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Designing for Special Needs

by M Harker and N King

RIBA Enterprises, London 2002, ISBN 1 85946 121 2
205 pages, price 15.00
Black and white photos and some diagrams

While this is described as 'an architect's guide to briefing and designing options for living for people with learning disabilities' it nevertheless contains some useful information that can be applied to all environments.

The authors have extensive knowledge in providing special-needs housing and so much of this book is good old-fashioned common sense that would assist everyone. Particularly helpful is the section on Autism and Design as it deals with an area that is often neglected. I liked the idea of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) for people with non-verbal skills. These are used for information, instructions and the identification of equipment. The illustration shows a chest of drawers with the appropriate PECS on the front of each, indicating what is inside. This enables the user to make a choice or discovery for themselves, but unfortunately I could not find a reference to where these symbols could be found or if they are part of a standard set. Designers need to realise that pictograms, clear signs, larger print and logical layout of buildings help us all.

The sections on smart homes, assistive technology and alarms could be applicable to any building, including museums and galleries.

This review was first published in Barrierfree 16, Winter 2003-4. Barrierfree is the journal of the Museums and Galleries Disability Association.

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