Creating Accessible Beautiful Spaces
Ever wondered why hospitals are investing in art? Studies have shown that creating inspiring healing spaces – both indoors and out – has a significant impact on helping patients to cope with treatment such as chemotherapy more positively. It can also be a great comfort to those accompanying or visiting loved ones. In this post, we discuss ideas for beautiful spaces that are accessible to everyone.
The first step
Before you can begin planning the spaces themselves, it’s vital to ensure that people can actually reach them safely. You want visitors or guests to feel at ease from the minute they arrive. There is also important legislation on accessibility to be considered. If this is unfamiliar territory, then a clear summary is available in the ADA guidelines. Once you know what’s required by law, you can then get a little creative: perhaps lovely paved sweeping curves, or shaping using pots and shrubs. However, be careful not to make the curves too sharp or the paths too narrow. Lanterns or fairy lights are pretty, but do ensure that they actually provide enough light and can’t be easily knocked over. Having carefully planned your access, it’s time to think about what you can achieve with the space itself.
Sadly, loneliness is a a bigger issue for society now than it’s ever been, and it can be particularly affecting for those going through chemotherapy. It’s important to think in your planning about how you can create social opportunities for those who want to engage and chat with friends, family or fellow patients if it’s a hospital or health care facility. While natural light is generally of great benefit to mental health, treatment can make some people very sensitive to direct sunlight, so blinds if indoors or a shade or canopy outdoors would be thoughtful.
Equally, for every person who wants to talk, there is another who would rather enjoy the peace and read, listen to music or just reflect. If space permits, you could create separate zones to accommodate both, perhaps with gentle background music or windchimes to create a soothing atmosphere.
Outdoor spaces offer excellent creative opportunities. An area for growing plants or easy vegetables can be hugely beneficial to mental health and wellbeing, as well as potentially yielding rather tasty results! Raised beds or borders are handy for those in wheelchairs or who can’t bend for long periods, or indeed for children. Colorful borders also lift the spirits and attract bees and other insects, whose industry can be a welcome cheerful distraction. You could even add murals to the walls, or provide chalk for people to create their own temporary works of art.
Bring a little joy
Consider unexpected unique touches. In the garden, you could add a little bird table or water feature (being mindful of any safety concerns). Indoors, a beautifully textured throw on a sofa, a fragrant candle; anything that brings character and warmth, rather than feeling ‘medical’, can be of real comfort.
With carefully planned access and thoughtful features, your new healing spaces should bring a smile to those who need it.
By Jane Baker