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> > > Jos Boys to publish 'Doing Disability Differently' - a new book on Disability and Architecture

13 August 2013

The photo shows crowds of people, running, sliding, wheeling and cheering their way down the slope of the Turbine Hall in The Tate Modern

Performance from Architecture-InsideOut event at Tate Modern, May 2008. 'How many ways are there to get from A to B?' by artists Tony Heaton and Chris Ankin, with architect Ash Sakula.

Jos Boys invites DAO readers to suggest buildings they like for a book aimed at architects, exploring how they can be more engaged and creative around disability in their design work; so that accessibility and inclusive design become integral to their design thinking and doing, rather than as just an afterthought at the end of the architectural process.

Doing Disability Differently: an Alternative Handbook for Architects, will be published by Routledge, and is to be well illustrated and written in a lively style. The project developed out of a series of projects with disabled artists, architects and architectural students, including Discursive Spaces, So What is Normal and Architecture-Inside Out, co-founded with Zoe Partington-Sollinger. 

The book argues that disabled people in general, and disabled artists in particular, have a necessary prowess in ‘reading space’  - or as Tobin Siebers puts it “disabled people have to be ingenious to live in societies that are by their design inaccessible and by their inclination prejudiced against disability. It requires a great deal of artfulness and creativity to figure out how to make it through the day when you are disabled, given the condition of our society”; suggesting that architects need to make better use of this knowledge, rather than ignoring or marginalising disabled people’s experiences.

As part of the writing, Jos has involved as many disabled voices as possible, and the book will include many examples of work from disabled artists. She would like to invite DAO readers to offer suggestions of a building they like with an explanation of why they think it works well (of about 100 words). This can be from anywhere, and may just be about a particular feature or room.

She would also like answers to the question – why don’t architects just….
To give some suggestions:

Why don’t they just make toilet locks much bigger and graphic so that it is easy to see if a cubicle is occupied or not?

Why don’t they just make the standard door size wider, so that people in wheelchairs don’t have to struggle to get through?

Please add some of your own questions.

The deadline for the book is close, so all comments and replies have to be sent in by SUNDAY 8th SEPTEMBER. These can be posted within the comments section of the DAO online website or emailed directly to

Photographs and sketches would also be welcome, but need to be at a high resolution (250dpi).


Brenda Kent

17 August 2013

Can architects please think about light and sound and heat ? Glare, bouncing sound, stuffy rooms - these can make the built environment uncomfortable for most and unusable for many. There are many ways people's experience can be improved because people have many and various needs. So could architects please think 'adjustable'. Design so light, acoustics, air and even space can be adjusted to suit the users. It's time for universal access by creating extremely adaptable environments.

Colin Hambrook

13 August 2013

Why don't they use high colour contrast for steps or any raised areas as a standard practice?

Aidan moesby

13 August 2013

Sometimes it is the physical dimensions of a building that is focussed bearing in mind accessibility for wheelchairs and rightly so. However, often overlooked is how we engage with space and the built environment on a psychological level. So what is the space from the door to the front of house like, is it easy to step into, comfortable, is it too large, psychologically inaccessible - anxiety creating? What is the language of the space - often very overlooked by architects - is it public, private, public-private shared - a cafe, a gallery etc - all have their own languages. Is a wall a wall or is it really a giant door or window - moveable - that influences how people feel - negotiate and engage with the space they are in. People don't just have physical disabilities. The hidden or not so obvious must be attended to as well.

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