How Can Architects Put The Able Into Disabled

How Can Architects Put The ‘Able’ Into ‘Disabled’?


For too long, disability is something which has been marginalised and cast aside. Buildings are designed with narrow doorways, unnecessary extra steps, door handles and light switches at curious levels, and awkward office spaces and toilets which are inaccessible for all workers. Inclusiveness has become almost an inconvenience, a politically correct box ticking exercise required to take up as little time, effort and energy as possible, at the detriment of those looking to access the business or building on a daily basis.

Architects, however, have the power to change all of this. When designing a new building, they can ensure it is inclusive, accessible, and works well for everyone who needs to use it, by designing with one simple idea in mind: the ability to make it accessible for everyone. By starting from this simple point, the process becomes much clearer and easier.

It is important for architects to start from this viewpoint, and to consider the additional needs of those with disabilities. How will they access and move around the building? Where will they need extra time, space or support? How are they able to interact with the world around them? Does the building allow them to flow easily and seamlessly with other people using the space? For most able-bodied users, these additional needs will not be required, but they will still be able to use the space nevertheless. This then, is the crux of the argument: by designing for the able-bodied, you automatically exclude those with disabilities and additional needs. However, by tweaking your thought process ever so slightly and designing for all, you are creating a practical, inclusive space which can be enjoyed by everyone.

The challenge, then, comes in making this practical space creative and beautiful. Consider the different interactions between people, the different types of human body, and the different ways people move, live and work. Look at space as opportunity, and consider the different ways it can be used and adapted to make it suitable for anyone who needs to access it; start from a place of equality, and the end result will follow.


Maggie’s Centre – Glasgow

Maggie's Centre Glasgow Able To Disable Architecture

The architecture and design of Maggie’s Glasgow


The architect: Rem Koohaas – OMA

Able To Disable Architecture Maggie's Centre Glasgow

Image © OMA

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