|Re: Access for people with a wide range of abilities||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: SteveF1220 (SteveF1220aol.com)|
|Date: Fri, 19 Jan 1996 08:32:34 -0600|
Dear co-housing list; As a landscape architect and a long time lurker to this list, I would like to add my support and two cents worth of comment to the access to people with disabilities discussion. For a long time the built environment was designed for the average person. The problem with this method is that there is no such thing as the "average" person. Many people have been inadequately served by this method. After the end of World War Two, many disabled veterans entered society. It was realized that the built environment should be made more accessible for the disabled. The "barrier-free" , "wheelchair accessible" or "handicap accessible" design was born. Now, it has been realized that the "barrier-free" goal is too narrow, because there are many more types of disabilities than those that require wheelchair use. In fact, a minority of disabled people are wheelchair-bound. The most common impairments are heart and respiratory problems, arthritis, paralysis of various parts of the body due to stroke or disease, and the effects of aging. So, making a facility "accessible" refers to many more people than only the wheelchair bound. This broader outlook is becoming known as "Universal Design". To quote from Universal Access to Outdoor Recreation: A design Guide. Play,Inc./U.S. Forest Service, 1993, "Universal design attempts to consider all degrees of sensory awareness, all types of locomotion, and all levels of physical and intellectual function. It does so by accommodating the broadest possible spectrum of people through a single, all-encompassing design, rather than the provision of multiple elements specially designed for use only by discrete groups". I've been researching and learning about Universal Design for some time. It is really a philosophy or process of thinking. There's a huge difference between thinking "uh oh, I better make this wheelchair accessible" and "let's make this accessible to people with a wide range of abilities". The idea is that universal design benefits everyone. After all, the athlete could have a broken leg, the new parents could be pushing a stroller, we're all getting older. I think universal design is plain good design - for everywhere. The problem is that we're all learning. There is no one book, no one set of rules. There are only some guidelines, and those are disputed. It's extremely challenging. I work with outside environments; it's really difficult finding reliable accessibility information about that. Sorry for being so wordy, but universal design is a vast subject, and this is too brief even tho it's wordy. For those interested, aside from the book I mentioned above, a good source of information (for outside access) is: Whole Access (a nonprofit org. that works to make parks and nature experiences accessible to people of all abilities.) Phyllis Cangemi, Executive Director 517A Lincoln Ave. Redwood City, CA 94061 415-363-2647 (voice or text telephone/TDD Fax: 415-369-5242 Steve French Sebastopol, California
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