Conceptually, disability is a fact of life, as well as a broad term for specific conditions. As humans with a limited time on this Earth, we accept that an extremely large spectrum of people is likely to experience disability in their lifetime. It takes so many different forms, and most people (that are not born with a disability already) accept that because the world can be a dangerous place, also understand that they might break their arm sometimes, or develop anxiety as a result of negative life experiences, in a more severe example.
However, what we don’t often consider is how disabilities tend to manifest themselves, and that there are different stages in the development of disability. My theory as to why that is is that, unless you are a physician, or have a keen interest in medical science, the average person only thinks about disabilities when they are tangible and clearly identifiable. A broken leg happens in most cases, upon physical impact to the bones, whereas a condition like cerebral palsy tends to develop from birth or early childhood, and Down Syndrome tends to occur from hereditary genetic disorders.
But because not all disabilities are occurrent from a singular incident, many of them tend to develop progressively and are therefore difficult to identify at their early stages, and thus are not as easily classified as disabilities. This is why I believe, personally, that the needs of people showing early signs of depression and mental health disorders are not as considered by health services as those who are actively diagnosed with these conditions. While we have come a long way as a society in actively discussing depression and anxiety and supporting those that suffer from it, the fact remains that not enough is being done to combat the mental health epidemic. We must go further in our society to actively prevent disability in addition to accommodating people that have the right to live equally with their disabilities.
The human mind and body are amazing feats of nature. They are both equipped to do incredible things, but they also have the baffling capability to manifest disabilities if not kept in check. In the same way that we recommend eating healthily, and regular exercise to prevent disease in the body, we must also encourage health in the mind to protect our psychological wellbeing and avoid developing disabilities such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and many other mental disabilities.
In our increasingly fast-paced society, quiet rooms are increasingly important as an antidote to neurological disabilities. Although the idea sounds deceptively simple; a room to sit in quietly, studies show that people who use them regularly are demonstrably healthier, more productive, and better equipped to handle the stresses of life, than if they allowed their anxieties and worries to build up in the back of the mind. Sometimes, all we need is a breather. And if we are stripped of our ability to process the day, meditate, or reflect, these stresses build up and can lead to harmful disorders. Quiet and sensory rooms are much more than silent spaces, they offer us a solution to short-term issues that grow out of proportion.
Quiet rooms are becoming increasingly common in the corporate world. Direct Access has curated several of them for businesses in the hub of London, Manchester, and even on public transport systems. We were responsible for Avanti West Coast’s first-ever Quiet Room for autistic travellers, built for the UK rail network at Crewe, which has seen consistent use since installation.
In the work environment, it is recommended as a general rule that a quiet room or similar space should be available for every six employees, as a sanctuary where people can chill out, do yoga, contemplate, or just let their mind wander. For employers, the benefits are perhaps even greater than employees. As a happy workforce generally encourages more productive workers, providing a quiet room also demonstrates tolerance, and an understanding that an employee’s mental health is important to maintain. Due to the unfortunate landscape when it comes to the housing market, people generally have fewer calm spaces to go to these days, particularly in cities with fewer green spaces, for which quiet rooms act as a universal solution. Research has even shown that workers are much more likely to leave offices and similar places of employment if they are especially loud.
So, what do quiet rooms look like? Check out this example we installed in Mediabrands London offices.
This is one of many possible designs for quiet rooms. You can replace furniture with bean bags, soundproof the walls, or have lower/mood lighting if preferred.
And the best part is that quiet rooms offer mental health reprieve to everyone, regardless of their personal ability. As a place designed to be accessible to everyone, a single quiet room might offer a person the space they need to get through their day and avoid the development of neurological disabilities in the future.
The mind has a remarkable memory and imagination, so we must protect our health from the effects of life and its necessary stresses.
If you own a facility or are part of an organisation that is considering installing Quiet Room(s), get in touch with Direct Access today. Our Consultancy team will ensure that you take the steps to not only do the right thing within your budget but open the door to the social and financial benefits that come only as a result of creating an accessible and inclusive environment for disabled people.
We’re here to help. Because for us, access is personal.
Written by Michael Miller
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