As human beings, we all have the right to access public buildings in a dignified manner. Yet all too often it seems that aesthetic considerations or a lack of awareness ensure that such buildings are not capable of servicing everybody’s access needs equally.
On the 13th of October GEZE SA held its first Universal Design Seminar at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. Fifty key decision makers and architects attended this exclusive event with guest speakers Mr. Phillip Thompson and Mr. Ari Seirlis.
Mr Kevin Diamond, Managing Director for GEZE South Africa welcomed everyone and introduced Mr Phillip Thompson. Phillip has had an extensive career in the fields of architecture, property development and management and is regarded as the most experienced universal access consultant in South Africa. According to Phillip Universal Design has “three areas of focus: Designing products so that they can be used by people with the widest range of abilities and circumstances; Designing products so that they are compatible with assistive technology and might be used by those who cannot efficiently access and use products directly; and Designing products that do not need special provision or systems that have separate facilities for certain users”.
After Phillip’s insightful presentation Kevin introduced Mr Ari Seirlis. Ari is the National Director of the QuadPara Association of South Africa; Ari was involved in an accident at the age of twenty three that rendered him a quadriplegic.
Kevin and Ari sat down in a relaxed setting and talked about Ari’s life before and after the accident. Ari is a truly inspirational man and believes that his wheelchair does not take him places; instead he tells his wheelchair where to go…one of his comments that he made was quite pertinent given his circumstances that Architects are either a friend or foe and that design principles should consider all types of people and their situation.
“My mom and dad are architects and therefore I feel that I am qualified to make a statement like this.” he added.
“Through having this event GEZE aimed to make architects more aware of the day to day struggles faced by people with disabilities, expose them to the Universal design principles and also see that GEZE offers a total building solution for every building requirement.” says Kevin.
Afterwards volunteers from the audience got the chance to get an idea of how difficult it is to tackle an obstacle with a wheelchair (a paraplegic toilet and a ramp with an automated door was erected).
The presentation was awarded with 0.2 CPD points through the Institute of Architects.
The event was a great success and three more will follow, the next one being in Cape Town in November, with Johannesburg and Durban to follow in the New Year.
Should you need any further information regarding these events please contact Carla Kriel at (011) 3158286 or email [email protected]