Accessibility Fail (and Win)

We have a shiny new building on our campus.  It’s gorgeous, with several conference rooms named for money donors, and a huge glassed-in meeting room.  (Other faculty have pointed out that alas, said building isn’t a “LEED-building” meaning that the design lacks certain green/energy-efficient factors.)

What I find annoying about the new building are its access issues.  Oh sure, there are the nominal “handicap” bathroom stalls, and brailled room-number plates.  But the doors to the regular bathroom stalls swing inward, making one do-si-do around the toilet, and the seating areas in the floor lobbies don’t have any electrical outlets nearby for people to plug in their laptops.

Yet these are minor kvetches; what drives me nuts are the damn elevators! When you enter the elevator vestibule from the basement parking, the control panel is nearly hidden.  This is such a major planning flaw that later on someone had to put up a sign:

Elevator vestibule, with sign on support column pointing to nearly-unseen control panel.

Elevator vestibule, with sign on support column pointing to nearly-unseen control panel.

Once you get into the elevator, you find this:

Elevator interior corner with stainless steel wall & door

Elevator interior corner with stainless steel wall & door

Maybe that looks perfectly ordinary to you, because you’re sitting in front of your computer rather than actually using the elevator.  So let’s examine this.  Here is a control panel with large, brailled floor numbers on high-contrast circles. Perfect for anyone with vision problems, right?  I amble in, and having turned my ankle the other day, use the end of my cane to punch the Big 3.

Nothing happens.

I figure I must have missed, and shuffle over to stub my index finger on the Big 3. And this, O Best Beloved, is why the elevators suck:

elevator conrol panel

elevator control panel

Because the Big 3 is NOT the action button — the subtley convex roundel to the right of the Big 3 is the action button — yes, that stainless steel thing the same colour as the brushed stainless steel background.  Mind you now, it’s the action button to the right of the Big 3, not the one to the left of the Big 3, which is actually the action button for the Big 2.

Were I designing that control panel, the large, brailled floor numbers on high-contrast circles would BE the action buttons.  :: sigh ::  Some people still Just Don’t Get It.

Here are some more pictures of accessibility failures and a couple of accessibility wins.

(These next three are from the FAIL Blog.)

Sign hung on door that reads, “Caution This door opens outwards please do not stand directly in front of the doors” — with Braille message on bottom half of sign.

A series of concrete steps, each topped with an additional concrete paver embossed with wheelchair logo — hardly useful for anyone on wheels or who can’t handle steps.

City bus stop shelter, with back wall built right against the front of a bench, blocking everyone’s use of the bench.

But there’s hope in the world:  here are a couple of Accessibility Wins.

Firstly is a street in London, with both steps and ramped areas.

View down a wet urban street, showing a long ramp on the left and wide steps on the right.

View down a wet urban street, showing a long ramp on the left and wide steps on the right.

Secondly is a child’s shoebox business with toy cars parked out front.  Note the “zero entrance” (no steps) and the handicap parking right in front of the door.  Kudos to my niece and nephew!

Children's shoebox version of Pump It Up! play center, with toy cars parked out front.

Children's shoebox version of Pump It Up! play center, with toy cars parked out front.


  1. sohrab said,

    11 August 2009 at 11:39

    tanks for all.
    sohrab donyabeigi frome IRAN

  2. qw88nb88 said,

    3 January 2009 at 2:00

    Braille on the LOO FLOOR?! That’s beyond incredible. Personally, I would think that the braille No Smoking sign would be right next to the door latch, where it would be easily noticed. But what do I know? :: rolls eyes ::


  3. 2 January 2009 at 20:48

    A while ago, there was a discussion thread over at the BBC Ouch discussion board about Braille signage that had clearly not been thought out very well. Someone raised an example of some loo he/she had been in on a train or plane or something somewhere … there was this printed sign on the floor, I forget what it was, maybe a no-smoking sign or something. The person who described the sign thought the location was fine, at least as far as sighted people were concerned–apparently it was an extremely compact loo, so not many places to put it. But the thing is, the sign also had Braille on it. On the FLOOR. In the LOO. And did I mention that this was on the FLOOR? In the LOO? *rolls eyes*

    Em, Yes, I seriously, entirely, thoroughly believe that in most of these cases, they never actually consult people with disabilities. They just follow set guidelines by rote without making sure that the guidelines actually make sense for the specific context at hand. Sometimes this is because they aren’t really thinking about the actual people who will be relying on the facilities being accessible, they’re really only thinking about ticking the right boxes and hoping they won’t be sued or whatever. Other times this may be because they honestly don’t realize how complex accessibility can be in practice — they think they’ve “taken care of” accessibility by allowing the “experts” to tell them what to do, and they think that trained professionals consulting tick boxes count as “experts” even if they don’t have disabilities themselves.

  4. Em said,

    2 January 2009 at 13:58

    Oh, these failures are just ridiculous! Did they not even consult a single person with a disability??? Do they really want a vision-impaired person to stand close to the door to read the Braille that tells them NOT to stand close to the door?!?! So many people still just don’t get it.

  5. 2 January 2009 at 7:57

    The lift buttons would annoy me every single morning and must be manufactured by the same folk who made the parking meters at our local shopping centre!
    I’m not so keen on the stepped/ramped building in London as I think it might be quite hard, they way the steps are angled and ‘taper out,’ to see the edges of them, where the step begins and ends, I’m pretty sure my mum wouldn’t like them anyway !

  6. Fledchen said,

    2 January 2009 at 1:38

    Every time I go to a certain branch of my bank, I inform the teller that the braille signage on their ATM is incorrect. There’s a braille sticker on the left side of the ATM that explains which buttons are which (as the buttons themselves are not brailled). The sign says, “Actual keypad on your left” when in fact the keypad is to the right of the sticker. The braille stickers are clearly an afterthought, and
    were either not installed according to the directions, or were installed with inadequate directions. And, of course, were not installed by someone who can read braille! They also removed their walk-up ATM, so I have to use the drive-up ATM on foot.

  7. yanub said,

    2 January 2009 at 0:52

    Oh, they have those elevators where I work, too, and in several other places. I have the same reaction to them, and have watched people in them for the first time, of all ages and abilities make the exact same assumption about how to push the buttons. Clearly, this design is fail.

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