The Concept of Visit-Ability in terms of Disabled Building Access

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Access for disabled people to public spaces and facilities has become an important part of the political and social agenda. The belief of the social model of disabled and aged people have become the ideological hegemony of disability policy making and inclusive design practise in the 21st century in the globe. Many professionals, public writer, civil society organisation and governmental agencies are encouraging different designs schemes for accessible building to all. The concrete sentience of what disabled people faces in an uncongenial built environment. Senior citizens, preferably will love to continue living independently in their own homes as they age. However, too often, structural barriers of public spaces prevent those who acquires a physical impairment from aging in a place .The extensive spread of inaccessibility in each nation's housing stocks makes it difficult for individuals with disabilities of all ages to visit friends and relatives (lynott, 2008).

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Each nations are characterised by a design apartheid. The building pattern and design are engraved with the values of an able-bodies society. Thus, from steps into shops to absence of induction loops in public and civic building. The disabled people have to personally face the built environment, which were never designed to cater for a range of bodily difference. This has form the core value and the perception of some social disability critics to consider the built environment as “disablist, that is projecting able- bodied" values which legitimise oppressive, prejudice and discriminatory practises against people purely on the basis that they have physical or mental impairment.

Disability and ageing is a fundamental issues. In the next two decades, millions of the populace of the globe will have attain older age. Each nations will be confronted with difficult challenges in the built environment including lack of sustainable, marketable, accessible and affordable housing (Maisel, 2007). Despite the fact that housing, community and inclusive design affects everyone, the connectivity between people and the built environment has an important impact on the disabled people and the ageing populace. Maisel stated that an inclusive housing design or exclusive housing design can either, mortify or facilitate the ability of the people to live and age comfortably without any assistive mechanism.

The most persistent problem to disabled individuals, is infrastructures being inaccessible, including old public structures and housing. The most appealing and hereafter useful solution is adoption of the concept of visit-ability and an inclusive and universal design approach. A visit-able space or infrastructure has at least a wheelchair accessible entrances and ground floor doorways and corridors wide enough for someone in a wheelchair to pass through. A few cities in the U.S. have adopted laws requiring a certain amount of visit-able home construction (ADA 1990; Duarte & Cohen 2007).

As the recent demographic shift set out to increase the present lack of accessible infrastructures and an inclusive design, a growing section of the populace will face challenges in accessibility and usability of their habitation. Visit-ability, inclusive and universal design, did not only tend toward demand for more accessible housing but, it also makes out, that this need broaden beyond multifamily housing market (Maisel, 2007). Inclusive and universal design approach reduces environmental barriers (inaccessible to public building and transport system) and also saves cost for renovation in cases of future mobility impairment. Maisel argues that when visit-ability is in place, residents in the community can welcome guests who use wheelchairs or walkers (walking frames), or have some other mobility impairment such as stiffness, weakness or poor balance.

On future projections scale, visit-able, inclusive and universally designed homes enhance sale and re-sale in an era where both the number and the percent of older people are growing rapidly. Non-disabled buyers are attracted to well-designed homes that is inclusively designed to welcome their aging, disabled families and friends and provide easy-use convenience for themselves. Furthermore from a human psychology (stress) perspective, all residents find it easier to bring in baby strollers, grocery carts, or heavy furniture and in time of temporary disabilities, i.e. broken leg or arm, surgery, etc., can require use of an assistive wheelchair or other mobility device during the recovery/recuperating period. This can form significant inconvenience in most existing habitation with inadequate basic accessibility features. (Seekins, 2006).

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Realising the gains and growing need for more accessible housing, many state and local jurisdictions of the developed nations have joined visit-ability movement and advocated for an inclusive and universal inclined designs. In fact, several municipalities and states across these countries have already formalized and enacted visit-ability programs. With their common goal of increasing the supply of accessible housing, this visit-ability program is being altered significantly. The three elementary ways they tend to be different are the geographic areas they extend to, the scope of characteristic they are being made up and the systematic plans by which they are implemented and enforced. For instance, including additional architectural elements such as blocking for grab bars in bathroom walls and accessible environmental controls. Some visit-ability initiatives are compulsory, whereby constructors and the habitats are required by a decree or act to include visit-able characteristic during new construction. Other programs are purely voluntary or perhaps (Nasar & Cowley, 2007).

Visit-able housing is a universal and inclusive design housing concept that is developing rapidly across North America and around the world at large. One of the distinct about visit-able houses are such that, at same time, it allows the home to be visited by friends and relatives who are aging or have disabilities but also allows these same people, a housing choice to purchase or continue to live in as their needs change.(Ringaert, 2007).

History of Visit-ability

The concept of visit-ability originated in Europe but was initiated in the United State of America in 1986 by Eleanor Smith, a disability right advocate. Visit-ability is a sustainable, affordable, marketable, security and accessible design approach that moves towards single family homes, the highest desire is to get all new homes not covered by the present access regulations “accessible enough” for a visitor with disability. Thus visit -able homes tends to accommodate anyone and to provide access to everyone, irrespective of some restrictions to existing laws of disability (Smith, 1986). New moves to merge accessibility in a single family housing and public space is rising and becoming significant in the 21st century discourse on the need for accessibility for all.

The Founder of this grassroots platform Eleanor Smith recalls, “That one day in 1986 while she was driving in her car around her home city in Atlanta US, she passed through many new housing development and she observed that, those homes had steps at the entrances and all of a sudden, she looks at the home differently and thought that those houses could have all had access.”(NIDRR, 1999). Concrete change promote the concept of visit-ability and work with the city of Atlanta to pass the first visit-ability law which makes it mandatory that all public housing be accessible. Visit-ability became more see able throughout the 1990’s, as the concept was sticking fast. In 2001 and 2002, visit-ability came to the forefront as many other countries has adopted it

The Need and Evolution of Visit-ability

Public space and accessibility related issues are not limited to only a few people, it adversely has an impact on a large number of people, even the developed countries like Canada, United States, United Kingdom etc., who have mobility impairment and therefore go through barriers within their own houses and public spaces. This populace made up out of, but is not restricted to people who use assistive device. The data of statistical analysis from the disabled centre reveals that approximately 6.8millions of Americans residents and about 8.7million of United Kingdom population make use of the assistive devices to aid their mobility (DDA 1995; Laplante et al. 2000).Further studies indicates that there will be an increase in the use of mobility devices with the rapid rate of the aging populace. (Laplante et al., 1992).

In common with the vast majority of low-income countries, not least in African, disabled and aged people in Nigeria encounter a plethora of attitudinal (lack of disabilities issues by the general public, etc.), institutional (lack of access to computer, internet, information etc.) and environmental barriers (inaccessible to public building and transport system) that impede and militate against their active social inclusion within contemporary society. Many advocate groups and researchers sees visit-ability as a backbone towards accomplishing universal design on a neighbourhood level and a larger scale. In recognising the worth full purpose of visit-ability in developing active communities and public spaces, Truesdale and Steinfeld (2002) argued, “Although less than the ideal of a universally designed home, visit-ability is really universal design engaged through inclusive design, community and neighbourhood planning. It guarantees that the basic level of accessibility will be put up in all the housing and public space design, and it exposes opportunities for participation in community life”.

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This case study compliment resources for designing communities to suit social diversity and render equitable opportunities for all the residents, or inclusive design. It centred on design of housing to give accessibility to people with disabilities and aging in place, while also making greater the conveniences and safety for all the residents. This experience aims at causing changes in the design practises. This is the fundamental objective of the inclusive design idea to comprehend that design for diversity benefit all of us and our perception is been metamorphosed on differences as something about “them” (Steinfield &White, 2010).

According to the late Bernard Isaac (1996, as cited in Clarkson et al., 2003) he said “design for the young and you exclude the old, design for the old and you include the young” .Presently, one billion people of the globe have a detectable degree of functional impairment across Europe, and in other countries, where the process is well advanced, large numbers of the populace have retired and venturing on new vocation and have quest to make full their longer life. This tendency will impact strongly on the markets and have all-inclusive design implication. (Clarkson et al., 2003).

When we look intimately at everyday product, we can quickly notice where people may have difficulties using them. Many of these difficulties are as a result of design decisions made without regard to the user, as such this reasons are often superficial but luckily, the answers may often be superficial too. For instance if the hinges of a door handle is too small to open the door conveniently, it can be replace with a larger one. However, physical composition of the populace is changing basically and essentially. It is not enough to look at those getting older, no matter how sound, fit and healthy we may fit or not feel at this point in time, as time goes on in our dear life we will surely go through a decrease in our active and operational capability. Our ability to participate activity in some action will be impaired e.g. through accidental trauma or the natural ageing process, after attaining the age of twenties our body naturally begins to wear out (Kirwood, 1999).Our ability to learn, see, move around freely diminishes (Keates & Clarkson, 2003).Inclusive design is borne out of and builds on an earlier approaches to design for primarily disabled and aged people with focus on access to the built environment. (Coleman et al., 2007).

The demand of visit-ability

The demand of the concept of visit-ability is growing rapidly on a global scale. Each country is striving to implement the basics, in order to make housing and public spaces accessible to all, without any form of discrimination. According to Rocky Marcoux, the commissioner for the department of city development, city of Milwaukee, W1 “when people have to leave the neighbourhood because their house no longer meets their need, its unnecessary. It is a forced migration in a sense”. The founder of concrete change, Eleanor Smith in one of her deviant stands on the necessity for housing being accessible to all stated categorically and emphatically that “when we build houses, the houses are not meant to be habited by non-living things but by human who are likely be there for hundred years, more also these things hurt nobody and they help a lot of people.”

As population of the globe increases and a high proportion of the populace ages. There will surely be an increment in demand, each country closes her rank and file in seeing to the growing demand and need for achieving inclusive housing and community design through the adoption of the concept of visit-ability. The demand of a visit able houses is rising and a lot of nations are moving toward this direction, in seeing to implementing existing accessibility laws and enforcing the implementation of the laws. Though, as most of developed countries strives to make up an environment that, is accessible to all without any form of bias. Some still lacks behind, United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, France, Norway are all in the frontline of this campaign but Norway is ahead of other nations of the globe on the implementation of accessible and inclusive design down to the community level (Bringa 2001; Smith et al., 2007).

Ordinance and Principle of Visit-ability

According to Walton d. Dutcher Jr. the Visit-ability Ordinance is a reasonable drive to require minimum access to homes built with financial assistance provided by the City. However, an encompassing societal perspective would be that anything less than an inclusive housing and an accessible environment is, by default, discriminatory and biased. The visit-ability ordinance requires all new homes to be built with at least one entrance with no step, and doors at least 32 inches wide. It also requires, lever door handles, reinforced walls in ground-floor bathrooms so as to make it easier for an occupant to install grab bars, and the switches should not be any higher than 48 inches, and the Hallways should be 36 inches wide throughout the entire main floor.

A visit-able house is not mandatory designated to have the total degree of accessibility required by a terrible disability person, it intentions is to create a home for anyone and to render basic access characteristics for all. The three rudimentary principles of the concept of visit-ability are some fundamental features of access for all. New housing units can be achieved at low cost, if implement at the earlier stage of construction and good design are practised. Access and liveability for all is a civil right and a platform to ameliorate qualities of life and a limited number of significant features will grow the magnitude of accessibility comparable to a more all-encompassing list of characteristics. (Maisel, 2006).

Challenges and Success of Visit-ability

There are certain existing and recognised challenges to implementing visit-ability. From the home builders point of view, they have some fears and objections to the concept and principle of visit-ability, while some see it that it should be a voluntary action, others feels that it must be mandatory. (National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 2003). NAHB (2003) argues that the end-users (home buyers)should be at liberty to prefer the type of houses they want, not to be limited or constrained to accept features they do not want or need now. Critics query the legality of ordinances, cost of the program and the practicability of implementation. The house builder reason that beside, the threat of the violation on home owners’ rights, achieving inclusive housing and community design is too expensive and more also negate architectural aesthetic qualities of a house (Lawlor 2004; Myzek 1998). Secondly, from the advocates’ views, which antagonises the builders’ statement, that home builder not often request visit-ability and change should be dependable completely on a free market system. They contend that most of home buyer are not cognisant of the visit-ability movement and do not know that they could ask for the basic visit-ability features when building a new house. The advocates believes that the builders try to suit and satisfy themselves alone by attempting to shape the market to their own belief and rather than simply responding to the growing needs and demands of the market. (Nation Building News, 2006).

The possible obstacles to the acceptance of new visit-ability program are heighten by the lack of visit-able houses being built in communities that have long adopted the universal and inclusive design approaches. Several wide and specific policy issues encompassing the concept of visit-ability must be harmonised to ensure future success of achieving inclusive housing and community design strategy. With consideration to these challenges, the visit-ability movement continues to progress, some of the indication are the emerging bills, laws, federal, states acts, public and scholars outcry. As more people are being confronted with barriers in usability and accessibility of their homes, visit-ability addresses their needs and demands.

Significance of Visit-ability

These report works is to promote and build on an inclusive design and community action projects that enhances the integration of visit­- ability housing system. It is the believe that the evolution and adoption of the concept of visit-ability toward inclusive housing and community design is pivotal for everyone and more especially, as it is in line with the objectives of universal design. One of the reckoning and striking forces of concept of visit-ability toward achieving accessible housing is that, it flexible, gives opportunities for the populace to access their friends, family members and neighbours and thereby, making it usable and liveable for all.

Modern strategies for integrating accessibility feature are rising. One of such is the compatibility and workability of the concept of visit-ability, inclusive and universal design approach. The inclusion of basic access at the start of construction, reduces waste of resources, time and energy dissipated, which could be needed for remodelling and house relocation. Thus makes devising neighbourhoods designs inclusive, sustainable, marketable and affordable. The target of visit-ability differs from both total accessibility and universal design but what is paramount is that on a short term means. Visit-ability is applicable and cheaper because the basic feature of visit-ability are integrated at the early stage of construction.

The intentions of visit-ability is great, it promotes the ability to age in one’s personal house, also someone has the ability to visit ones neighbour and assume an integral part of the community. Physical disability issues, as more of civil and human right concerns, there are some existing and sensed obstacles to follow through visit-ability. As such it will be impossible for all the growing populace to have a positive attitude about their ability to stay on in their respective homes, as they ages, except if some of the existing barriers, laws and states restrictions are looked into by the law makers.