As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, structures and spaces have adapted to physical distancing requirements during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make spaces more accessible for citizens with disabilities. Governments are mandating new guidelines for how people arrange or move through buildings and other spaces. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting spaces to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more architects may think differently about physical distancing and building design after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Physical Distancing and Building Design After the COVID-19 Pandemic
As essential businesses encourage physical distancing behaviours, some are creating protocols mandating how far apart people should be. For instance, some organizations have moved work stations so that workers are more than two metres apart. Likewise, in-person customer service providers are placing markers so that people know how far apart to stand in lines. In short, people out in public are learning to think differently about the spaces they travel through. Workers and customers need more open space around them. For example, organizations benefit from:
- Wide paths, doorways and aisles
- Fixed-queuing guides for line areas
- Good lighting and colour contrast
Moreover, these and other spacing requirements also remove physical accessibility barriers. Spaces with room for physical distancing also have more room for people to move through them with:
Accessible Building Features Benefit Everyone
Alternatively, features that make buildings accessible also help keep people safe during the pandemic. For example, automatic doors allow people to enter buildings without touching the doors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this feature helps to keep people of all abilities safe from the virus.
People are becoming accustomed to new requirements governing the physical layout of buildings. Likewise, people may also recognize that accessible building features benefit everyone. As a result, architects may start to think differently about the importance of including accessible features in new buildings they design after the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, they may choose to make aisles and doorways wider, increase colour contrast, and install automatic doors. In addition, they may also include more accessible features in their designs, such as:
- Level entrances, or ramps at single-step entrances
- Lifts or elevators whenever there are stairs
- Accessible public washrooms
- Good lighting
- Visual fire alarms
- Signage that includes:
- Detailed information
- Large print and Braille
- Clear language or pictures
In the same way that people have adapted to physical distancing, they can also adapt to buildings designed in accessible ways.