Although disability laws have been put in place decades ago, architects are still struggling with disability requirements. A recent article by CityLab explored how the rise of speed and efficiency-driven cities have overlooked accessibility, neglecting the needs of people who are physically unable to live or keep up with these dense neighborhoods. And while the "15-Minute City", one that allows people to walk or bike to most essential services within 15 minutes of their home, may seem as the future of built environments, it does not cater to disabled individuals or their movements.
Disabilities: The Latest Architecture and News
This article was originally published on Common Edge as " Why Architects Still Struggle With Disability Requirements 28 Years After Passage of the ADA".
The recent death of President George H.W. Bush occasioned assessments of his administration’s legislative achievements, one of which was the far-ranging Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights act signed into law in 1990. The law included accommodations for people with disabilities in buildings. In the ensuing decades the ADA has had a significant impact on the design and construction of the built environment in the U.S. To gauge the impact of ADA, how it has evolved, common misconceptions about ADA, and its role in promoting social equity in architecture, I spoke with Peter Stratton, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Accessibility Services at Steven Winter Associates, who works with architects and others in the construction industry on the application of the ADA design standards. (I worked at the Connecticut-based Winter firm between 1996 and 2006; Stratton was a colleague.)
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.
Hard-Fought Fights for Civil Rights: Accessibility Expert Carl Lewis on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
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.
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.
The way our buildings and public spaces are planned has a significant impact on our quality of life. In the latest edition of The Urbanist, Monocle 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.
ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with The Architectural Review, bringing you short introductions to the themes of the magazine’s monthly editions. In this post, we take a look at AR’s September 2014 issue, which includes an examination of the sometimes difficult relationship between architecture and disability. Here, AR Editor Catherine Slessor argues that we should adapt our understanding of Le Corbusier's Modulor Man to be more inclusive, asking "What happens when disability is not seen as a problem for architecture to solve, but as a potential generative impetus?"
From Vitruvius to Le Corbusier, the mathematical proportions of the human form have historically been used to shape and define architecture. Man is, essentially, the ultimate measure of all things. The famous Modulor Man was originally based on the height of the average Frenchman (1.75 metres, or 5 feet 9 inches) but was later increased to a more strapping 1.83 metres (6 feet) because of Corb’s penchant for English detective novels in which (literally) upstanding characters such as policemen, were always 6 feet tall.
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."
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