Re: Americans with Disabilities Act - Title III
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2012 10:42:38 -0700 (PDT)
I agree:  Meeting the accessibility codes adds significant square footage to a 
project — maybe in 5% range, depending.  But then so does meeting the life 
safety code, like, for instance, providing two means of egress off each floor.  
Time marches on, and our standards of minimal sufficiency advance.  Forty years 
ago, few cars had air conditioning, and none had air bags.  But today ... well, 
you get the picture.  I predict than in another 20 years or so, pissing and 
moaning about accessibility codes and universal design will be a thing of the 

I also agree that good design requires balancing out a great many needs and 
priorities, and — contrary to what you see in the magazine pictures — does not 
involve celebrating one or two aspects of the building at the expense of all 
others.  When you're short on money, short on time, short on land, and long on 
diverse opinions, now that's when design gets interesting.


On Jul 25, 2012, at 1:15 PM, Diana Carroll wrote:

> 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
> process:
> - 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
> wheelchair.
> 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
> homes.
> 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)

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