Intellectual disability comes under physical disability

Types of disabilities

Accessible Building: Types of Disabilities

Not every person can see or notice their disability. How many people are affected by more or less severe restrictions caused by a physical or mental handicap is shown by the figures collected by the Federal Statistical Office from 2013. According to this, there were around 7.5 million people in Germany at that time - almost every tenth - reported as severely disabled. However, this figure only includes those people who at the time were in possession of a severely handicapped ID. Since not every disabled person applies for such a document and is only entitled to do so from a degree of disability of 50 percent, the real number of people with disabilities in Germany is probably significantly higher. Also not completely recorded are people who are only restricted for a certain period of time due to an accident or illness.

The high number of people affected makes the integration of these fellow human beings and maintaining their independence a task for society as a whole and encompasses all areas of life. Here, the barrier-free construction makes an important contribution, especially for people with physical limitations or hearing and sea disabilities, but also for seniors with limited mobility. However, depending on the type and degree of disability, these people are dependent on different aids and support.

What is a disability?

Disabilities include all types of restrictions that impair the ability to think, learn, speak, behave or perceive. A legally valid definition for Germany is provided by Section 2, Paragraph 1 of the Ninth Social Code (SGB IX), according to which people are considered disabled if their physical function, mental ability or mental health are more than likely to deviate from the typical state for their age for more than six months and therefore their participation in life in society is impaired. The Ninth Social Code also regulates which benefits those affected are entitled to and from what degree of disability in this case

The types of disabilities can be divided into the following groups:

  • Physical disabilities, e.g. B. motor restrictions, impairment of vision, hearing and speech, chronic diseases
  • Mental disabilities, e.g. B. Learning disabilities, impaired cognitive abilities, significantly below average intelligence
  • Mental disabilities, e.g. B. neuroses, personality disorders, addictions, psychoses

The causes are as varied as the type and severity of a disability. Some exist from birth, others are only acquired through an accident or illness in the course of life. Especially in old age, many factors come together that limit those affected in several ways. Nobody can therefore be sure when and whether such a fate will hit him. Supportive measures for people with disabilities include appropriate therapies, medical treatments and the care and support of people with disabilities who cannot cope on their own.

Important: A physical, mental or emotional handicap can affect anyone. Many disabilities are only acquired in the course of life through illness, accidents or the aging process.

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Effects on the design of the environment

The barrier-free design of the environment is aimed primarily at people who are restricted in their mobility and independence due to a physical handicap. This not only affects people with functional disorders of the musculoskeletal system, but also the visually and hearing impaired. Depending on the type of physical or sensory handicap, those affected make different demands on the built environment. For example, stairs and thresholds are insurmountable obstacles for people who are dependent on wheelchairs, while low-contrast signs in small letters are hard to decipher for people with limited vision.

The hearing-impaired are also dependent on special technical equipment in order to orientate themselves in everyday life and to be able to participate in life. Sometimes the requirements of the different user groups collide with each other. A lowered curb must have a certain height and shape for a visually impaired person with a white cane in order to be palpable, but must not be a barrier for wheelchair users.

The structural requirements of people with physical and sensory disabilities can be described as follows:

  • Impaired or absent vision
    People with limited or no vision are primarily dependent on their sense of touch and hearing. The most important aid is the white cane, which is known in technical terms as the white long cane. This helps the blind to get a three-dimensional picture of their surroundings by scanning the floor and thus to recognize obstacles. For this purpose, so-called floor guidance systems such as grooved or studded panels are used in the public path network, which with guidance strips and attention fields serve as tactile path markings for the blind.

    If the eyesight is restricted, colored markings are used to identify barriers such as steps, edges, but also glass walls. A high-contrast design between the wall, floor and other objects makes orientation easier. Good lighting ensures that light and dark contrasts are more easily recognized. The inscriptions on signs should also be of sufficient size and in a color that contrasts with the background. Blind people can read lettering if they are also made in so-called Braille, a tactile writing made of dot patterns.

  • Impaired or absent hearing
    People with impaired or absent hearing are primarily dependent on their sense of sight. Good lighting makes it easier for them to read the words off the other person's lips during a conversation. Other information such as the ringing of a doorbell or a warning signal can e.g. B. be made visible by flashing lights. Vibration signals offer further transmission options. People who are hard of hearing but not deaf, in turn, benefit from good room acoustics, in which annoying background noises are reduced by good sound insulation.
  • Motor restrictions
    In most cases, people with motor impairments are dependent on aids in the form of wheelchairs, assistants or crutches. Due to the use of the auxiliary devices and their general physical condition, they have a limited reach. Objects placed very low or very high, such as switches, cabinets and handrails, are difficult or impossible to reach for them. This must be taken into account in the barrier-free planning. The wheelchair or an assistant also increases the space required by these people in order to be able to move freely. All forms of thresholds, such as individual steps and staircases, should ideally be avoided or made barrier-free using ramps or lifts.

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