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An investigation of contemporary public building design with particular reference to disabled peoples' design needs and designer awareness.

Milner, Joanne


Joanne Milner


D. Urquhart

S.H. Baxter

D. Cox

A. Wilson


The hypothesis presented in this study is to test the theory that designers do not give adequate consideration to the needs of people with disabilities and that they perceive of people with disabilities as a separate minority who require 'special' provision. Within this context it is suggested that building designers would be more able to serve the needs of people with disabilities if building design education incorporated a more holistic and user-responsive syllabus. The research project, designed to test the above proposition, falls into two principal Sections. Section 1, developed as an inter-disciplinary study, drew documentary and research evidence from a wide variety of fields. The evidence, culled from fields that are largely considered disparate and unconnected, was then examined in the light of the relationships which became apparent from the adoption of a broad, sociological and epistemological approach. The etiology of building design as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities, once developed, informed the methodology of the second, empirical Section, Section 2, which was three-tiered. The first stage of Section 2, comprising a base-line survey, was conceived with a view to gauging not only the degree of congruence between designers' perceptions of need and actual need as expressed by disabled building users, but current demands in terms of patterns of building use, accessibility and expectations, and likely trends in the future. The survey was designed to operate within a holistic framework that, by means of stages two and three of Section 2, examined the access awareness of architecture schools, and the effectiveness of a series of incremental educational techniques formulated to familiarise design students with the design requirements of a heterogeneous public. Functioning as a bridge and conduit between the user and building designer, the broader contextual approach, comprising the sum of the three stages, thereby facilitated the participation of both parties, with the initial building user survey informing the later surveys of designer awareness. The overall findings and recommendations thus arise from the fusion of the epistemological and empirical evidence derived from the two Sections.


MILNER, J. 1992. An investigation of contemporary public building design with particular reference to disabled peoples' design needs and designer awareness. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis. Hosted on OpenAIR [online]. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 23, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 23, 2022
Keywords Accessibility of buildings; Building accessibility; Disabled people; Architecture and construction; Architecture education
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