Understanding how people with acquired blindness experience and interact with higher education institutions : a proposed TVET college for Pietermaritzburg CBD.
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This dissertation document describes the research conducted so as to establish guiding principles that will eliminate the segregation and isolation of blind people, through the design of a universally accessible building. The collection, analysis and interpretation of primary and secondary data are used to determine the abovementioned principles. It will investigate how people who have lost their sight interact and experience public higher educational institutions that are not designed to cater for them. Furthermore exploring the barriers they encounter in these institutions, as well as how they cope in these harsh environments. Approximately 15% of the world’s population has a disability (Statistics South Africa, 2011). According to the 2011 Census just under three (3) million South Africans were reported to be disabled. Therefore 7.5% of the country’s population is disabled. Blindness is the most prevalent disability (Statistics South Africa, 2011). Blind people were one of the groups which were discriminated against during the apartheid era. Since the birth of the democratic South Africa, the laws of South Africa have transformed to correct the wrongs of the past and to allow all disable people the same rights that other citizens enjoy. However the biggest challenge is that these laws and legislations have not been implemented successfully (South Africa. Office of the President, 1997). One of the sectors that have not sufficiently transformed is the Department of Higher Education and Training. Most, if not all the South African Higher Education Institutions are still not accessible to blind people. The number of blind students enrolling into Higher Educational Institutions is growing, however this does not necessarily indicate that these institutions are transformed. This inaccessibility is mostly seen through the infrastructure. People who lose their sight during the course of their lives are forced to adjust to not relying on their sight in conducting their daily lives, like cooking, cleaning, working, travelling, and so forth. The unfortunate fact about the built environment is that it is mostly inaccessible to people with disabilities. The most critical part of this dissertation is the interpretive study that transforms the information gathered into practical design principle which can be implemented in the future design of more inclusive buildings, which are universally accessible. The main principles that were the outcomes of this research were: accessibility into public buildings and the usability of the buildings once entered into. The usability of a building is heavily based on the ease of circulation through the building, the provision of the holistic sensory experience and the elimination of all barriers and obstructions.
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