We chat with EZ Access Design’s Randy Sora about all things inclusivity
A welcome new trend gaining popularity in Canada is accessible design. Also known as architecture without barriers or inclusive design, it refers to the practice of making sure buildings are accessible to anyone and everyone, despite any mobility limitations. This focus means people of all abilities are being taken into account at every stage when designing new buildings, ensuring that they will be used for years to come.
Accessibility can be considered and accounted for throughout the whole design process of new buildings. Older buildings, however, offer a different kind of challenge to open them up to everyone who may need to use them. So, what can be done to ensure existing buildings are accessible? That’s exactly the question an accessibility designer is hired to answer.
Accessibility designers work to ensure that buildings are accessible to everyone. They have a keen eye to spot where any possible issues lie for anyone with reduced mobility or other limitations, and focus on how to overcome them via the use of technology or other architectural solutions.
There has been a growing demand for accessibility designers as Canada becomes more inclusive and looks to adapt homes and cities to meet the ever-changing needs of the population. To find out more about this expanding market, we spoke to Randy Sora, one of the most respected accessibility designers in Southern Ontario to get his take on the market.
EZ Access Designs: Randy Sora
Owner of EZ Access Designs, Randy Sora is an accessibility designer with over 35 years of experience. He began his career as an independent life consultant and later worked at the Workers Compensation Board. There he gained considerable insight into the housing needs of people who have experienced life-changing injuries, paving the way for a long and satisfying career where he helps recreate a feeling of “home” for people who have already lost so much.
Here’s what Randy had to share with us about his experience and the processes he follows to deliver the best to his clients.
Vendors and Services
First, we asked Randy what he looks for in a vendor. He explained that one of the key things to keep in mind is the after-market relationship between the client, contractor, and vendor. “A vendor needs to understand that their services and client needs are equally important.” Randy’s clients have often gone through traumatic events that change all aspects of their lives, including their housing. That means that they often aren’t looking far ahead into the future, but focusing on the next few days or weeks. Randy highlights that after a project is completed, it needs to be properly maintained in order for them to keep adapting to their new circumstances.
Durable, User-Friendly Products
When asked about key features of products, Randy emphasised that durability and ease of use are two primary concerns. A product needs to work and last, especially when accessibility is the issue, as users rely on it that much more. User-friendliness also affects a client’s satisfaction with their equipment, whether in relation to the sizing of the product, the electronics, or the controls.
For wheelchair users, getting into and around a house can be really difficult. Even the shallowest of steps can create an issue. Floors may need to be flattened, and doorways widened to enable a smooth transition from one room to another. But what about stairs? For some, a stairlift is the answer, but that depends on the wheelchair user being able to get in and out of the chair safely, which isn’t always possible. This is where a wheelchair or platform lift may be the solution.
Relatively easy and quick to install, these lifts are a popular choice for wheelchair users who need to access different floors in their home. Fitting on straight or curved stairs, even if there is more than one landing, wheelchair or platform lifts can also be installed outdoors for properties that have outdoor steps leading up to them.
Another option Randy is particularly fond of is Homelifts, which are able to carry both the person and their equipment to a different floor. Fitting into the existing architecture, these types of residential elevator need little in the sense of structural design, making them a versatile alternative for townhomes and even row houses, leaving the stairs free for anyone else who may need to use them.