Mainstreaming disability in training students of building and construction technology students

Mainstreaming disability in training students of building and construction technology students

By Ruth Naito

According to the 2019 Kenyan population census, it is estimated that 2.2% accounts for the total population of people living with disabilities.  The Meru National Polytechnic is focused to producing dependable Building and Construction Technology Technicians who include Architects, Designers, Plumbers, Masons, and other technicians. The polytechnic through its disability mainstreaming committee took a bold step in training the polytechnic teaching staff on the importance of training the building industry staff who are sensitive to client needs that may include disability mainstreaming.  From the discussion that started with the interrogation of the picture above several questions were asked;

  • Will the user be able to reach the sink?
  • Is she able to operate her appliances without having to use an assistive device to access higher heights?
  • Will the user be able to open her curtains without seeking assistance?
  • Are the overhead cabinets reachable or are they redundant after all?

The user might give a design brief which sometimes might be incomplete. However, the designer has an obligation to design and create a product that allows the user to experience the best functionality for products or engineering components. From the 2nd International conference held at the Meru National Polytechnic, one presenter argued that working conditions can affect the productivity of employees at the work place and this for sure is a challenge to designers.

Photo of a designer interacting with a user who is a person of short stature (considered as a form of disability). Photo Courtesy

From the Accessibility and Usability external audit done within the financial year (2021/2022) at the polytechnic, we can appreciate that:

The Importance of Product Design Process

Products are to be designed, modelled and tested before they can be produced in bulk. The needs of the users ought to be addressed during the testing stage and met at the full implementation stage.

 The Role of Adaptive Technologies to PWDs (People Living with Disabilities)

According to global report on assistive technology published on 16th May, 2022, almost one billion children and adults with disabilities and older persons in need of assistive technology denied access particularly in low and medium-income countries, where some even need more than one device.

Where the working environment does not fill the gap for optimum usability and accessibility, assistive aids should be designed, produced and made available to improve access to the physical and virtual environments.

The Role of Designers and User Within the Built Environment

The users are expected to understand their needs and work closely with the designers to realize the adoption of existing standards, or even come up with new standards that allow for improved functionality of the building components. Designers need to see existing design criteria from the standards in order to ensure that they are factored into the design right from inception to implementation stages.

NCPWD (National Council for Persons living With Disabilities) provides an opportunity for everyone within an organization to be trained on disability mainstreaming. You are therefore encouraged to avail yourself when such an opportunity arises. There is a lot of information to read from the National Council of People Living with Disabilities website https://ncpwd.go.ke/.

The Writer is a Disability mainstreaming Coordinator, Meru National Polytechnic. Joseph Orina, the EASTRIP Communication Officer at the College contributed to the Story.

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