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Rent-a-Spatialist (RENT-A-SPATIALIST)
Start date: Nov 1, 2013, End date: Dec 31, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Through their bodily interaction with the built environment, disabled people are able to detect obstacles and appreciate spatial qualities architects are not attuned to. In architectural practice, however, accessibility of buildings often is considered as a matter of fact, as something people are detached from, taken care of by professionals, instead of something people are exposed or attached to. Legislation translates accessibility into facts by fixing minimum or maximum dimensions, which can be objectively measured by professional accessibility advisors, but offers architects little insight in why a building feature may be problematic or appreciated. Rendering accessibility to the realm of matters of fact thus limits the scope in which disability can be considered a valuable source for design. In this context, we advance a consulting service that mobilizes disabled people’s spatial experience to inform architects on how to make a particular building or site more inclusive, i.e. respectful of the diversity in people’s abilities and conditions. The value concept of the consulting service combines three elements: 1. the spatial experience of disabled persons, so-called spatialists; 2. the set up of embodied dialogues with a selection of spatialists in situ; 3. an analysis report that documents the disabled person’s experiences during the visit in a narrative way. This provides architects nuanced insights in why disabled people dislike or value a certain building feature, beyond merely indicating that it is (in)accessible. The idea to be taken to proof of concept is that this consulting service can be marketed commercially to inform architects and other relevant actors in the design and building process. Such a service is expected to contribute to a more inclusive built environment, and to empower disabled people by strengthening their position in the labour market.

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