A day in the life of accessible design: the case of the invisible lift – Part 1


The idealised format of modern living and design requires space, light and a lack of clutter in design and spatial planning. This ideal has evidently been at the forefront of the thoughts of the designer (s) of the foyer area of the GreyFriars Hotel, East Hill, Colchester. As a result, the entrance foyer is an open and airy design, where the emphasis on a lack of “clutter” has extended to the use of an invisible lift to allow access from the entrance foyer to the reception desk area; the protective barriers being invisible by sinking into the floor. This is fascinating to watch and use. Yet there is no signage as to how to use the lift, and wheelchair visitors need to shout up to the reception desk (or get their friend to ask/press a button externally) to gain help as the operating system is also hidden. Reception staff must interrupt what they are doing to open a small cupboard to reveal controls and operate them for visitors.

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.