I began working on the article for the Kyoto Aquarium to share with you the wonderful design and beauty of this inland aquarium (not anywhere close to the ocean and its saltwater). I found many sites that did a very good job of sharing the excitement of visiting this large facility that focuses on water and how it cycles in our world. The museum has all the normal types of exhibits but some extra special ones too. One exhibit I bet you won’t see anywhere near here (USA) is the giant salamander found in the mountainous rivers of Japan. This salamander is HUGE, like small pony size huge! Please see this blog site for a very nice summary of an experience at the aquarium.
I found myself so excited by another feature of this aquarium that I could not keep this to myself for selfish reasons. I am a physical therapist and have had the added experience of living with a disability, even if the greatest effects were short-lived. When my children were very young, I performed a survey of 100 restaurants in Hot Springs, AR with regard to accessibility for someone with weakness and poor endurance. I measured how far a person had to be able to walk to use the restaurant at a most basic level. I measured door opening pressures so I could relate how difficult it would be to open the doors. I measured toilet seat height, looked for grab bars and looked for barriers that someone might need to be aware of while planning a trip to the facility. I envisioned the use of this type of information in a citywide campaign to make Hot Springs “accessible to the world” through information and education within the business community. A catalog of this information was published and made available but the idea of accessibility as a marketing tool did not take off.
You can imagine my joy when I found a guide on the Kyoto Aquarium website that spoke of accessibility. The information was given in a way that a person could envision what their own challenges might be and make decisions based on that knowledge. Not only that, there was a link to a Universal Tourism Concierge that had been developed for the city of Kyoto to make the city more inviting to someone with a disability. This was exactly the vision I had for my old hometown and it was realized by wonderful people of Kyoto.
Accessibility is something most people don’t think about. I believe every young person should be exposed to the concept of what having a disability can be like and to what accessibility can mean to people who have difficulties with more traditional environmental designs. What are some physical difficulties that you can imagine someone having that might affect their ability to enjoy traveling around the world? How might you design areas for tourists so that they could enjoy traveling even if they have greater mobility challenges? Please see this article in Lonely Planet by Ashley Lyn Olson about her experience traveling Japan in a wheelchair.
Take a look at the websites to see the types of modifications that were made to make mobility and use more functional for everyone. Usually, you find new buildings and attractions built with a concept of Universal Design. The goal is to design something so it is easier to use by everyone. The design is such that it is often not even obvious that it has been purposely engineered for greater accessibility.
Please explore the wonderful Kyoto Aquarium. It is a beautiful place for a whole lot of reasons.