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Universal Access in Public Spaces

The Irish Landscape Institute (ILI) recently held a lecture on the topic of universal access in the design of public spaces and the external landscape. Fionnuala Rogerson presented on the topic highlighting that that all public spaces have to be accessible under the Disability Act and/or Equal Status legislation and gave an overview of the legislative requirements. Fionnuala highlighted a number of international best practice examples, showcasing that accessibility can be achieved while maintaining the aesthetics of the design (this is sometimes a concern for architects). Particular emphasis was given to highlighting how the Fjords in Norway were made accessible to all while preserving the charter and beauty of the area.

One of the main discussions that took place was in relation to the design and implications of Tactile Walking Surface Indicators (TWSI) in the external landscape. Issues discussed included the implications of colour used and the layout and design and implications of TWSI’s in Heritage areas. Another issue which was raised was the implications of TWSI for people with mobility impairments.

The discussion concluded that any decision in relation to standards and guidance on TWSI must be based on international research in this area. It was also noted that the International Organisation for Standardisation has reconvened a working group in this area who are working on producing an international standard and the NSAI working group on accessibility is working closely with the international sub group. The ILI hope to run a number of other workshops in the area of accessibility in February 2010.