Stairs and corridors: orientation

Recommendation 63
The physical and visual properties of stars and corridors should aid orientation

Chapter (theme)
Architectural spaces (stairs and corridors)

Because of
Central coherence, executive functioning

In order to
lessen disorientation and getting or feeling lost.

In the theme of this recommendation the wide array of experiences with stairs and corridors is summarized as: Most ‘neurotypicals’ use stairs and corridors thoughtlessly, but most people on the spectrum cannot. They notice their dimensions, materials, the lighting and the sounds much stronger and experience these more readily as oppressive, painful or disquieting. Moreover, stairs and corridors are where they get lost, where they get in touch – bodily or otherwise – with others and where a number of their senses – including the sense of equilibrium – are put to the test.
From this follows a multitude of issues which should ideally be taken into account when building stairs and corridors, assuming a home is built with for someone on the autism spectrum. If not these points may be taken into consideration when choosing a residence.

Orientation in space is problematic for many on the autism spectrum, due in part to problems with central coherence and executive functioning. This calls for one of the most central tenets of autism-friendly design: maximizing physical and visual clarity. A home and its lay-out should be as clear and ‘readable’ as possible. This matter is all the more pressing in de case of corridors and stairs which are almost inherently confusing. Stairs can rarely be seen from beginning to end and many corridors neither. Moreover, both tend two contain ‘black spots’ in which one is neither here nor there.

The physical structure should therefore be as simple as possible, in the event stairs and corridors cannot be avoided or are already there. In addition to generous dimensions (recommendation 61), open stairs and short corridors with a minimum number of corners are to be preferred. Shortcomings in these respects can – to an extent – be compensated by visualizations.