Post image for Universal Design: Going Beyond the ADA to Greater Inclusion

Universal Design: Going Beyond the ADA to Greater Inclusion

January 25, 2016

Wednesday, April 6th – CANCELED
AIA Portland


This course meets the California ADA continuing education requirements.

The ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – is one of the most significant pieces of social legislation of the 20th century, following its predecessors to reaffirm the rights of all individuals to make personal choices and for equal access to opportunities. In addition, the ADA recognizes and reaffirms the diverse nature of disability.

But, for most design professionals, there is confusion between the intent of the ADA, as a civil rights law, and various related design guidelines such as UFAS, the ADAAG, DOJ Standards and building codes. The term ADA has become synonymous with a building code section, stripped of its underlying purpose and heart. Product literature claiming to be ADA Approved or Compliant only underscores the confusion between civil rights and design guidelines.

Secondly, most ADA training sessions tout themes such as issues to avoid or how to avoid complaints, establishing an alarmist tone and presenting people with disabilities as the problem – an adversarial position. That training is targeted to design professionals, agencies and clients, not on behalf of people with disabilities. This style of training does nothing to respect individual needs and the diversity of the ADA.

Luckily, architects are among the most progressive of all professionals and, when it comes to promoting inclusion and respect of the individual, they are genuinely interested in going beyond mere code compliance and would see such enhancement as another opportunity for better design.

This presentation is a modified version of the five-hour classes that have been presented at the AIA over the past three years. Although there will be some repeated material from those previous classes, the new format will change from five topics to four, and the emphasis will be on Universal Design as a means of achieving greater inclusion.

The overall purpose of this training session is to shift the design community away from strict code compliance to recognizing that the architectural profession, more than any other, can further the real intent of the ADA – to promote the idea of individual choice and equivalent life pursuits – and then go even further to achieve Universal Design.

Architects will come away with some refreshing discoveries and clarifications:

  •  The nature of disability is personal and individual and should not be categorized
  •  People with disabilities seek life experiences way beyond designated accessible facilities and may see predetermined accessibility solutions as too limiting
  •  People with disabilities can see their situation with pride and humor and an opportunity to be creative
  •  If the ADA was the achievement of the 20th century, Universal Design will be the achievement of the 21st.

Learning outcomes

  • Architects will understand why it is imperative to distinguish between legal, civil rights laws, such as the ADA, written by the Justice Department, and the various accessibility guidelines, created by non-legal entities, such as the Access Board.
  • Architects will understand the importance of people with disabilities to be able to make their own determinations and to be able to engage in society in a manner similar to the rest of society.
  •  Architects will recognize the value of visualizing how their designs will be understood and used by people with diverse types of disabilities, such as people using wheelchairs and with other mobility impairments, but also by people who are blind or with low vision or who are deaf or have low hearing.
  • Architects will recognize that providing ADA accessibility is a design opportunity way beyond mere code compliance, an opportunity to get away from the institutional look of many accessibility solutions and to achieve a Universal Design that is beautiful in its own right.
  • To that purpose, architects will be bolstered by the significant volume of diverse and magnificent architecture through the ages and to be challenged to make the accessibility features an essential part of the architectural design rather than a code-required after-thought.

Richard Bosch Architect
 and Georgena Moran, with assistance from Sharon Mitchell.

Richard, the team leader, is an architect and accessibility expert with 15 years experience as the ADA staff architect at Portland Parks and Recreation, and over 20 years when including other public agencies, notably the State of Hawaii.

Georgena conducts ADA site assessments of existing buildings and facilities, as well as being ICC Certified as an Accessibility Inspector/Plans Examiner; as a wheelchair user, she will provide an essential and refreshing perspective.

They will be joined by Sharon Mitchell, a local media specialist, also experienced in facility assessment, and with public and media presentations. Georgena and Sharon are the principals of Mind on Accessibility, a WBE [woman-owned] and ESB [emerging small] business.

All three are core members of Access Recreation, an ad hoc committee promoting coordinated trail design and information sharing. AR received a Making a Difference award from the City of Portland and a two-year grant from Metro to conduct trail assessments in the Portland metro area.