Hotel space that is really well designed will be comfortable and inclusive for activity-limited people too. An awards scheme aims to end the separation of disabled facilities
In colour psychology purple represents the future, imagination and dreams; it is the colour of good judgment. Purple is also used by campaigners, charities and the government to refer to the spending power of disabled people. Combine these two and the result is to create an imaginatively designed and inclusive future for everyone.
At any given time, almost 20% of people in England and Wales have an ‘activity limiting’ health problem or disability, and most people love travelling – age and disability generally don’t change that. What is changing is the recognition of the need for carefully designed inclusive spaces.
Disabled people have the greatest need for accessible facilities and services but only around 8% use a wheelchair, with many more having other mobility, hearing or visual impairments or mental health conditions. Estimates show that between 10% and 15% of the population has dyslexia, including many architects. You can add to that people who are not included in the official figure, such as elderly people, those with broken limbs or a bad back or those recovering from surgery.
At any given time, almost 20% of people in England and Wales have an ‘activity limiting’ health problem or disability, and most people love travelling – age and disability generally don’t change that
Design for accessibility is not always about provision of prescribed door widths, grab rails, ramps and lifts, but about thinking more broadly about people. Disabled people have the same desire, means and time to travel as anyone else, for leisure or business. The main difference is that disabled people often stay longer than average in one place, and can’t afford to leave anything to chance.
And they may also have families who travel with them, creating a huge potential market for hoteliers – and an even more enormous opening for architects and designers to provide well designed accommodation to welcome and delight them.
Hotels need to overcome their unfounded fears, shape up and offer well designed accessible accommodation, attractions and restaurants. By accessible we mean easy to approach, reach, enter, interact with, or use. The definition of access is the means or opportunity to approach or enter a place, involving the links between people, places, facilities, services and opportunities. Surely understanding and working with this is exactly what architects do every day of their lives?
Enter the Bespoke Hotels Access Awards. Now in its second year, this key international design competition is hoping for some really creative and original ideas to improve access, which can provide an enhanced experience for all hotel guests, particularly those with disabilities. Peers in the UK House of Lords initiated the competition, which is managed by RIBA Competitions.
The competition challenges us to employ good design to re-imagine the welcome that hotels extend to guests, to make the whole hotel experience more joyful and inclusive.
The scope of the competition is wide-ranging. It seeks to identify and reward the best innovative ideas from the fields of architecture and interior, product and service design.
The competition challenges us to employ good design to re-imagine the welcome that hotels extend to guests, to make the whole hotel experience more joyful and inclusive
Now, architects and designers naturally like a challenge. Defining a problem leads to creative stimulus and ideas.
These awards open up space for research and creative development to find new ways of doing things and new inclusive ways of thinking – territory that should be hugely attractive to the creative professions.
The great thing about this competition is that it sets out to change our mind-set. After all what is disabled? What is normal? Most, if not all of us, will be disabled at some point in our lives and so well designed facilities and spaces should be part of an everyday provision.
Of course, the devil is in the detail. There are almost as many types of disability as there are people and design can only go so far. But it can cover basic requirements for a huge range of situations.
However there is also a question of ‘style’ here. The provision of disabled aids covers everything from wheelchairs to light switches, and both interior and exterior spaces. Disabled aids often look like something you would find in a hospital, so it is imperative that we ‘de-medicalise’ them.
A successful example of a radical rethink is the appearance of some wheelchairs, designed to resemble sports equipment, which have mostly been designed by aerospace engineers in California. Alan Stanton of Stanton Williams Architects notes: ‘I get around on an American Ti-Lite titanium wheelchair with “spinergy” lightweight wheels – often envied by my cycling friends.’
I get around on an American Ti-Lite titanium wheelchair with “spinergy” lightweight wheels – often envied by my cycling friends – Alan Stanton
Again, the fashion industry re-imagined reading glasses as a fashion statement. Surely then we can re-imagine spaces, not by considering imposed regulations but by thinking about people – all people – how they operate, and the spaces they occupy, designed from the inside out.
The aim must be for inclusive facilities to be so good that everyone will see them as simply the best. The disabled suite in a hotel should be a highly desirable top of the range product, not a denigrated and separate specialist facility.
What’s good for disabled people should improve the level of quality for everyone – generosity of space, comfort, care and thought put into ergonomics and detailing.
Last year, the Bespoke Awards inaugural 2016/17 overall winner was AllGo, a collaboration between the specialist accessible design company Motionspot and international design practice Ryder Architecture. It is a universal approach to hotel room design to ensure that all rooms are functional, flexible, accessible and beautifully designed. Many of the design concepts have been adopted by properties across the UK, and hotels as far as Tokyo have registered their interest in the concept.
Ed Warner, founder of Motionspot, said, ‘The Bespoke Access awards was the ideal platform for us to challenge the design perceptions that often surround accessible design. More than 40 people with different disabilities contributed to our focus groups to help us understand the main problems users face when staying in accessible hotel rooms.
‘The competition gave us the opportunity to collaborate with Ryder to create a concept that completely redefines the design of accessible hotel bedrooms and bathrooms. AllGo has demonstrated that anyone travelling with a disability shouldn’t have to face poor quality facilities or lacklustre design. It is fully possible to deliver individual access requirements without compromising the aesthetics of the environment.’
David McMahon, architectural director at Ryder, adds, ‘We are extremely proud of the concept we have developed and how the Bespoke Awards gave us a platform to help make a real difference through design. Our collaboration with Motionspot has allowed us to create aspirational and inclusive environments for all. We hope that this paves the way in accessible design illustrating that good design should meet the needs of all.'
At £30,000, the prize fund is the largest for designers and architects in the UK, backed by a range of impressive organisations including the RIBA, Dyson, The Design Council and The House of Lords. The competition is open to individuals, groups and design professionals of any age – so what’s stopping you?
Visit: http://access.bespokehotels.com/ for more details
The Bespoke Access Award 2017/18 is open for entries until 8 January 2018