Jul - Sept 2013

Barrier free washrooms 

In the last ten years or so, with the economic boom and rise in medical tourism in the country, India has been looked upon as a favourable healthcare destination. According to a 2012 study on medical tourism in India by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and McKinsey, the medical tourism market in India is valued at over $310 million with 1,00,000 foreign patients coming in every year. 

Also, several community projects for the elderly are coming up in metro locations to provide senior citizens homes along with healthcare and other activities. Such spaces require the concept of barrier-free bathrooms.

With rising levels of living standards and awareness of social responsibilities, especially in the urban corporate environment, there is a widespread thrust towards building or at least ensuring suitable facilities for the differently-abled in washrooms. The concept of handicapped washrooms encompasses a variety of issues. There is a thin line between those who are physically or differently enabled and those who are weak or otherwise compromised by age or illness. Each aspect is different from the other. However, in many homes, there is an awareness for providing some sort of facility for older residents as well.

The awareness is dawning but the laws need to enforced more vigorously to speed up the scene. While municipalities take care to build access to public spaces that are suitable for differently-abled persons, the implementation often leaves much to be desired. The guidelines for accessible travel are already in place and are perfect theoretically. It's just a question of implementation and informed design sensibility; as one can see, even in some hospitals, ramps are built with the gradient well over the 12-degree limit.

Barrier-free or universal design essentially implies the creation of an environment that is inherently accessible to both the able-bodied and the physically disabled. It basically combines concepts of broader accessibility movement and adaptive and assisted technology. And, this can serve the purpose of better designed homes and nursing facilities for the elderly/physically disabled.