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Outpatients Departments: Universal Design Technical Sketch

In this article, we appraise the Universal Design of a Dementia Friendly Outpatient Department within a hospital setting.
Technical Sketch of a Universal Design Dementia Friendly Outpatient Department

Universal Design Dementia Friendly Design Guidance

A. Approach to the OPD from the main hospital entrance should consist of a legible route leading to a clearly identifiable and easily located entrance. Where more than one clinic may be in session, provide clear and consistent signage and information to facilitate orientation and navigation.

B. Ensure the reception area is directly visible from the entrance area and is accessible, easily understood and used.

C. Provide a spacious waiting area with generous circulation area and clearance between seating. Consider a less institutional seating layout and more comfortable furnishing in a less austere environment (i.e. consider a combination of lounge seating or soft benches with coffee tables, to create a more home-like and less clinical environment).

D. Locate toilets so that they are easily identified upon entry, and are accessible and easy to use. Provide enough toilets throughout the OPD so that they are within easy reach of the patients within the waiting area and the consulting rooms

E. Provide views to calm exterior spaces, or internal artwork to help create a more calming and therapeutic environment. If possible provide direct access to an outdoor space where patients can step outside to get some fresh air, take a break from the hospital environment, or reorient themselves between appointments.

F. Provide natural light to orientate patients to the time of day and season.

G. Careful use of artificial lighting and the reduction of noise through sound absorbing materials can help mitigate environmental stress within a busy OPD.

H. Use distinct and contrasting colours on door frames, doors, or wall reveals to identify patient areas or rooms, while simultaneously disguising nonpatient rooms by painting doors or frames to match background.

I. Use contrasting colours or tones to distinguish the floor from the walls. Similarly, use contrasting colour on the skirting boards to provide a visual break between the walls and the floors to ensure greater visual contrast.

J. All floor finishes should be non-slip, non-glare, and avoid strong patterns or sharp tonal or colour contrast. The avoidance of contrast is very important at door thresholds to prevent those with visual or cognitive impairments misinterpreting this contrast as a step.

K. A patient will often be accompanied to the OPD by a family member or carer and therefore it is important to provide space and supports for an accompanying person throughout the OPD. This may simply consist of sufficient seating in the waiting area, or enough space and a seat within consulting rooms so that an accompanying person can remain by the patient’s side without getting in the way of the medical staff.

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Dementia Inclusive Hospitals from a Universal Design Approach

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