Deep Accessibility and Autistic Space


Blog post on WordPress by Ian Ford

Sept 3, 2013

Accessibility has historically been focused on creating more inclusive products and spaces for people with mobility disabilities. However in recent years there has been more of a focus on how to address sensory issues (i.e. Deaf Space.) We recently came across this fascinating blog post by Ian Ford, who lays out some of the guiding principles he believes are necessary for “autistic space.”

Ford talks about 5 levels of accessibility, movement/ getting there, sense/ being there, architecture/orienting oneself, communication and agency/autonomy. Ford argues that the Americans with Disabilities act deals primarily with the first level of movement, being able to physically access all necessary parts of a space.

The level of “sense/being there” requires a space that is free of loud noises, bright lights and bold patterns and textures which can create sensory overload and hinder someone’s ability to “be there” in the space comfortably. Ford also discusses some of the ways that architectural spaces can be designed to support “orientation,” even without requiring users to read written language. “Communication” features can help users understand and make themselves understood in a space, and may include descriptions that explain how to use that space. “Agency and autonomy” can be supported by service and programming considerations. The blog post is worth a read. What do you think, how often do we consider “deep accessibility” that goes further than issues of mobility and movement/getting there?

Related links

Deep Accessibility blog post on WordPress

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.