Page 6 of the architect's final presentation of November 4 promises a fully accessible building.
So pardon our skepticism when we looked carefully at all 74 pages of the presentation and did not find a single wheelchair, stroller or person with a cane. In fact, amid all those healthy Haligonians, there is virtually no visible minority.
Pshaw! you say. This is merely an oversight, an artifact of the available selection of images for dreamy architectural renderings.
Well, architects who make oversights commit errors we have to live with for years. And pay for!
On page 38 we are treated to a panoramic view of the first floor interior. The information desk at lower left (information being what a library is meant to dispense) is in the form of a high counter, way taller than a person in a wheelchair, or a child for that matter. There are loads of specifications for including low sections in counters, but the very idea of a counter runs, well, counter to the precepts of barrier-free design:
The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University identifies the following principles:
- Equitable use
- Flexibility in use
- Simple and intuitive
- Perceptible information
- Tolerance for error
- Low physical effort
- Size and space for approach and use
So a tall counter for regular people and a short counter for kids and wheelchairs offends principle 1, 2 & 7
On page 40 we have an image of what is surely the main index to the collections. What used to be a card catalogue is now a bunch of computers. The architect has outdone himself by putting the computers way out of reach atop those self-conscious bar tables you find in trendy restaurants. Likely, wheelchair users and other non-gymnasts will be off in a corner at an ordinary temporary desk.
Principles 1,2 & 7 again.
On page 39 we seem to be looking into the cafe, which presents a long counter too high for a wheelchair user. Doubtless the cashier will be elevated at some distance above a customer, and wheelchair users will have to fumble with the credit card machine and won't be allowed to see the register screen.
1,2 & 7........
Finally. on page 42, is what we hope architects learn in architect school. A seamless blending of a ramp for accessibility and stairs for seating. Wheelchairs can get to the lower level and virtually any seating level. Bravo!
For this one act of inclusion, all is not forgiven. Don't you believe the "oversight" excuse. Disabled folk are invisible in Halifax, just as they're omitted in these 74 pages. Clearly, this architect doesn't know from accessible.