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Escola de Arquitetura

Universidade Federal

Minas Gerais

Rua Paraiba 697
sl 125

Belo Horizonte


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This is a phenomenon of misfit at personal level between one's abilities and available environmental resources. It occurs during use of environmental features under certain circumstances, and it may affect both the success of activities and the social image of individuals. Back in time in many cultures, disability was considered as being peculiar traits of few "weird" individuals. Nowadays, however, the notion of disability has evolved and become understood as the misfit during activities, which manifests eventually to someone at permanent or temporary basis. The day-to-day experience of problems for use of built environment at varied situations can make a person easily identifiable by the visual or apparent undergoing disabilities.

In either case, permanent or temporary disabilities, the functional ability and organic capacity are unsufficient for the individual to adapt by controlling environmental conditions for use and the development of competence over the physical environmen in accordance to behavior patterns and cultural values. 

By experiencing even a temporary disability, someone assimilates the circumstances that frame human behavior during such problem into the "mental archive" (schema) that holds all previous responses to similar situations. The challenge is for someone to retrieve in time responses from this mental archive of previous experiences for compatible interface with environmental stimuli, interpersonal exchanges and cultural context. As such choices of familiar responses become successful, they may reward the individual with social acceptance, which raise self-esteem (the self-image and self-validation). Exploring other similar situations in different contexts result in more success; the individual absorb such positive experiences and expand the mental archive with them. Therefore, one becomes environmentally competent: a person who develops skills in person-environment relations.

Intimidation occurs when that mental archive of person-environment experiences does not include references of previous situations that are suitable for proper interaction. Therefore, the person may not reproduce the pattern of expected responses that fit well to the context of the present situation. Then, one may articulate incomplete, embarassing, or awkward expressions and become environmentally incompetent. He or she performs like an illiterate person using the language about use of built environments that is common to all others. Hence, his or her self-esteem  may become shaken and vulnerable. The trend of accumulated intimidation events is for the individual to avoid facing the everyday struggle with environmental or attitudinal barriers. The result is acommodation in a passive role that confirms the lack of abilities and unexplored capacity as a typical trait of self-identity.

Reducing the impact of disability on one's life requires ways of compensation, of self-adjustment, of self-adaptation: conditions for logistics, assistive technology and accessibility. Thus, the individual who is intimidated by disability due to acumulation of barriers may become instrumented to express proper responses, improving capacity, developing abilities and facing challenges.

A single environment may be both challenging or intimidating for everybody. The difference between one condition and the other is in the way everyone develops an active role to achieve and preserve autonomy and independence by use of adequate assistive technology and accessibility.

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