In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, people out in public are learning to think differently about the spaces they travel through. For instance, workers and customers need more open space around them, to comply with physical distancing. Features such as wide aisles and fixed-queuing guides for line areas keep people safe. These features also make spaces more accessible for people with disabilities. In short, accessible building features make spaces safer for everyone. However, many architects lack knowledge about the features allowing people with disabilities to navigate spaces. As a result, they often design buildings without accessible features. Accessibility training for architects after the COVID-19 pandemic would help designers create buildings with fewer barriers and more safety.
Accessibility Training for Architects After the COVID-19 Pandemic
Architects and other professionals involved in building design should learn more about accessibility during any courses they take to educate themselves. These professionals should be prepared to design buildings for all people, not just people without disabilities. Therefore, the professional schools that qualify them in their field should include courses or modules on accessible design.
For instance, when architects design buildings or public spaces, anyone should be able to move through them. Therefore, architects should know how to design spaces and buildings without barriers. They should learn about design features that create barriers, such as narrow hallways. In addition, they should also learn about design features that improve accessibility, such as contrasting colours and textures. In addition, they could learn about designing with the dignity of all people in mind. For instance, they could understand that an accessible main entrance allows all people to use the front door. In contrast, an accessible back entrance means that some visitors may always need to search for a useable door. Moreover, this set-up sends the message that people without disabilities are more valued than people with disabilities.
Mandatory physical distancing during COVID-19 shows us that accessible buildings are useful for everyone. Therefore, accessibility training for architects should also be mandatory. The government could mandate accessibility in professional training by requiring modules or courses about accessible design. Newly-trained architects would know, at the start of their careers, how to serve people of all abilities. Likewise, professional development should also be required for people in mid-career. These modules or courses would ensure that practicing professionals add accessibility to their existing areas of expertise. Finally, the government could audit building designs for accessibility and permit only accessible buildings to reach construction. This mandate would give architects incentive to make their sites accessible.