Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Zig Had Already been Zagged

Image description: a set of stairs, viewed behind a tree, that has a wheelchair ramp zig zagging through them.

When we were in Vancouver, out for a walk, many, many, years ago, we came across the Law Courts building  and it was there that I first saw what I thought to be then, the coolest set of stairs I'd ever seen, back in the very early 80's. Notice I said that I thought they were the coolest stairs, I was walking then, so I saw them as stairs with a ramp, I now see them as a ramp with stairs. Life changes vocabulary some times. I was impressed then, as I am now, with the seer beauty and the audacious brilliance of the 'stairs'. Even then, I was in the disability world as I worked with people who had both physical and intellectual disabilities. It amazed me.

Recently I have been seeing similar pictures on social media like the one below, also a ramp cut through stairs:

stairs with built in ramps for wheelchairs. Genius:
People are, rightfully, commenting on how clever this is. It is clever now, it was clever 36 years ago. Yes, 36 years ago. While I am pleased that people are seeing this image and realizing, again, that it's possible to be functional, accessible and beautiful. But it's important to recognize that, even though it is beautiful, the concept is not new. It's a concept that just simply isn't much used.

The ability to do this has been there for a long time.

The will to do it has not.

I drove buy a brand new building, here in Toronto, that has shopfronts on the bottom level. Not only could they have been built to have been easily accessible, some of them have been. Others have a step with an awkward narrow ramp that would be nearly impossible to use.

The choice was there.

For some reason the builder, or the builder's client chose not to take it.

So, it's the will not the way that keeps people with disabilities out.

Never forget that.


Kristine said...

I love the ramp/stairs hybrid. (Rairs? Stamp?) I think they're beautiful.

But I love your reminding people that options like this have always been options. Whenever people try to appease me with "You have to understand, this building was built in the 70s" or whatever, my response is always, "And people have been using wheelchairs much longer than that. We're not new!"

Unknown said...

Well, for once in a very long time I disagree with you. This design may be beautiful but I don't think that it is good design for accessibility.

A ramp should have hand rails along side the edges for those who can walk, but who can't do stairs, and need the rail to hang on to. Like me, for instance, a person with arthritis. I imagine this design is a nightmare for the visually impaired. It might be innovative and different, but sometimes the normal every day design is better because it's logical, common, expected, and safer. Like having a steady edge on the ramp to run a cane along. Sometimes simpler is better, is all.