Universal Design means UNIVERSAL design
From: Fred H Olson (fholsoncohousing.org)
Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2003 09:51:04 -0600 (MDT)
David Hornick   Schenectady, NY   <dhornick [at] nycap.rr.com>
is the author of the message below. 
It was posted by Fred the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at] cohousing.org> 
because the message included HTML ;      PLEASE do not post HTML, see
   http://csf.colorado.edu/cohousing/2001/msg01672.html  and
--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------

I have posted two messages to this listserve asking about universal design
in co-housing.  I failed to define universal design expecting that
respondents would be knowledgeable.


I was surprised when the majority of people who responded to the email
seemed to think that universal design was just another term for accessible/
barrier-free design. And to some extent that is correct.  But Universal
Design is much, much more.

Having only a common house that provides  a means of entry and egress is not
Universal Design in the fullest sense of the term.

Universal Design is ³.....design of as much of the environment as possible
to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible² (Ron Mace).

A living environment (both inside and outside) is universally designed when
it accommodates people of all functional levels and ages.  Short people can
reach kitchen cabinets.  Young children can reach light switches.  Hallways
are wide to accommodate wheelchairs if necessary.  Steps are eliminated in
the garage and at the front door.  Kitchens and bathrooms accommodate
children and adults regardless of functional capabilities.

Since there is no way to accurately predict a person¹s functional future,
universal design adjusts to varying functional capabilities.  Universal
Design accommodates multi-functional families.  A grandma in a wheelchair
and her six foot tall son or daughter should be able to live and function
comfortably in  the same living space.  Environments that are designed using
universal design principles are adjustable.  Counters and cabinets raise and
lower at the touch of a button.  Oven doors open to the side instead of
top-forward preventing approach by a person in a wheelchair.  Side by side
refrigerators provide access to both freezer and refrigerator as opposed to
over and  under configurations which provide barriers to access to people in
wheelchairs or children.  Lighting accommodates the eye of the older person
as well as younger, unimpaired eyes.

In short, the universally designed co-housing community is one in which ALL
LIVING SPACES are designed to be used by people with the greatest range of
functional capacities.

It¹s not enough to have one home and the common house in a co-housing
community designed for a disabled person.

As far as I know, there is no co-housing community that is designed using
universal design as  defined above.  Anyone know of one?

Perhaps the following article will add to the discussion.

>> Accessible design should be a given
>> Last Updated: June 22, 2003
>> Spaces
>> Whitney Gould
>> If more architects were disabled, it's a good bet that our buildings and
>> bridges would be more accessible. But in most cases, you probably wouldn't
>> even notice. Accommodations for people of all degrees of physical ability
>> and infirmity would be seamlessly incorporated from the get-go.
>> This is the essence of universal design. And, as the population ages, it
>> shouldn't take an impairment for every architect to see the humanity and
>> common sense in designing for the widest range of users.
>> Piazza Roma Footbridge
>> Photo/Courtesy of Santiago Calatrava
>> The Piazza Roma footbridge in Venice, Italy, links the railway station on
>> one side with a bus terminus and car park on the other. An elevator will
> be
>> added because Santiago Calatrava designed it with steps leading up to it.
>> The architect Michael Graves, lately known for his jazzy housewares
> designs
>> for Target, has become an involuntary poster boy for the cause. Paralyzed
>> from the waist down by a recent infection of his spinal cord, Graves has
>> come to share the headaches familiar to many people with disabilities:
> sinks
>> too low for the arms of a wheelchair; too-narrow doors; drawers and window
>> blinds out of reach.
>> According to the New York Times, the architect is designing a new work
>> space, accessible by ramp and elevator, and retrofitting his home in
>> Princeton, N.J. "Universal design, once just a matter of complying with an
>> abstract code, has become a personal reality," the Times reported.
>> "That is going to change a lot of things," Maurizio Antoninetti, a
> universal
>> design activist, told me. Antoninetti, a teaching associate at San Diego
>> State University in California, uses a wheelchair as the result of a
> spinal
>> cord injury. "He is a very powerful force" in design circles, he said of
>> Graves. "What he is experiencing right now is what a large proportion of
> the
>> population experiences every day."
>> Then there's that bridge under way in Venice. It's designed by Santiago
>> Calatrava, architect of the Milwaukee Art Museum's winged expansion on the
>> lakefront.
>> Amazingly, the Venetian bridge was conceived with several steps at its
>> approaches, but no ramps. The resulting outcry from the disabled community
>> forced Calatrava to modify the design. He is adding an elevator that will
>> run along the outside of the gently arched span over the Grand Canal.
> Maybe
>> it's not the best solution aesthetically; also, elevators can break down.
>> But at least the bridge will be usable by people in wheelchairs, parents
>> with strollers and tourists dragging suitcases in a city where cars are
>> outlawed.
>> I wanted to talk with Calatrava directly about this. OK, what I really
>> wanted to ask him was: What could you have been thinking? But a
> spokeswoman
>> in his Zurich office said the architect was not available for comment.
>> Elaine Ostroff, however, was. "This is so disappointing," said Ostroff, a
>> universal design activist and founding director of the Adaptive
> Environments
>> Center in Boston. "Calatrava is such a great engineer and architect. If
>> anyone could figure out how to do it right, he could."
>> So you'd think. I recalled one of my many exchanges with the gracious and
>> engaging Calatrava. This one was in early 2001, when the art museum
>> expansion was in the home stretch. He arrived late for the breakfast
>> interview, his left arm in a sling as the result of a skiing mishap.
>> Profusely apologetic for keeping me waiting, he explained that he was
> having
>> trouble buttoning his shirt. "Everything takes twice as long," he said.
>> Thinking back on this encounter in light of the Venice bridge flap, I
>> wondered: What if he had broken a leg rather than an arm? What if he were
>> forced to use a wheelchair? Would that have inspired a more accessible
>> design?
>> Venice isn't the first Calatrava bridge to require a retrofit. His cabled
>> footbridge linking our art museum addition to O'Donnell Park got some
>> unwanted publicity last year when two older patrons tripped on a center
> curb
>> alongside the cables and broke their hips. The resulting insurance claims
>> forced the museum to install a temporary wooden barrier. Kahler Slater,
> the
>> local architectural firm that worked with Calatrava on the museum
> expansion,
>> has been exploring a permanent fix, either a stainless steel railing or
>> cabled rails, that should be in place by fall.
>> "We're trying to keep it as simple as possible," so as not to clutter up
>> Calatrava's design, Kahler Slater's Lou Stippich told me. Stippich and his
>> colleagues faced a similar balancing act in correcting other glitches,
> such
>> as a marble curb in the gallerias that people were also tripping on.
>> How to head off such problems? "You need to get these issues to the table
>> early, so that you're not doing retrofits after the fact," Stippich says.
>> The museum team did make a stab at prevention, but it obviously wasn't
>> enough.
>> Hint to local architects and clients: There's a great resource right under
>> your nose in IndependenceFirst, a well-versed, non-profit advocacy group
> for
>> people with disabilities. Call (414) 291-7520 or check out the Web site,
>> www.independencefirst.org.
>> Ostroff says education about accessibility should start much earlier,
>> though. Universal design should be part of every architecture school
>> curriculum, she says, and it should be considered when schools seek
>> accreditation.
>> "It's attitudinal. Now, schools see (accessibility) as a code issue," she
>> notes. "They need to see it as part of the design process, so that the
>> emphasis is not just on how something looks but also on how it works.
>> Accessibility needs to be integrated into a holistic approach to
>> architecture that is people-oriented."
>> Amen. Universal design wasn't even a gleam in the eye of Venetian
>> city-builders in the 15th and 16th centuries, or Milwaukee's founders in
> the
>> 19th.
>> But in the 21st century, there is no excuse for making inclusiveness an
>> afterthought. It should be a given.
>> From the June 23, 2003 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
>> http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/jun03/150131.asp

The concept of Universal Design deserves wide dissemination and discussion.
It¹s my hope that this listserve will provide that for a active exchange of

David Hornick
Schenectady, NY

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