Ulrike Jocham is the owner of the business consultant firm inklusiv wohnen/inklusiv leben (in English: Inclusive Living) from Stuttgart, Germany. She launched the public information campaign Zero Barriers and Usability in Architecture, which provides information about interdisciplinary tasks and already existing solutions. REHACARE.de spoke with her about negative and positive examples of implementation in accessible construction.
Mrs. Jocham, you are a trained disability support worker and hold a master’s degree in architecture. Quite an unusual combination. In what way can you bring this experience into your work?
So-called "accessible" construction calls upon many professions, such as experts from the areas of care service, educational science, medicine, social work, design, product development, architecture, urban development, skilled trades, building regulation, norm and guideline development, building experts, building legislation, social law and research or social research, respectively, as well as experts in their own right for instance. I believe sustainable developments and solutions for so-called "accessible" construction need to follow a transdisciplinary approach. So far, this is too rarely the case. My two primary qualifications along with my cross-disciplinary continuing education and professional experience enable me to build bridges between the many professions that are often still strangers to each other, to promote an understanding of tasks outside of one’s subject area, to uncover errors in reasoning, to bridge cross-disciplinary knowledge gaps or help in interpreting the different "disciplinary languages". My knowledge which goes beyond traditional "accessible" construction promotes solutions that address demographic change for example, empowering construction, equal choices for participation and selection for people, who are or aren’t in need of care and/or assistance as well as developing renewable options for residing, learning, working and living in society.
Why do you talk about "so-called accessible" construction?
Contrary to the aims of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the focus of "accessible" construction is unfortunately far too often on the shortcomings. Yet the CRPD demands a universal design without discriminating adaptations as well as the largest extent of self-determination and autonomy possible for all people. What’s needed in my opinion is a corresponding interior design that promotes the skills of people and let’s them unfold their potential: empowering architectural design that reflects the demographic changes, doesn’t exclude anyone for no reason, but let’s inclusion become a reality instead. I can illustrate my concerns about "accessible" living accommodations in the various state building codes (SBCs) here in Germany. The SBCs only demand a very small percentage of "accessible" special accommodations, which are never able to meet the demands caused by the demographic changes in my point of view. Even real estate associations worry about an extreme housing shortage for older adults. I think we need building legislation that exclusively and fundamentally stipulates accessible, user-friendly, age-appropriate and inclusive new apartments with the proven and tested minimum standard.