Windows allow sunlight to come in and moments of standing, pondering the rain drumming the ground outside. Windows exist everywhere, and we accept the way designers have innovated them.
But should we?
I’m not talking about the science of keeping the indoors comfortable and the weather outside; I’m talking about how we open and close them, how we lock and unlock them, how we protect ourselves from bugs and peeping people.
When window innovators design handles and locks, do they consider hands gnarled with arthritis or fingers weakened from disease or missing altogether? Do they measure and design for finger and hand strength to operate the locks? Do they make the handles pretty yet so narrow they cut into sensitive hands or be ungrippable by swollen joints?
When window designers and the computer systems they engineer consider lock and handle placements, do they consider that no matter how tall or short a person is, they should be able to use them while standing on the floor? Or do they consider only air tightness? Screw the short people of the world; they can go find a tall person to unlock and open their windows or have good enough balance to use a step stool!
When window manufacturers determine where to place the bug screen, do they consider that people lacking strength and agility need to be able to remove them, too? You don’t need them in winter, but if you lack the physical ability to remove them and then put them back in in the Spring, it means you have screened sunlight during the darkest part of the year. Why should health status determine that?
One last question: why is the Federal government MIA in regulating VOCs?‽! If they do regulate the amount any material can off-gas, they need to seriously drop the maximum allowable. Another accessibility issue because those who can feel the effects immediately must sleep elsewhere for a period of time, if they can afford it, or forego new things.
I envy Americans with their ADA. People consider Canada more progressive than the USA. Yet Americans with disabilities have protections and requirements for accessibility that Canadians can only dream of. We may have a brand spanking new law, but it doesn’t have the heft of the ADA, and Premier Ford is letting Ontario’s accessibility law languish. It’s so bad here in progressive Canada, that I get stares or “you can’t expect us” responses to my questions about accessibility.
The only problem I should have with new windows replacing the old ones is the hours it takes to install them. Not the chemical soup from the soft plastics in the windows and caulking clogging up my head and choking my lungs until the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) finally dissipate. Not the lack of accessibility in design of use. And definitely not the “you can’t expect us” response.