A socio-physical study towards building barrier-free urban environment in Iran

The Iranian five year National Development plan (from 1989-1994) includes "renovation of the overall urban environments towards the needs of the disabled." This paper by Zohereh A. Daneshpour and Arbel Toumeh F.M., of the DBRE Research Center in Tehran, Iran, is part of a research study included in the plan and describes how a case study area in Tehran was selected and analyzed in terms of existing problem areas for disabled persons in the urban environment. Internet publication URL: www.independentliving.org/cib/cibbudapest31.html

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Report of the CIB Expert Seminar on Building Non-Handicapping Environments, Budapest 1991

A socio-physical study towards building barrier-free urban environment in Iran

Zohereh A. Daneshpour, DBRE Research Center, Tehran, Iran
Arbel Toumeh F.M., DBRE Research Center Tehran, Iran




Introductory Note

A 5-year National Development plan of the country for the period 1989-1994, was approved with the allocation of expenditure at all spheres of construction and development. This includes "renovation of the overall urban environments towards the needs of the disabled". Organizations such as the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning.(MHUP), the Municipalities of large cities such as Tehran and Isfahan, the Djanbazan Foundation, and different university faculties, embarked on different research programs.

This paper is part of a research study into the renovation of the existing urban environments, as a joint venture between the faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of Shahid Beheshti, University of Tehran and the DBRE Research Center.

Description of the problem

Since not all areas of the urban environment in this country are rationally planned and designed, and urban laws and regulations are either non-existent or not effective enough to control the whole process of urban development, most of the cities face severe problems in their activity systems and their physical translation. Problems exist such as incorrect distribution of land-use throughout the cities and problems concerning the movement of people and cars and their interaction.

Formulation of objectives

The broad aim of the research study was to adapt the existing urban spaces according to local conditions (human and physical) suitable to the needs of disabled persons. Movement for pedestrians is sometimes impossible for the non-disabled besides having a disabling potential. On the other hand, most large cities in Iran, especially the capital, Tehran, have a developed and complex situation so that renovation on a large scale is not only difficult but sometimes impossible. Thus, the purpose of this study was to find solutions that are answerable to the following objectives:

  • Combating the most critical and crucial problems.
  • Finding solutions that can be easily and expediently implemented.
  • Finding solutions that are feasible.
  • Finding least technology and minimum expenditure solutions .
  • Finding solutions suitable to the physical characteristics of the local population and to the walking-aids available in this country.
  • Finding solutions that fit the aspirations and needs of the local disabled population.


The study attempts to propose accessibility guidelines by conducting basic research into local conditions, constraints and potentialities. Different steps involved in achieving this purpose are summarized as follows:

  • To select an area as a case to be studied.
  • To describe the physical system and activity pattern in the area.
  • To review the measures taken by the different organizations to remove barriers in the selected area.
  • To suggest, within the framework of the set aims, the solutions for a barrier-free environment for disabled persons.

Selection of the case study

In order to select a case study, the first step was to find a province, then a city which had the highest number, proportion and density, of the disabled population.

Selecting the province
The results of a 1986 census of the population indicated that 0.9 per cent of the 49 million inhabitants have some kind of physical disablement. In order to classify the country's 24 provinces, two criteria were chosen:

  • Disabled persons as a proportion of the province's total population,
  • Density of disabled population in the province.

Classification of provinces against first criteria
Considering the proportion of the disabled population, we reach a five-fold clustering of the 24 provinces, Tehran province had the highest rank.

Classification of the provinces against second criteria
Selection of this criteria was based mainly on considering economic aspects of renovation while stressing the aim of economizing in renovation activities. This criteria has been given priority over the first one.

Selecting the province
Tehran Province, again, had the highest density of disabled persons.

Classification of Shahrestans (a lower level of administrative area)
Tehran province has 7 Shahrestans. According to the 1986 census, the population of this province was 8.7 million, 86.5 per cent of which were settled in urban areas. Similar to the method adopted above, from among 7 Shahrestans, Tehran Shahrestan had the highest number, proportion and density, of the disabled population.

Selection of the city
The city of Tehran which had 99.7 per cent of Tehran Shahrestan's total population and 90 per cent of Tehran Shahrestan's disabled population within its boundaries, was selected at this stage of the study.

Selecting a part of the city as the final case study
The purpose of this stage was to find an area within Tehran which was the focal point of disabled population's activities and land-uses required by the disabled population. To select an area within Tehran, a four-step method was adopted.

First step: Studying the activity pattern of disabled persons in Tehran.
Land-uses directly related to disabled people's needs were under the auspices of three different organizations.

Second step: To study the relative importance of activities.
In order to define the relative importance of the activity pattern repetition of the activities by the disabled population was considered, through analyzing the information gained from 134 people with disabilities (war disabled), who referred to the DBRE Research Center to receive prostheses, orthoses and rehabilitation services.

Third step: The final classification of disabled people's activities
Considering the classification obtained in step 1 and 2, disabled people's activities could be finally classified in the following diagram:
(TABLE) Health and Rehab services Service Activities Administrative and amenity services Sport activities Leisure Activities Cultural activities
Fourth step: Final selection
In order to make the final selection, it was necessary to first find the location of the activities and then to define the area that had the most concentrated position against the activity pattern of disabled persons.

The selected area was the focal point of non-residential activities within an area which itself had a dominantly non-residential activity pattern. Also, this area had the privilege of being at the focal point of the city's transport network.

As a result, the high density, high rents, and land prices caused high traffic density (both pedestrian and car) and all these facts contributed to the agglomeration of problems in the selected area. The identified problems were overviewed in a broader framework, illustrated as a complete list of existing urban problems in the city.

A figurative analysis of problems in the selected area.

The above-mentioned problems have been analyzed on a node to node basis.

Node No.(1)
Location: Access to the office building.
Description: An existing ramp for the passing of wheelchairs over a wide street gutter and planting area. Problem areas:

  • The gradient of the ramp is 10 per cent.
  • Unprepared surfacing.

Node No.(2)
Location/Description: Opposite cross-walk marking. Problem areas:

  • Parked vehicles prevent easy access of disabled people from crossing to the walkway.
  • At the interface of walkway and road is a steep water canal which causes the accumulation of rain water.
  • At the interface of the walkway and vehicle road is a concrete street gutter which has a 15 cm depth, 20 cm width and no connection gratings.

Node No.(3)
Location/Description: Access from pedestrian walkway to canal area and again to pedestrian walkway. Problem areas:

  • Gradient of the walkway is 12 per cent.
  • A convex form of the walkway.

Node No.(4)
Location/Description: Access from pedestrian walkway to road. Problem areas:

  • Existing street gutter with 15 cm width and no connection gratings.
  • Formation of a spontaneous street gutter (as a result of uncontrolled flow of surface water) with 40 cm depth and 20 cm width.

Node No.(5)
Location/Description: Main access of the whole area to office buildings located at two sides of the boulevard. Problem areas:

  • Access from pedestrian walkway to vehicle road is not covered by surface material.
  • At the interface of the pedestrian walkway /land vehicle road is a concrete street gutter with a 15 cm width and no connection grating.
  • There are no limitations on car-parking at the start of the cross-walk marking.

Node No.(6)
Location/Description: Main pedestrian walkway which connects several office buildings.
Problem areas:

  • Objects such as a strip of planting area and a linear grating reduces clear width of the 180 cm walkway to 80 cm.
  • The cross-slope of the walkway is 4 per cent plus.
  • Formation of diagonal steep areas at the entrance of buildings all along the walkway.
  • A 7 cm change of level in the walkway.
  • No slip-resistant surface material on walkway.
  • Large surface gratings with no slip-resistant materials all along the walkway.
  • A planting area strip with 50 cm width at opposite walkway has produced a clear width of the walkway equal to 50 cm.
  • Change of level at interface of walkway and road with a depth of 20 cm with no railing.

Node No.(7)
Location/Description: Access from walkway to road. Problem areas:

  • A large flower box reduces the clear width of the walkway.
  • A chain acts as a temporary barrier to pedestrian traffic.

Node No.(8)
Location/Description: Access from road to walkway, from bus-stop to bus. Problem areas:

  • At the interface of road and walkway is a 50 cm wide street gutter with no connection gratings.
  • A change of level equal to 10 cm between road and walkway.

Node No.(9)
Location/Description: Road and walkway adjacent to a polyclinic.
Problem areas:

  • Lack of a drainage system.
  • Lack of a boundary between vehicle road and pedestrian walkway.

Adding up

Considering the occurrence and repetition of problems in the selected area, they can be summarized and added up.

Proposed guidelines

In order to devise a package of proposed guidelines, the identified problems were observed parallel to the existing regulations set by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning of Iran (MHUP). Comparing the two sets (i.e., problems and guidelines) some gaps were identified. The proposed package has the intention of analyzing the existing regulations in order to select the guidelines that are fit to the physical condition of the selected case-study and then to extend and add the appropriate regulations.

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