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A Simple Guide to Using the ADA Standards for Accessible Design Guidelines

09:30 - 6 June, 2017
A Simple Guide to Using the ADA Standards for Accessible Design Guidelines, Obstructed high forward reach. Image Courtesy of United States Department of Justice
Obstructed high forward reach. Image Courtesy of United States Department of Justice

Only a special few architects can truly say they enjoy reading building codes. There’s no doubt that it’s daunting and it can certainly pose challenges to your design. Over time you’ll likely become familiar with the types of things you need to look out for on a project, but even the most experienced architects may still need to double-check a code question or two during the design process (or have an intern check it for them.) Unfortunately, many code documents are unwieldy to say the least, and there are few cases in which this is more true than the 279-page ADA Standards for Accessible Design. However, once you understand the layout and how to use a code book or the ADA guidelines, they become more manageable.

This guide aims to describe each chapter in the ADA 2010 guidelines to give a foundation for navigating them. Luckily for designers in United States, the documentation for the ADA Standards for Accessible Design is available online. Keep reading for a quick summary (all information and diagrams are directly from the guidelines). Check out the whole document here if you need it—or for convenience, each subheading in this article links directly to the relevant section in the PDF!

Golf facility standards. Image Courtesy of United States Department of Justice Accessible route clear width. Image Courtesy of United States Department of Justice Required door clearances. Image Courtesy of United States Department of Justice Signage standards. Image Courtesy of United States Department of Justice +16

A Triangulated Ramp Made For People With Reduced Mobility In Mind

08:00 - 12 May, 2017
A Triangulated Ramp Made For People With Reduced Mobility In Mind, © Micael Löfgren
© Micael Löfgren

© Micael Löfgren © Micael Löfgren © Micael Löfgren © Micael Löfgren +27

The geometric design from Lab for Planning and Architecture for the Municipality of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain is a morphological response that conditions Julio Navarro's and Roque Díaz's swimming pools allowing adequate movement of people with reduced mobility.

The project is a path of stairs and ramps with a triangular design that integrates with the surrounding landscape; the materiality and the constructive details are adapted to the different needs and natural conditions of the land. 

Hard-Fought Fights for Civil Rights: Accessibility Expert Carl Lewis on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

09:30 - 9 February, 2017
Hard-Fought Fights for Civil Rights: Accessibility Expert Carl Lewis on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), The ramp connecting Chicago's Millennium Park to the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago "is a great example of something beautifully designed and functional at the same time.". Image © Renzo Piano Building Workshop
The ramp connecting Chicago's Millennium Park to the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago "is a great example of something beautifully designed and functional at the same time.". Image © Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, had sweeping consequences for all persons with disabilities as well as all those in the building and construction industries, especially architects. In 2015, its 25th anniversary was commemorated with special events in cities and states across the USA.

Yet despite the ADA’s widespread impact on the built environment, few schools of architecture have full-time design studio faculty with disabilities to teach their students about accessibility first-hand. I am most fortunate to teach at one of those schools and to have had Carl Lewis as a longtime colleague at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We have known each other ever since he first enrolled in my graduate seminar, and our friendship spans well over a quarter century, just like the ADA.

The milestone anniversary of the ADA, my ongoing research on diversity, personal experiences with family members with disabilities, and numerous occasions reviewing students’ design studio projects alongside Carl prompted me to interview him and to share his expertise with ArchDaily readers.

How Gallaudet University Has Reimagined Architecture for the Deaf

09:30 - 10 April, 2016

The majority of our built environment is designed for people who hear, with little regard for how the hearing-impaired navigate a space. But what would a space look like if it were designed for the deaf? This video from Vox and Curbed focuses on Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal arts institution for the deaf, and the ways the campus is tailored to the needs of its students. By analyzing what they refer to as “Deaf Space,” the university has been able to pinpoint techniques that not only make communication and wayfinding simpler for the deaf, but to produce spaces that function more effectively and comfortably for everyone. For more on the university and how its members are impacting the architecture world, read the full article over at Curbed here.

4 Lessons Pixar Films Can Teach Us About Architecture

08:30 - 17 August, 2015
4 Lessons Pixar Films Can Teach Us About Architecture, © Pixar
© Pixar

Over the past 20 years, Pixar’s films have attracted vast audiences around the globe. In worldwide box office sales its first film, Toy Story (1995) boasted $362 million, followed by A Bug’s Life (1998) $363 million, Toy Story 2 (1999) $485 million, Monsters, Inc. (2001) $525 million, and Finding Nemo (2003) a whopping $865 million.[1] Factoring in additional home theater movie rentals and purchases, along with cable, theme parks, and consumer products, the influence of Pixar on generations of children and their parents around the world has been enormous. In terms of global impact, no educator, no author, and no architect even come close.

While Pixar’s pioneering role in the world of cinema, storytelling, and digital rendering is already well documented, its links with architecture have yet to be fully explored. One of Pixar’s greatest, and perhaps overlooked, talents is its ability to create convincing architectural worlds adjacent to and within the human world we inhabit every day. Pixar worlds could become a new tool to encourage critical thinking about our environment.

Rendering the City Accessible

04:00 - 17 July, 2015

The way our buildings and public spaces are planned has a significant impact on our quality of life. In the latest edition of The UrbanistMonocle 24's weekly "guide to making better cities," Tom Edwards and his team explore urban accessibility and inclusivity: from how best to create and incorporate inclusive design, to a cab service in Hong Kong which has been designed especially for wheelchair passengers. They also discover what happens when technology and sound come together to create a map of the city, and why New York has introduced mental respite centres.

4 Ways Technology Can Improve Architecture for (and by) the Blind

09:30 - 10 July, 2015
4 Ways Technology Can Improve Architecture for (and by) the Blind, inTACT Sketchpad for the visually impaired. Image via Dwell Magazine, Courtesy of Don Fogg
inTACT Sketchpad for the visually impaired. Image via Dwell Magazine, Courtesy of Don Fogg

Seven years after waking up without sight, San Francisco-based architect Chris Downey is helping to revolutionize the built environment with interactive technologies optimized for the blind. One of the world's leading blind architects, Downey intrinsically understands the issues facing blind and visually impaired people worldwide. As a consultant to a variety of organizations serving to advance universal access, Downey has played an integral role in the development and integration of new, non-invasive technologies designed to assist the blind. 

In a recent article in Dwell, Downey illustrates the various technologies currently being tested and implemented in San Francisco - a city notorious for its topographical challenges to differently abled residents. See four takeaways from Dwell's interview with Downey on how technology can help bridge the gap between architecture and universal access after the break.

How a San Francisco Architect Reframes Design for the Blind

00:00 - 12 August, 2014
How a San Francisco Architect Reframes Design for the Blind, Downey uses thin wax sticks to create tactile sketches. Image © Patricia Chang
Downey uses thin wax sticks to create tactile sketches. Image © Patricia Chang

San Francisco architect Chris Downey is changing how design is employed for people with disabilities and redefining how architects can approach accessible design. In this article by Lamar Anderson on Curbed, we learn about how Downey has developed his own design methods and utilizes his rare skillset to draw attention to what architects often miss when designing for the public. 

Architect Chris Downey is standing next to a pile of Sheetrock, balancing a white cane in the air like a tightrope walker's pole. The week before, construction had begun on a new office for the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco, or ILRC, a nonprofit community center for people with disabilities. Downey holds the cane up to approximate for the center's executive director, Jessie Lorenz, how the reception desk will jut out at an angle from a concrete column. Lorenz takes a step, and a pile of pipes on the floor clatters. "I don't know what's over there," says Downey. Lorenz giggles. "I hope I didn't break anything," she says. Lorenz regains her footing and touches the cane. "That makes sense," she says. "It's almost like we're funneling people into this part."

Chris Downey: Design with the Blind in Mind

00:00 - 19 November, 2013

Cities are diverse places, home to a rich spectrum of people and lifestyles. Chris Downey, however, believes that there are only two types of people, "those with disabilities and those that haven't quite found theirs yet." Downey, a distinguished architect of over twenty years, lost his eyesight four years ago and found a new way of seeing the world. "If you design for the blind in mind, you get a city that is robust, accessible, well-connected...a more inclusive, more equitable city for all." Hear his story, contrasting his daily life before and after this newly found "outsight."


The Architect and the Accessible City: The Prize-Winning Essay

01:00 - 29 April, 2013
The Architect and the Accessible City: The Prize-Winning Essay, Image of wheelchair in front of barrier via shutterstock.com
Image of wheelchair in front of barrier via shutterstock.com

Each year, the Department of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley bestows the Berkeley Prize(s) in order to promote the investigation of architecture as a social art. This year's theme was "The Architect and the Accessible City." The following essay, "A day in the life of a wheelchair user: navigating Lincoln," written by Sophia Bannert of the University of Lincoln, took first prize. 

Architectural discourse has gradually become incoherent with the social and ethical needs of the contemporary city. With the relationship between theory and practice strained, lack of social relevance in design is ubiquitous. Practising architects frequently regard theory as esoteric and non-transferable, whilst many theorists do not manifest their ideas into reality and build. With the connection gripping the precipice by its fingers, this paper is conceived; written to persuade, motivate and encourage that there is real value in instigating ideas put forth in this paper. Concepts proposed are not only applicable to the city of Lincoln but are relevant and adaptable to all cities. Inspired by the architecture which has not yet manifested, it hopes to ignite the spirit needed to eradicate social inequities in urban design.

As Albert Einstein said: “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts”. In order to palpably grasp an understanding of what it is truly like to be physically disabled in Lincoln, I rented a wheelchair for one day to see for myself whether the facts fitted the theory.

Read more of Sophia Bannert's prize-winning story, after the break...

Obama Appoints Michael Graves to Key Administration Post

00:00 - 4 February, 2013
© Michael Graves & Associates
© Michael Graves & Associates

Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint five individuals to key Administration posts, including architecture’s very own Michael Graves, stating: “These fine public servants both bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles.  Our nation will be well-served by these individuals, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

The five individuals include: 

  • Vinton G. Cerf - Member, National Science Board, National Science Foundation
  • Marta Araoz de la Torre - Member, Cultural Property Advisory Committee
  • Michael Graves - Member, Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
  • Laurie Leshin - Member, Advisory Board of the National Air and Space Museum
  • Lynne Sebastian - Member, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation