a game-changer and will help your clients learn to love their home and work all over again.

 

Marnie Courage, OT Reg. (MB)

Director & Inclusive Design Consultant

Enabling Access Inc.

 

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As new night clubs, restaurants and bars pop up around town, with funky wall murals, modern bar stools and high tables, one may be captivated with how the design brings people together and influences the way people interact in the space. The intent of tall tables and bar stools is often to encourage patrons to stand, lean in, perch on a stool, walk around, and mingle. The other reason to include bar style tables and stools is to avoid the perception that the establishment is full, when all the seats are taken, and instead invites more patrons to consume and join in, backed by the idea that "Standing room only" can translate to it being a hot and happening scene!

 

Unfortunately, sometimes accessibility gets sacrificed when style is the focus and people can overlook the barriers that this stand-and-perch environment creates. Building Codes vary by region, and although most require the inclusion of at least 5% of the tables to be accessible at 28-34 inches high, just imagine the segregation experience of patrons at a small venue sitting at one of the only low tables, when the majority of people are milling about, leaning or standing at their high tables. Further, take notice of height of the service counter at your favorite night spots, as I would suspect few have a wheelchair accessible counter where a patron can order a drink and pay without having to wheel around the side of the bar or have a friend order for them.

 

The wonderful thing about inclusive design is that barriers can be removed without sacrificing style, intent or feel of the environment. By including a good mix of high and low tables,  considerately distributed throughout, with spacious passage areas, patrons can mingle at varying levels without creating high/low, us/them segregation. This provision is, in many cases, easy and inexpensive to meet, also by removing some of the fixed seats/booths (but leaving the tables) and replacing them with seats that can be removed for a customer who uses a wheelchair. This measure also creates aisles wide enough to people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices to negotiate.

 

Using the principles of Universal Design, business owners are beginning to understand the benefits of designing spaces where their patrons cab access their services in the same manner and will hopefully start to include an accessible service counter not only for those who are shorter, or in wheelchairs, but for all to use, without barriers.

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According to Visitable Housing Canada, “VisitAble Housing or VisitAbility is the concept of designing and building homes with basic accessibility. VisitAble homes provide easy access on the main level for everyone. VisitAble housing offers a convenient home for residents and a welcoming environment for visitors in all ages and mobility.” 

 

Visitable homes have three basic accessibility features:

 

No Step Entrance - At minimum, there must be one accessible, no-step entrance at the front, back or side of the house.

Clear Passageways - All doorways and halls must be wider so there is clear passage throughout the main floor. 

Accessible Bathroom - The bathroom or powder room on the main floor must be accessible by visitors who use mobility devices.

 

These visitable homes not only appeal to people living with disability, but also to young families with strollers, and older people who anticipate changes in mobility as they age and want to age in place. Here in Manitoba, the neighbourhood of Bridgewater in South Winnipeg meets visitable design standards. According to Manitoba Housing, the provincial department responsible for the neighbourhood of Bridgewater, the development will include over 1,000 visitable homes and hundreds of multi-family units with visitable features. To date, more than 200 of these homes have already been built.

 

As societal demand for accessible and sustainable housing grow, and accessibility laws stretch beyond provincial building codes for new residences, we should see more initiatives like Bridgewater in this province, making our communities more inclusive by design. At the very least it is a step in the right direction. See my comment reply to this post for how Canada's Visitability Standards fall short of those in the US.

 

For more information on visitable housing visit:

 

http://www.bridgwaterneighbourhoods.com/vision.php

 

http://visitablehousingcanada.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Wpg-VisitAbility-TF-Intents-Summary-2015-July-revised.pdf

 

 

Marnie Courage, OT Reg (MB)

Managing Director of Enabling Access Inc.

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When we think about bathroom safety those of us around in the 80’s think about the elderly and the TV commercial for LifeCall where the older woman is lying on the bathroom floor and calls out “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”. It’s true the elderly are intrinsically more at risk of bathroom falls than the younger, stronger generation who have better balance and righting reactions, but the environmental risk factors that send our parents to the hospital with a broken hip are the same for us and could land us on our keisters calling out those memorable 8 words.

                                              

According to Public Health Agency of Canada, “One third of community-dwelling Canadian seniors experience one fall each year and half of those will fall more than once. The likelihood of dying from a fall-related injury increases with age; among seniors, 20% of deaths related to injury can be traced back to a fall. Nearly half of all injuries among seniors occur at home. The bathroom and stairs are particularly hazardous due to the risk of slipping, tripping and stumbling.”

 

You can use these tips to make your bathroom safe for anyone to use, at any age:


1. Prepare all supplies in or near the shower or bath before you bathe. For example, lay the towel on the toilet or stool close to the shower or tub so you don’t have to lean out of the tub and reach up to the towel rack which may be more than an arm’s reach away.


2. Remove any loose mats on the floor as they present a trip hazard. Instead use only a mat with grippy backing to step onto out of the bath.


3. Remove rubber bath mats in the tub as they present a trip hazard and instead use adhesive no slip decals on the bottom of the tub.


4. Remove sliding glass doors into tub and replace with shower curtain and rod for full access to the tub.


5. The highest risk for falling happens as you step into the tub and all weight is on one foot. To prevent having to step into the shower, consider using a bath chair or bench so you sit on the chair and then swivel and lift your legs into the tub one at a time. Bath chairs can eliminate all falls that occur in standing. Reserve bathing on the bottom of the tub for those achy body days or when you need an at home spa treatment.


6. Install a hand held shower head so you can access it when sitting on the bath chair and have it hanging down before you get into the tub so you don’t have to stand to access it once in the tub.


7. Do not use towel racks as grab bars as they are not designed to withstand our body weight. If you or someone in your home is using the towel rack or facecloth bar for support, remove and replace with a grab bar designed for bathroom safety and ensure installation meets safety standards.


8. Try siting on the toilet or stool to dry off and eliminate standing and lifting up one leg to dry when wet and slippery.

 

We are not too young to be safe in the bathroom and teaching our kids these tricks will create safe behaviors and prevent injuries from occurring at home.


Grab Bar Guidelines

 

 

Marnie Courage, Reg. O.T. (MB)

Managing Director

Enabling Access

marnie@enablingaccess.ca

 

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