Patients' movement in mental health facilities is frequently compromised for reasons quite apart from real physical incompetence. Accessibility within mental healthcare facilities is a more complex issue than universal accessibility standards generically allow for. The purpose of this paper is to critically question the adequacy of universal design aids as the main way to deal with accessibility in facilities for the adult mentally ill in the community.
Several community mental healthcare units (in both Great Britain and France) are reviewed and analysed while they are occupied and running. The focus of the study is on restrictions of movement and the use of universal accessibility devices. The data are part of a broader exploratory study of facilities for mental healthcare, which used empirical, comparative and user inclusive methods.
Mental health facilities are rarely designed for the model of care and staffing regimes which they will house. This discordance between the physical and organizational milieu inevitably compromises accessibility, even though patients tend to be physically able. Outdoor access, vertical circulation and the accessibility of bathrooms are particularly affected.
Models of care, management and staffing requirements, therapeutic needs of patients and interpersonal relationships should be considered for accessibility during planning, in addition to traditional accessibility devices and design. Furthermore, more research is needed to address the ways that accessibility devices need to be altered to comply with the psychosocial elements.
This paper readdresses the traditional view of accessibility, suggesting the paradigm needs to be better developed and nuanced for mental healthcare facilities.
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