Re: Americans with Disabilities Act - Title III
From: Diana Carroll (
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2012 10:16:07 -0700 (PDT)
It's a nice theory but falls down in real life.

A lot of "universal" design...isn't.  It is optimized to one set of people,
and accessible but non-optimal for others.

One way to address some of these issues is to throw money at the
problem...which then makes the entire community inaccessible to the subset
of people in the "moderate income" category.

here's a randomly chosen specific example we encountered during our design

- we wanted first floor bathrooms to be usable by someone in a wheelchair.
 This requires making the door open outwards, so that the wheelchair can be
in the room with the door closed.  But the design of the room meant that an
outward opening door blocked a main flow of traffic.  we could have worked
around this problem by making the main room larger...but we were striving
for both economic and environmental reasons to make our homes smaller, not
larger.  So the ADA-compliant choice to have outward opening doors would
have inconvenienced the majority of our members who do not use a

That's just one of many MANY tradeoffs we struggled with during our design
process.  There were endless tradeoffs we had to make between our
priorities of accessibility, affordability, environmental sustainability,
and being appealing/convenient to the people who were actually buying the

It would nice if there were some magic principal called "universal design"
that, when applied, yielded optimal solutions for everyone, rather than
having to make trade-offs between different people's needs (including those
with limited income)...but it just isn't so.

I get frustrated when crusaders for ONE of those goals acts as if that goal
can't possibly be in conflict with other legitimate goals.

Diana (Mosaic Commons/ Berlin, MA)

On Wed, Jul 25, 2012 at 1:03 PM, Grace Kim <grace [at]>wrote:

> Are we all ignoring the fact that we are aging each day and that
> inevitably we may need these "public accomodations" for ourselves?  Even if
> you don't currently have member in a wheelchair, it's quite easy to imagine
> that even a young member could have a serious accident resulting in
> temporary wheel chair usage. Or what about the family with young children
> who lives on the 3rd floor of an unelevatored can they get
> their stroller and groceries up those steps?  Wouldn't it be better to
> consider that ADA might allow all of us to live more graciously in our
> communities?
> As a long-time proponent for Universal Design, I would encourage everyone
> to stop thinking about ADA as a requirement to avoid or "get around" and
> consider it a minimum threshold of what we should consider planning for so
> that we can all age in place gracefully and not be forced out of our
> precious community when we can no longer navigate the porch stoops that we
> lovingly incorporated to enhance our sense of community.
> Codes and regulations (like ADA) are in place to protect the health,
> safety, welfare of the public....regardless of our abilities.
> grace h. kim | schemata workshop inc.
> aia, principal architect
> 206.285.1589
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