While the continued activity at our building site is the exciting part that everyone is eager to see (we can hardly keep ourselves away – it’s so tempting to keep running down there to check on the progress), there’s an awful lot more to creating a building than rigging girders and constructing walls. Back at the ranch, we have meeting after meeting with Cushman & Wakefield’s project management team, the architects and lately, with our disability access consultant Subhash Vashishth.

Meeting around a table with five people. Two women and one man have their backs to the camera, two men are facing it. Large sheets of architecural plans are in the centre of the table.

Everybody who builds a building the size of ours knows they need consultants for the electricals, the plumbing, the lifts and the landscapes but few, if any, realize how crucial it is to include an accessibility expert. Five minutes into any discussion with Subhash, however, is all you need to be convinced.

Most people think access means ramps. A few may realize that Braille signage is also important and a few more may think about the fact that deaf people can’t hear announcements on public address systems. Subhash covers all that before he even finishes his tea – and then, he’s off to the races: There is SO MUCH more. The difference between a 1:10 slope and a 1:20 one, for example,

Sketch of a gradually ascending slope with words indicating increasing levels of difficulty for wheelchairs

or why it’s crucial to plan signage before placing electrical points; he can explain why changing places are essential for some disabled adults and how not providing them is a violation of the human right to dignity. He points out why consistency in the placement of door handles can make all the difference for building users of any ability and yet too much consistency can also be problematic: placing toilets in the corner of the bathroom, for example, rather than in the centre may mean people with hemiplegia who could use the toilet independently can’t because it’s placed on the wrong side for them.

Subhash’s knowledge of building code both in India and abroad is encyclopedic but even more impressive is his understanding of the logic of access law. (No surprise to find that he is a Supreme Court lawyer who specializes in disability and access.) For him, it is never an issue of ticking boxes or doing the minimum to get by. For him, access is a human right that simply makes life better for everyone. By ensuring that a building or a sidewalk or a plane works for everyone, we ensure our own comfort, our own safety and our own freedom of mobility too.

Building under construction!

Our meeting with Subhash was both inspiring and just in time: though we thought we had considered everything, we are now redesigning some of our plans with his guidance and are even more eager to showcase the true universal design he has opened our eyes to.

Man and woman conferring in front of a computer screen

Humility, curiosity and painstaking diligence are our guiding principles and getting it right is more important to us than looking right. We will keep at it until all of us are satisfied, including Subhash!

  • Subhash Chandra Vashishth

    Wonderful to work with clients who take accessibility based on universal design seriously in its right earnest. The buildings that we build today are not for five or ten years but have a much longer shelf life spanning several decades. Therefore, it is important that we look at the building from the perspective of all users. It is crucial since we have the opportunity to showcase to the world around us what a truly inclusive building looks like. It can be a guiding light for the future architects, designers, lawyers, planners and rehab professionals.

    I wish and hope that Jo and her team would ensure that the upcoming building of Latika Roy Foundation is a model accessible building based on Universal Design going beyond the minimum requirements of codes! Good wishes on this path of inclusion journey! Count me in as a co-traveller.
    – Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Advocate and Consultant- Universal Design, Accessibility & Diversity Inclusion

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