The fabric of our cities is shaped by millions of small decisions and adaptations, many of which have become integral to our experience. Nowadays taken for granted, some of these elements were revolutionary at the time of their implementation. One such element is the curb cut, the small ramp grading down the sidewalk to connect it to the adjoining street, allowing wheelchair users and people with motor disabilities to easily move onto and off the sidewalk. This seemingly small adaptation has proven to be unexpectedly useful for a wider range of people, including parents with strollers, cyclists, delivery workers, etc. Consequently, it lends its name to a wider phenomenon, the “curb cut effect”, where accommodations and improvements made for a minority end up benefiting a much larger population in expected and unexpected ways.
accessible design: The Latest Architecture and News
Karen Braitmayer, a disabled architect, consultant, and volunteer, brings her unique life experiences to Studio Pacifica, the Seattle‐based practice she founded in 1993. With deep expertise in code compliance and regulations, Braitmayer and her team work with architectural firms like Olson Kundig and Perkins and Will to help create barrier‐free civic, residential, and commercial buildings. Studio Pacifica has served as consultants on notable projects ranging from the Space Needle renovation to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center and student housing at Smith College. Braitmayer was appointed by President Barack Obama to the United States Access Board, a position she still holds today.
As we mark the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) this month, we spoke to her about how far we’ve come, and how we can continue to advance accessible design in the built environment.
Of all the steps a city can take to make itself more pedestrian-friendly, developing a integral system of signage is both a quick and easy improvement that makes a world of difference--as shown by initiatives like Legible London, New York's WalkNYC, or Rio on Foot, in Río de Janeiro.
Avanti-Avanti Studio: "Design for All, the Start of the Creative Process is Through Individual Diversity"
Avanti-Avanti Studio is a design studio dedicated to the development of creative communication strategies, particularly specialized in “Design for All.” Founded by Alex Dobaño (graphic designer and member of the Design For All Foundation) and Elvira Muñoz (architect), the duo leads a multidisciplinary team of professional people in communication, design, and technology, and work with companies and institutions specialized in leisure, tourism, culture, museums, and cities. They describe their practice as a meeting point, where professionals from different fields come together for every new venture, to ensure that the built environments are suitable and inclusive for anyone experiencing them.
We talked to Alex, founder and creative director of the studio, to learn more about their work and the importance of introducing the Design for All concept in the integrated space design projects.
Recently I spent part of a week in the company of a multidisciplinary group of academics and researchers from Europe, the US, and Africa, at a workshop entitled “The Practice and Politics of DIY Urbanism in Africa.” Jonathan Makuwira, a professor from the Malawi University of Technology, delivered a compelling paper on “Disability and Urbanism in Malawi,” highlighting the many challenges of the continent’s disabled population, using that city as a case study.
The lecture reaffirmed my sentiments on the gross inadequacies of urban public spaces for the disabled. It’s an issue that formed the basis for my 2016 entry for the Richard Rogers Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), where I had proposed to use the fellowship to develop a prescriptive accessible design blueprint for public spaces in the city of Abuja.
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!