To achieve truly inclusive built environments, it is important to talk about Universal
Accessibility. Universal accessibility guarantees equal conditions for all, regardless of our abilities. For more than three years, PMMT Arquitectura has developed an assessment method to evaluate the universal accessibility level, which we call CLEAR CODE ARCHITECTURE®, henceforth CCA®. The method takes into account the needs of all possible functional diversities and limitations in its relation with any built environment.
THE CONCEPT OF UNIVERSAL ACCESSIBILITY
When we talk about universal accessibility, we often relate it to people with reduced
mobility, specifically wheelchair users. But in fact, there are other functional
diversities defined by current laws related to sensory impairment, such as: blindness
and deafness, motion-related functional diversities, or neurodiversity. Thus universal accessibility is a broad concept that includes every limitation to move, apprehend, locate or communicate with others and with the surrounding environment. Besides the ones mentioned before, there are several others limitations, such as: injured people, people with reduced mobility by age, people who don’t understand the local language, amongst others.
WHY IS UNIVERSAL ACCESSIBILITY NECESSARY?
- 40% of the world’s population has some kind of functional diversity or limitation in the use of the physical environment.
- There are around 900 million people aged 60 or older. It is estimated that in 2050 this number will increase to 2.000 million.
- At some point of our lives, we will experience some kind of limitation in our physical living environments.
WHAT IS THE CLEAR CODE METHOD?
When we started developing the CCA® research project, we found that there wasn’t a unified knowledge about accessibility. Thus we were able to study many available
handbooks and laws, by getting in touch with several organizations.
Our aim was to collect and unify universal knowledge about accessibility features applied to architecture. First of all, we started by defining all the functional diversities and limitations we were able to find in the World Health Organization diseases list and
the symptoms related to each one. Thereafter, we found that limitations could be
organized in 13 groups with similar features:
- Group 1: Cannot see (which includes blind people, users with temporary disorders, users carrying objects that obstruct their vision)
-Group 2: Visually impaired people (which includes visually impaired people, users who work in environments with too much visual information)
-Group 3: Colour vision deficiency (which includes people with chronic colour vision disorders, users with temporary vision disorders)
-Group 4: Low hearing capacity (which includes people with hearing problems, users with earphones, users in a noisy environment)
-Group 5: Needs sign language (which includes deaf people, users with hearing fatigue, users in a noisy environment)
-Group 6: Cannot understand language (which includes people with understanding difficulties, people who do not understand the local language, children)
-Group 7: Cannot walk (which includes wheelchair users, children in pushchairs)
-Group 8: Walks with great difficulty (which includes people in need of technical help in both hands, people with heavy loads on both hands)
-Group 9: Walks with difficulty (which includes people in need of technical help in one hand, people with obesity, pregnant women)
-Group 10: Handles with difficulty (which includes users with handling disorders, people with wet hands)
-Group 11: Neurodiversity (which includes people with other mental abilities, users with a lack of orientation)
-Group 12: Short size (which includes short people, children)
-Group 13: Hypersensitivity (which includes people with chemical sensitivity, people with allergies or with breathing problems)
CCA® takes into account the needs of the 13 CCA® groups in relation to the built environment, as it is corporative buildings, healthcare equipments, sporting equipments,schools…
We have checked every single element of the built environment, by beggining with healthcare equipments. The reason was these complex typology is the most relevant in what concerns about being used by everyone.
We analyzed what features are necessary to allow them to be used by everyone.
By defining these requirements, we have created a checklist for each space. This checklist endorses all the mentioned requirements for every group, sorted by:
- The group or groups affected and the reason why.
-The building elements related to the defined requirements.
-If the detected issues are related to safety, autonomy or comfort.
-At last, we are able to set a score for each requirement, that varies according to its importance.
Every checklist has an associated algorithm that sets the level of accessibility for each space, assigning it with a certain score. That score is a percentage and it is calculated differently for every single group. It also sets an overall global score.
With this information we are able to define the level of universal accessibility for any built environment. We have named this score UAL – Universal Accessibility Level.
The Universal Accessibility Level of any built environment is achieved by the average score of all the spaces. With this method we are able to determinate the level of universal accessibility of any built environment, regardless of its constructive typology.
In November 2016, we developed a specific software with the assistance of a software development company. This program enables everyone to evaluate of all kind of typologies. It is very easy to use and may be used by any technician, regardless of its knowledge on universal accessibility. This assessment software is also educational because of the explanation included in the “help” section. The commitment to accessibility is one of our principal values and therefore every project we design at PMMT Architectura is developed under Clear Code’s parameters.
PMMT is an architectural company specialized in advanced healthcare architecture that has 25 years of experience and can acreditate more than 2,500,000 m2 designed. The company has works on Europe, America and Africa. Its design philosophy offers the most appropriate products to meet the needs of each customer, based on commitment to citizens and the environment. PMMT is firmly committed to creativity, innovation and research as engines for the optimization, evolution and improvement of architecture, by integrating strategically all the agents involved as an inherent part of the architectural process. Through this vocation, PMMT collaborates with companies and NGOs. The company has its own R + D + I department, that has developed more than ten research projects and its own patents. It have been recognized in 26 first prizes in architectural competitions and awards, such as the prize FAD 2014International Architecture and 1st prize at the IX BIAU 2014, among others.