A reflection on Project 2 – Disability in Design

Overall this has been a bit of a rollercoaster of a project. I started the project with a very broad topic in mind, I wasn’t sure what kind of research I would be looking into and I also wasn’t sure what kind of route I wanted to take through the research.

So at the start of the Project 2, I researched into disability as much as I could and as quick as I could and I think by doing so, I found myself wandering down a path and couldn’t figure out how to get back onto the road. I wanted to know about all kinds of disability, what they were and what they mean, as well as diving into regulation books and equality acts. I’ll be honest, I was lost for quite a lot of my project.

Starting off my research with such a broad mindset allowed me to explore and pin down the areas I am most passionate about and want to carry through to the MA Project. I first decided to explore why and how disabled users feel invisible in public places and to others around them. I researched into wheelchair users feeling invisible and it touched me quite a lot to think what some people go through in their everyday lives… as an able-bodied person, we take things like that for granted. This then led into visibility – what could I do to increase a wheelchair users visibility; maybe by creating something for the wheelchair itself that would link to an interior space. Although I know I won’t focus on these areas within the MA Project, I will visit each idea and consider them in the designs I create.

After lots of research, both primary and secondary, I found that the area I am most passionate about is accessibility and how a wheelchair user accesses an interior or moves around an interior space. In the MA Project, I intend to explore further into accessibility and how design can be adapted to allow full access. I will be designing interior spaces focused on wheelchair users.

I have had weekly tutorials with my tutor, Patti, who has helped and supported me along this journey of disability in design. I kept finding myself losing track of what I wanted to explore and ended up exploring things I had already done. Patti became a big help in this way as she guided me back to the right path and helped me to open my mind about such a broad topic. – Thank you.



Understanding Regulations

Why do we have building regulations? – Building Regulations are put in place to ensure that buildings are designed and built safely in accordance with Building Regulations and Building Legislation, which are developed and approved by the Government and Parliament.

Over the past week, I have been researching into wheelchair accessibility and mobility. The reason for this section of research is for me to better my understanding of the everyday problems a person with a disability may experience. To do this I must look at building regulations, measurements, observations and studies of how an interior space is used, by a disabled user in residential and commercial buildings.

Residential – ‘Designed for people to live in’ – Oxford Dictionary (2018)

Commercial – ‘Making or intended to make a profit’ – Oxford Dictionary (2018)

Before reading the regulation booklets, I already knew a considerable amount of information on the space and dimensions that are needed for wheelchair accessibility. My reason for choosing the following three regulation booklets are they are all pitching the same information about regulations but each poses a different area of concern, from residential to commercial.

For example, the Portsmouth City Council focuses on housing accessibility for wheelchair users; including comfortable measurements that allow a wheelchair user to move around their house adequately.


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‘Design guide for wheelchair accessible housing’ – Portsmouth City Council (2006)


This HM Government Building Regulations 2010, Part M, is a government-approved document that goes into detail about dwellings.

Dwelling: A house, flat or other places of residence – Oxford Dictionary (2018)

Residential accommodation can be adapted to the needs of the user, so a document like this will clearly inform those that may need to make changes to help themselves to live an easier life from the comfort of their own home.

Whereas commercial building design regulations will have been thoroughly thought through and set in the plan before the erection of the building. It is a lot harder to modify a commercial building once it has been completed and furnished due to major works. But those living with a disability will benefit these changes in order to help them live comfortably.

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Building Regulations – Dwellings Part M. 2010 (2015 Edition)


The last regulations booklet I have read is the Disability Access Standards from the University of Edinburgh. The main focus of this set of regulations is commercial design. These kinds of regulations should be followed in a public space to allow easy accessibility and mobility for individuals with a disability.

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Disability Access Standards – University of Edinburgh (Janurary 2015)

These ‘Disability Access Standards’  have helped me in understanding how different commercial and residential spaces need to be from each other in order to accommodate all kinds of people. It gives a clear divide of what dimensions are needed in a public space and a residential space.



Dwelling definition – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/dwelling                         Residential definition – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/residential                     Commercial definition – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/commercial

Today I visited the SRSB!


Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind

It is Monday 19th February and today I visited Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind!

A little introduction

The SRSB was originally formed in 1860, and has supported, and continues to support individuals across Sheffield suffering from a visual impairment. Hosting an array of different activities and services daily, SRSB provides access to these to around 300 people each week. Not only does it have a beautiful building in Sheffield City Centre, but SRSB also provides a residential home care service for up to 30 people.

I arrived at SRSB shortly after 14:30pm after what seemed to have been a members club leaving the building. I was greeted by a lovely gentleman named David who worked at the SRSB and was willing to give me a tour of the building and facilities they have.

The Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind – Milenkovic. A (2018)

The centre provides a support service to those with a visual impairment, what made this more interesting is finding out that some of the volunteers at the SRSB had a visual impairment themselves so it was lovely to hear that there is mutual support happening too. The age range varies from children to elderly people, however, the average age of people that attend the centre is 88.

Within my first steps into the SRSB, I noticed a map of the building which was there for everyone, although it wasn’t an ordinary map. It was a TacMap. This has been specifically designed for those with a visual impairment and it allows them to navigate themselves through the building. Each word was raised along with a corresponding raised symbol, of course, there is braille on there too. The members of the SRSB are all taught how the map works in relation to the building which I thought was great.

TacMap above
TacMap at SRSB (2018)


TacMap entrance
TacMap at SRSB (2018)


David kindly showed me around the building and the main areas that are used by the members. We went into what is called the ‘Home Demonstration’ room, this is a kitchen fitted with accessible equipment which aids those with a visual impairment understand where things are in a kitchen and how the essentially work. Unfortunately, the photo I took doesn’t show the kitchen fully as there are many small fascinating additions which help a visually impaired person to understand a kitchen; many of the additions are ‘bumpers’ on the oven/hob dial that indicates numbers, a talking microwave which I thought was amazing…. who wouldn’t! There was also a lowered sink area for those who are in a wheelchair.

Kitchen Demonstration room
Home Demonstration room at SRSB (2018)


There is one thing that I did learn whilst at the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind and that I will definitely remember for the future, is that there has to be a contrast in colours so for someone who is blind, they can identify objects through colours. Even though they won’t see a clear image of a colour or object, over time and with help this becomes of second nature. For example, the chairs you see in the image have a beechwood structure and the seat is vibrant blue, this chair sits on a  bright red floor and rests against a white wall, from this information the person is able to figure out where the chair would be.

The last thing that I was absolutely fascinated by was the handrails. Now that might sound a bit silly but actually, they were great. They weren’t fancy, patterned or made from a very expensive material, but they helped in many ways other than just to hold on to.

Handrail close-up at SRSB (2018)

The handrails in SRSB are fitted with fire exit indicators. In case of emergency and the fire-exits need to be used then this little contraption tells you whether you are heading the right way or not just by simply running a finger over it. if it goes over smoothly that means the user is going the correct way, but if your finger gets stuck and won’t go any further that means that the user is heading away from the fire exits. Not only do they assist in fire exits but navigation around the building. towards the end of a corridor, there are bumps on the handrails which indicate that there is a choice of turning left or right.

Corridor at SRSB (2018)


My visit to the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind has helped me to get a better understanding of visual impairment itself but also how people live day-to-day and knowing that there is a fantastic facility for those that need the help.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my post!

Disability Inspiration…


Ability Not Disability
Disability Discrimination in the Workplace. (Abrahams. G (June 2017)   —- This image caught my eye due to the boldness, although it is a very plain image, to me it gives a strong message that all people, disabled more so, should be given the ability to do or achieve anything they want to and not be held back by their disability.


Why you shouldn’t trust a disability by its visibility. Chamberlain. L (2016) — This image speaks a thousand words. There are a lot of disabilities that aren’t visible that people are unaware of unless you speak to the user themselves. This shouldn’t stop anyone of any ability from doing anything they want.


Princesses with disabilities redefine ‘Standards of Beauty’. (Dicker. R (2014) — This image could be so inspiring for a young child living with a disability. Princesses play a big part in a child’s imagination from an early age and an image like this will help them to overcome their appearance just because a princess is in the same situation as them.



Books… Part 2


Whilst in the library I chose to have a look for books that I could find relevant to my topic of disability. Here I came across four, I hadn’t looked at them before taking them back to my desk so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into! However, I did find a couple of interesting pointers (not in every book) that caught me when reading.

Disability books
Books gathered as part of secondary research – Milenkovic. A (2018)

— The book that interested me the most was ‘Constructions of Disability’ by Claire Tregaskis (2004), as she speaks about her own personal experiences as a disabled person, and how life has been and the difficulties she faced growing up with a disability. Claire Tregaskis’s focused on many areas within the book such as being a disabled person herself, disability stereotyping, her research about disabilities, working as a disabled person and many other things.  However, her main aim for writing this book was to explore the social interactions between disables and non-disabled people.

— In the book ‘Understanding Disability Policy’ by Alan Roulstone and Simone Prideaux (2012), both authors discuss the importance of and contextualise the disability policy.  I didn’t manage to read the whole of this book, more of a skim through but I did come across some interesting points within that could help me through my researching process.

— ‘Understanding Disability’ by Peggy Quinn (1998) was the next book I looked at. Due to this book being published in 1998, unfortunately for me, it wasn’t up-to-date enough. Despite this, Peggy Quinn does cover disability in many ways which I think is great and she does discuss the attitudes of people towards disability in the 20th Century; this could be a good starting point for me so I can see how disabilities and peoples perceptions of disabilities have changed as we are now in the 21st Century.

— The last book I looked at; ‘Disabling Barriers – Enabling Environments’ by John Swaine, Sally French, Colin Barnes and Carol Thomas (2004), was quite overwhelming with the amount of different information coming from various authors. It does cover many areas though such as perspectives of disability and impairments, peoples own vision of themselves, how a disability controls your life, help and support and lastly about society.