Thursday, 27 October, some forty students of the UIC Barcelona School of Architecture, accompanied by people with functional diversity from different entities and representatives from the Ciutat Vella and Eixample districts took to the street in wheelchairs, blindfolds and assistive canes to walk in the shoes of people with functional diversity, as part of the subject Accessibility at UIC Barcelona School of Architecture.
This activity is part of the CASBA (Accessible Commerce Without Barriers) project. CASBA is a project to raise awareness and educate different agents about accessibility in commerce.
As part of this project, Architecture students tried to access different shops with wheelchairs, blindfolds and assistive canes to walk in the shoes of people with functional diversity and then put forth possible proposals for improvement. This is the 10th edition of the CASBA project and the 6th consecutive year that UIC Barcelona School of Architecture has participated with Enrique Rovira-Beleta, architect and supervising lecturer of the subject Accessibility.
Cleo Agliardi, student taking the subject Accessibility, commented, “It has been very interesting to understand how people with functional diversity feel in the city because there are places that are not accessible and, as architects, we will be able to create more accessible places. This activity lets us understand their situation much better than simply taking a conventional class.” In the same line, student Maui Caldas also commented, “It is very important for us to put ourselves in the shoes of people with functional diversity because generally when we do a project, accessibility comes at the end, but it should be essential, maybe the first thing.” Professor Enrique Rovira-Beleta affirmed, “With this activity, students become aware and by using wheelchairs and blindfolds and a white cane for blind people, and also by listening to the experiences of people with functional diversity who accompanied us, they discover the need for spaces and the different obstacles that all these people face every day, and future architects will design their projects for everyone, whether they have limited abilities or not; and they will remember this activity for the rest of their lives.”
Isabel Palleja, Commerce Councilmember of the Eixample district, highlighted that the activity is very interesting and necessary. “Commerce always has an added value, which we often don’t see, and does a great social work,” she stated.
Maria Castells, technician at the Municipal Institute of People with Disabilities (IMPD), said that this is the first year that the project was carried out in the ten districts of the City of Barcelona. Architecture students from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) and La Salle-Ramon Llull University (URL) also participated this project by checking shops in other districts of the city. “The project helps us explain accessibility. We are very interested in students being able to walk in the shoes of people with functional diversity. Sometimes you can know the regulations, but you don’t know how to apply them. Experiencing the situation of a person with functional diversity allows you to understand why this policy needs to be applied,” she concluded.
UIC Barcelona School of Architecture is a pioneer in the bachelor’s degree in terms of Accessibility, because it is included as a core subject in the third year of the programme.