SPH congratulates the work of Barrier-Free Manitoba! Check out their most recent news release - Kudos and continue on your journey for an inclusive province!
Landmark Bill 26 Given Royal Assent
Dec 06, 2013
Passed, proclaimed and given Royal Assent on December 5, The Accessibility For Manitobans Act is now the law in Manitoba and has come into force.
The last clause (No. 41) in Bill 26 reads:
Coming into force
41 This Act comes into force on the day it receives royal assent.
Royal Assent is the name for the method by which Manitoba's Lieutenant Governor (The Honourable Philip S. Lee) formally approves an act passed by the Legislative Assembly, thus making it a law.
So while Bill 26 passed Third Reading on May 3, 2013 with all-party, unanimous support, it only officially became the law in Manitoba yesterday.
And with this, we have finally achieved the goal of securing strong and effective provincial accessibility-rights legislation. It's been five long, joyous and challenging years.
Now we all can CELEBRATE the successful completion of this historic project began back in 2008.
For more information, visit the Barrier-Free Manitoba website at:
The topic of universal design and housing in Canada has been getting a lot of attention recently. Currently, the SPH team is working with several municipalities in Ontario that are developing accessibility standards for housing. A collection of news is summarized recognizing the important role effective implementation of the Province's AODA legislation can also play in addressing this issue, across all sectors that are mandated and are responsible for removing barriers to accessibility in the built environment. As one example, also consider the following product when looking at door hardware options for the built environment that are more inclusive. Everyone should recognize that some people can not use knob style door hardware that requires tight grasping and twisting of the wrist:
Brink's Home Security: Push - Pull - Rotate
Brink's Home Security Push - Pull - RotateTM Knobs and Levers are the easiest, most comfortable way to open a door. With just one finger, an elbow, or your hip, you can simply push or pull your way through a door. Great if you have your hands full or free!
Summary of online news reports:
Photo Caption: The original doorknobs at Vancouver’s City Hall are being replaced with new handles to meet the new building code. Photograph by: Ward Perrin , Vancouver Sun
Reimagining Accessibility: Competition Results and Lessons Learned
Hon. David C. Onley
Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
In recent posts (here and here), I have written about my international challenge to college and university students to design an accessibility icon that could replace the International Symbol of Access, which has been in existence since 1968.
On November 1, in the presence of Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, I joined with OCAD University president Dr. Sara Diamond to reveal the results of the competition.
More than 100 designs received from colleges and universities across Canada -- and also from Argentina, China, Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Mexico, and the UK -- were submitted to a blind judging process of a blue chip panel of international jurors.
It was the opinion of the judges that the competition had not achieved its goal, which was to create a complex, multifaceted, and nuanced symbol with the potential to replace an icon with over 40 years of recognition and mature associations.
However, the judges singled out two designs they deemed worthy of Honourable Mention for their promising concepts, and the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD U has committed to working with the designers of both submissions to meet the mandate of the competition.
Image Caption: First Honourable Mention (pictured in part)
Designed by Taghreed Al-Zubaidi, Julie Buelow, Yijin Jiang, Arief Yulianto
Image Caption: Second Honourable Mention
Designed by Dalton Hadwen
The quest for a more inclusive accessibility symbol continues. The re-worked designs will be featured at next year's DEEP Conference -- which will be held in conjunction with The Accessibility Conference hosted by Guelph University -- for the delegates' input. Professor Jutta Treviranus, Director of OCAD U's Inclusive Design Research Centre, has been asked by the ISO to host a consultation on the symbol redesign during the DEEP Conference, with ISO representation.
When the designers and OCAD U have fully developed the two designs, they will be officially presented at next summer's International Summit on Accessibility, to be hosted by Carleton University in Ottawa.
The designers' work has just begun. For the rest of us, what started out as a challenge to the design community became a learning experience -- a learning experience that will, I believe, continue for everyone involved.
So, I am very happy with the outcome of my challenge to reimagine accessibility. Despite the complexities of the competition and the very short time frame for submissions, the designs that were submitted showed how enthusiastically the students had engaged with the ideas behind the competition.
Perhaps more importantly, the competition generated a stimulating public dialogue, in comments here, on the Lieutenant Governor's website, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as in the mainstream media. I even received at my office a parcel of designs from a grade eight class at Ancaster Senior Public School, who had their own ideas around redesigning the accessibility icon.
The quantity and quality of public debate and discussion confirm that society's understanding of accessibility has evolved since the current symbol was launched. In time, I believe it will become as multifaceted and diverse as the disability community itself, for whose members accessibility means so very much more than a white wheelchair on a blue sign.
Source: Huffington Post, The Blog
Do you still think that AODA is not your responsibility?
October 21, 2013
Have you received this letter yet?
Companies all across Ontario are getting a big wake-up call from the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment when it comes to AODA compliance. The realization that this isn’t something that can just be dismissed is beginning to sink in.
Upon receiving this letter from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, companies must file their accessibility report within 20 business days. Failure to do so may result in enforcement action being taken against the organization, which can include inspections, Director’s Orders, and administrative monetary penalties.
Before filing the report, it’s important that the organization fully understands the purpose of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and what it means to comply with the requirements of the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service.
What is the AODA?
AODA legislation aims to make the province of Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025. Passed in 2005, the AODA is being implemented in five pieces known as standards. Each standard has different time frames and requirements for business owners:
- Customer Service Standard
- Transportation Standard
- Employment Standard
- Communication & Information Standard
- Built Environment Standard
Customer Service Standard
The Customer Service Standard is the first of the five standards—and perhaps the least onerous for business. It requires that Ontario businesses provide their goods and services in a way that is accessible to all Ontarians. There are 11 specific requirements employers must fulfill under the customer service standard. To comply to the customer service standard, all obligated businesses and organizations must:
- Establish policies, practices and procedures on providing goods or services to people with disabilities.
- Make reasonable efforts to ensure that policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity.
- Have a policy dealing with people’s use of their own assistive devices to access goods or services or any other measures the organization offers to enable an individual access the goods or services.
- Communicate with a person with a disability in a manner that takes into account their disability.
- Let people with disabilities bring their service animals onto the parts of the premises open to the public or other third parties, except where the animal is otherwise excluded by law from the premises.
- Let people with disabilities be accompanied by their support persons while on the parts of the provider’s premises open to the public or other third parties.
- If a provider charges admission, let people know ahead of time what, if any, admission will be charged for a support person.
- Provide notice when facilities or services that people with disabilities usually use to access goods or services are temporarily disrupted.
- Train anyone who interacts with the public or other third parties on the provider’s behalf on topics outlined in the customer service standard.
- Train anyone who is involved in developing the provider’s customer service policies, practices and procedures on topics outlined in the customer service standard.
- Establish a process for receiving and responding to feedback about the way the organization provides goods or services to people with disabilities, including the actions to be taken if a complaint is received, and make information about the process readily available to the public.
In addition, designated public sector organizations and organizations with 20 or more employees must:
- Document in writing all their policies, practices and procedures for providing accessible customer service and meet other document requirements set out in the standard.
- Notify customers that the documents required under the customer service standard are available upon request .
- When giving documents required under the customer service standard to a person with a disability, provide the information in a format that takes into account the person’s disability.
Have you met the standard?
If you have 20 or more employees, an organization was required to file their Customer Service Accessibility Compliance Report back in December 2012 to inform the Ministry that the requirements of the Customer Service Standard were met. The Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment has now started to crack down on organizations that failed to get this done. Are you one of those employers? It’s time to step up!
It’s time to file that report!
The purpose of the Accessibility Compliance Report is to demonstrate that you have met the requirements of the Customer Service Standard listed above. These include establishing policies, practices, and procedures on providing goods or services to people with disabilities and training your staff on providing accessible customer service.
Need help with the online reporting process? Refer to this step-by-step guide provided by the Ministry.
Clear Path Employer Services HR Consultants and Disability Management Experts www.clearpathemployer.com
Source: First Reference Talks
Study Completed on Accessible Playground Surface Materials
Photo Caption: Example of poured in place (PIP) rubber surface
Results from a recently completed study of accessible play surfaces reveal the importance of proper installation and regular maintenance. The project, which was conducted by the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) at Indiana University with funding from the U.S. Access Board, assessed the performance of different surfacing materials at 35 new playgrounds over a 3-year period. Surface materials tested include poured-in-place rubber, engineered wood fiber, rubber tiles, and hybrid surface systems.
“The findings from this project, one of the most comprehensive studies of playgrounds surfacing to date, clearly demonstrate that proper installation and maintenance are critical for accessibility,” states Jennifer Skulski, CPSI of the NCA, the study’s principal investigator.
The study revealed that within 12 months of installation, each type of surface material was found to have accessibility, safety, or maintenance issues. For example, poured-in-place rubber installed improperly at one site was not resilient enough to meet safety standards for impact attenuation, while surface tiles at another site had puncture holes, buckling and separating. Findings from the project indicate that:
- loose fill engineered wood fiber had the greatest number of deficiencies, including excessive running slope, cross slope, and change in level, which became prevalent within a year of installation;
- engineered wood fiber surfaces also scored lower on firmness and stability ratings than unitary surfaces, such as tile and poured-in-place rubber;
- poured-in-place rubber, tiles and hybrid surface systems also exhibited deficiencies relating to excessive running and cross slopes, changes in level, and openings two to three years after installation; and
- some surfaces with fewer accessibility deficiencies and higher firmness and stability ratings did not meet the safety standards for impact attenuation
These and other conclusions are discussed in a report on the project, “A Longitudinal Study of Playground Surfaces to Evaluate Accessibility,” which is available on NCA’s website.
The Board and NCA will conduct a free webinar on accessible play surfaces and the results of the study on November 7 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET). Visit www.accessibilityonline.org to register for the webinar.
For more information on the project, contact Jennifer Skulski, CPSI, Principal Investigator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (812) 856-4422, or Peggy Greenwell of the Access Board at email@example.com, (202) 272-0017 (v), or (202) 272-0075 (TTY).
What’s Old Is New Again At Bridgepoint Active Healthcare
October 23, 2013 by Sara O. Marberry
Designing a new hospital is always a complex process. In Canada, it’s even more complicated because, historically, new facilities have been paid for by the government and require a different type of approval process than in the U.S. Bridgepoint Active Healthcare's new Bridgepoint Hospital, a healthcare and rehabilitation facility in Toronto that opened last June, is no exception.
More than a dozen years in the making and designed and built on a historic site, the project required two teams of architects that were responsible for a two-tiered design and delivery program. Not only does the dramatic building represent a new model for healthcare and rehabilitation in Canada, but it also represents a new private-public partnership arrangement for financing and maintenance.
Before the architecture firms got involved, the hospital went through a functional planning process that included a redevelopment plan for the 10.5-acre site done by Toronto-based Urban Strategies. The team of Stantec Architecture (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) and KPMB Architects (Toronto) came on board next as the planning, design, and compliance architects for Bridgepoint. They were responsible for the project-specific outline specifications and the “design exemplar,” a prescriptive plan approved by the Ministry of Health that was executed by a design, build, finance, and maintain (DBFM) consortium, which included HDR Architecture and Diamond Schmitt Architects as the architects-of-record.
The site of the new hospital has played an important role in Toronto’s evolution since the 1860s, when the Don Jail and House of Refuge were built. Separated from the city center and surrounded by nature, this setting was thought to be conducive to the health and wellbeing of prisoners and patients alike. For many years, the land functioned as an independent campus, complete with staff residences and a working farm that harvested crops and raised livestock.
The Don Jail, the largest building project Toronto had seen to date, was conceived of as a progressive reform institution, where prisoners would have a balance of work, exercise, education, socialization, and solitary time for contemplation. The House of Refuge was built as a place to shelter Toronto’s “poor, needy, and disabled,” and was converted in the 1870s to an isolation hospital responding an outbreak of smallpox and later of other infectious diseases. The hospital evolved many times, acting as a medical training center, a provincial center for HIV/AIDS care, and finally rebranding as Bridgepoint Health, which was founded in 2002 to address the increasingly important issue of complex chronic disease.
The new Bridgepoint Hospital responds to an urgent need that the old hospital could no longer address: increasing demand for increasingly complex healthcare. “This is the new frontier of healthcare,” says Marian Walsh, CEO, Bridgepoint Active Healthcare. “One hundred years ago, people died young, of quick, communicable diseases. We eradicated communicable diseases and turned our attention to human biology—diagnosing and fixing things when they go wrong. The new challenge of modern medicine is managing people living with multiple conditions.”
In fact, as Walsh points out, one of every two Canadians is living with an underlying major condition, and the number of individuals who require ongoing complex care will only increase with projected population increases. And she managed to convince the government of Ontario and policy makers that developing facilities designed to meet the needs of those with chronic complex conditions was the right strategy.
Bridgepoint’s leaders envisioned a new kind of healthcare in a new kind of hospital: a civic building, an urban place, and a place for healthcare and community to come together. In such a place, patients could rediscover their sense of self at their own pace, participate in the city and their community, engage the world around them, and prepare to return home. The location of the site allowed for the design to be fully integrated into the natural green spaces and systems of the Don River Valley and Riverdale Park, as well as the vibrant, diverse urban fabric of the adjacent Riverdale neighborhood.
According to Bruce Kuwabara, principal, KPMB Architects (Toronto), the site is “part of the epic history of the narrative of the city of Toronto. The Riverdale Park setting has always been associated with being removed but having a connection to the city,” he says, adding that many organizations have tried to reclaim the Don Valley as a community space.
The site is laid out in a nine-square grid, with the Old Don Jail as the centerpiece. To get approval for the new hospital, Bridgepoint had to agree to preserve the historic buildings on the site and create an adjacent park. A restoration and adaptive reuse plan transformed the 1864 jail building into new administration offices for the hospital. The Governor of the Jail’s house also remains, housing a children’s palliative care facility. Buildings occupying other parts of the grid include the old hospital and two other jail buildings, all of which will eventually be torn down.
“Out of those nine squares, only two of them could be used for the new building,” says Greg Colucci, principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects (Toronto). “So, there were logistical constraints but spectacular opportunities to connect patients to nature and connect the community to patients.”
And public access to the Old Don Jail gives local residents and tourists an opportunity for the first time to explore the building. When KPMB’s Kuwabara was a kid, his grandmother lived near the site. “She always told us to play in the park, but not go near the jail or the hospital,” he says. “We always used to go near the jail anyway. Now that it’s open to the public, it’s one of the greatest local attractions.”
Located on high ground, overlooking the Don Valley Parkway, and surrounded by parkland, the new Bridgepoint facility occupies a point of considerable regional prominence. Hundreds of thousands of commuters see it every day, and, for many, it marks an entry point to downtown Toronto. Also, because of its context, tall buildings will never dominate the new Bridgepoint.
“The building is designed with floor-to-ceiling glass in many places,” says Bridgepoint’s Walsh. “The idea is that patients and staff should be able to see through the building to the outside—the community—and feel connected to the outside world all the time.”
Unlike the old hospital, which had wards, the new facility has single- and double-bed rooms, each with window sill heights that are less than 3 feet, accommodating large horizontal windows. “At the time this facility was programmed, the standard in Canada was different,” says Tod Trigg, senior project manager, HDR Architecture (Omaha, Neb.). “But because these patients aren’t acute, it isn’t as necessary to have single-bed rooms. Double-bed rooms helps with socialization and is part of the therapy process.”
Every room has at least one pop-out window—a 9-foot vertical floor-to-ceiling window that steps out from the building about 2 feet. In fact, there’s one pop-out window for every one of the 464 patient beds in the facility. On the exterior, the windows, which are flanked with metal cladding, project as boxes and create varying colors and shadows, depending on the weather and time of day.
To save cost and create a “beltline” to break up the vertical mass of the building, mechanical systems were moved to the middle. KPMB’s Kuwabara describes it as a “stagger and swagger” design with cantilevers and the building broken into large boxes with bay windows at the end where the patient lounges are located.
Non-patient room space is in the center on each of the eight patient floors, with communal dining and rehabilitative recreation spaces for patients, and multipurpose meeting and teaching rooms for staff. Six nurses’ stations are distributed on each patient floor to provide easy access to patient rooms and other areas.
In keeping with salutogenic principles that seek to address individuals’ psychosocial well-being, architectural details, textures, and finishes in the new Bridgepoint facility were chosen to de-emphasize the feeling of being in an institution and provide cues signifying comfort and community. Color schemes and floor patterning provide clear wayfinding, with green used to the north (corresponding to Riverdale Park), neutral tones in the middle zone, and blue to the south (corresponding to the lake). Floor plans facilitate multiple and frequent interior view corridors and views of the exterior; close adjacency to centralized therapy spaces, elevators, and stairs; and give the impression of small floor plates, providing a sense of intimacy and orientation.
A barrier-free therapy pool references the minimalist characteristics of contemporary resort and spa design to create a safe, inviting, recreational impression. Located at the north end of the ground floor, the pool features full-height glazing that offers bright natural light and views to Riverdale Park.
The ground floor of the new hospital is a publicly accessible “urban porch” with a Tim Horton’s restaurant, drug store, multipurpose auditorium, library, and access to two outdoor terraces. The porch encourages different kinds of gathering and interaction, providing a range of positions, vantage points, supports, paths, and types of seating from which patients can observe and participate in community life. The glazing system brings natural light through the entrances, vestibules, and lobbies of the porch, and natural materials such as wood, stone, and water help integrate the building into the landscape and deinstitutionalize the atmosphere to reinforce the goals of wellness and community-building.
The entire site has been designed with barrier-free access, five-degree ramps, gentle stairs, and sightlines to facilitate wayfinding and encourage circulation. Planting consists of 100 percent indigenous species and has been chosen to represent a range of colors and flowering sequences throughout the seasons. Courtyards at different grades, each with a character of its own, provide patients and visitors with places to rest in solitude or to meet in groups.
A barrier-free labyrinth, sited at the threshold between the hospital and the park, acts as a space for ambulatory therapy, meditative reflection, and as a destination for public events. The publicly accessible space encourages patients to interact with the community, and patients can benefit even in their rooms by observing those walking below.
“Because patients stay so long, the ability to get them out of the building is important,” says Stantec’s Elgie. “When we arrived for meetings at the old hospital, there was always a crowd of patients there to greet us. We realized they were there because they were getting better.”
The main entrance of the hospital—the Civic Court—creates a welcoming front door for Bridgepoint and a transitional space that integrates the hospital with the community. It was designed for patients, visitors, staff, and the public to gather, exercise, relax, meditate, and watch people and vehicles come and go. “There aren’t many hospitals that are designed as public buildings where you feel like you can take a short cut through them or use their spaces,” HDR’s McClean says. “Marian Walsh didn’t want to re-create just another institutional building, but rather one that would change the way Bridgepoint was able to deliver healthcare.”
A fifth-floor Sky Garden terrace is contained and intimate—a place to meditate and view the city. The 10th floor green roof is much larger in scale and serves a place to amble and interact.
Looking back, and forward
Members of the four different architectural firms involved in the project agree that the process, although complex and not perfect, was successful. “Bridgepoint got what it wanted—a building that represents the vision and quality of care it wanted to achieve for the new direction that healthcare is going,” Stantec’s Elgie says.
For Bridgepoint’s Walsh, the process was challenging—in more ways than one. First, they had to convince the Ministry that this was the right type of building to build. Then they had to make the business case for adding amenities like landscaping. Next, they had to assemble the land and get the buy-in of the local community. Finally, they had to work with a whole new procurement process and method of financing.
In order to evaluate the actual performance of the new facility against project objectives, an independent group called the Bridgepoint Research Collaboratory will compare a range of data collected from the old Bridgepoint hospital with data from the new facility, and in turn with that of a third-party reference facility. The potential impact of this research is three-fold: It will be used to adapt and improve Bridgepoint on an ongoing basis, it will contribute knowledge to a growing body of international research on healthcare design, and it will set new standards for best practices in the field design evaluation methodology itself.
“Our commitment is to provide great care [for people with complex chronic conditions] and we also want to be Canada’s leading organization in this area,” Walsh says. “Not just provide the care, but develop the evidence that will support improvements in how we organize and deliver care to this population so that we’ll have a sustainable future.”
Sara O. Marberry, EDAC, is a contributing editor for Healthcare Design. She is a writer, blogger, speaker, and strategic marketing and business consultant in Evanston, Ill., and the former executive vice president of The Center for Health Design. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a detailed source list, including costs, project team, and other vendors on this project, please visit: "Bridgepoint Active Health: Project Breakdown."
Source: Healthcare Design
The Infrastructure of Inequality
Posted on 10/21/2013 by Jana Lynott | AARP Blog Author | Comments
Photo by Dr. Scott Crawford, courtesy of the National Complete Streets Coalition
Put people first. That was a theme of the first national Walk Summitin Washington, D.C., Oct. 1-3. Unfortunately the message relayed by several participants was not encouraging. “I feel my life is worth less than nothing,” said one self-described vulnerable road user as she outlined the challenges of navigating our transportation system without a car.
The Sunday before the Walk Summit, I was driving along a four-lane road in my neighborhood and was surprised to see a young man in a wheelchair, rolling in reverse in the street. At each driveway he would swing his chair fully into the right-hand lane to establish a right angle to the driveway so that he could back up the driveway to let the next car pass, then roll down again and begin the backward climb. Without a motorized wheelchair he noticeably exerted significant effort to move between the driveways before the next car emerged. Usually he was unable to get out of the way. Luckily each driver that day was focused on driving: not distracted by a call or text message or speeding. A friend accompanied him, acting as a scout to navigate this dangerous path to his destination.
“What on earth are they doing?” I wondered, before noticing the sidewalks were not navigable by wheelchair. They were too narrow and blocked by utility poles and untrimmed hedges. This is the infrastructure of inequality — places where individuals without access to a car and those who must roll rather than walk risk becoming stranded in their homes.
Most shocking was finding this infrastructure of inequality in my community — one of the nation’s wealthiest counties with a complete streets policy and millions of dollars invested in striping bike lanes, constructing trails, expanding the use of a bikeshare program and planning a light rail line. Pedestrian improvements, beyond simple, low-cost ones such as the installation of curb bulb-outs and median refuge, have largely happened only in conjunction with major land redevelopment. This enables the county to negotiate with the private sector to pay the bill. Residents in these high-priced corridors enjoy the benefits of high-quality transit, bike lanes and wide, accessible sidewalks. Those in other neighborhoods may have to wait decades for accessibility.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that sidewalks be accessible when built or rebuilt. It does not require that communities take action to rebuild them. Given that adults with disabilities have lower employment rates and substantially higher poverty rates than those without a disability, few can afford to live in neighborhoods that would serve them best.
I applaud Kaiser Permanente, America Walks and the other organizers of the Walk Summit for placing equity front and center on the agenda as they build a movement toward creating environments where walking is safe, easy and routine for people of all abilities. To begin, we, as a society, need to put pedestrian accessibility on equal footing with funding for other transportation improvements. With more than 8,000 boomers hitting retirement age every day, we cannot delay.
About the author: Jana Lynott is a senior strategic policy adviser with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she manages the AARP transportation research agenda. As a land use and transportation planner, she brings practical expertise to the research field.
Article Source: AARP Blog
National Association of Home Builders
October 7, 2013
Think Your Buyer$ Are Too Young For Universal Design? Think Again.
by Debra Young, M.Ed., OTR/L, SCEM, ATP, CAPS
Life is busy. We are all looking for that elusive “Easy” button. If our homes could help make everyday tasks easier and more convenient, who wouldn’t sign up? In fact, a well-designed home can help, and it can help everyone.
Homes with universal design features increase usability for all their residents — regardless of age or ability level — and create a layer of invisible convenience. But just talking about this sort of convenience doesn’t communicate the full picture. It needs to resonate with the consumer on a human level, showing how it can improve their everyday life.
It’s the package shelf at the front door that lets you put down that big stack of items so that we can open the door without fumbling for keys — and dropping something in the process. It’s the pull-out cabinets in the kitchen that keeps us from having to get down on hands and knees to dig to the back of the cabinet for that one pot, pan or missing Tupperware lid.
Explaining Universal Design
Universal design (UD) has been around for more than 30 years, but over time it developed a negative connotation associated with growing old and having a disability. The knee-jerk reaction — even among builders — is often “That’s not for me,” or “My buyers don’t need it," or "They won’t buy that yet.”
I am often asked to explain UD to others, and a recent plane ride gave me an opportunity to do that with my seatmate. I’m a petite 5’3” woman, and he was a 6’4,” 200-plus pound former Virginia Tech linebacker. As we chatted about what we each did for a living, I saw a way to illustrate my work with UD. I asked him to show me the palm of his hand, which seemed bear-paw size. I put my hand next to his and said, “When I compare our hands, I wonder — how do you hit the buttons on your cell phone?” I wondered out loud about how using his hands to grasp, manipulate, turn and twist everyday objects must be a very different experience for him than for me. We talked about how he experienced spaces and environments compared to my experience. I could see his “aha” moment.
Comparing human factors helped my seatmate understand that UD is different from the accessible design standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA defines minimum requirements for accessibility, and prescribes special adaptations tailored to help individuals with specific disabilities or limitations. Accessible features don’t have broad market appeal, since they are typically of no use to the remainder of the population, and could actually be a hindrance in some situations.
The aim of UD, by contrast, is to blend into our built environment. It is “design for all,” taking into consideration human factors such as body shape, stature, right or left-handedness, reach range, strength and balance, as well as vision, hearing and cognition. UD addresses usability holistically. UD features provide not only access to persons with disabilities, but also a level of convenience and safety for everybody else.
Our User-Friendly House
When my husband and I built our house 10 years ago, we incorporated many UD features. Because my husband has a C5-C6 incomplete spinal cord injury and uses a manual and power wheelchair for mobility, many people assume the house was built specifically with my husband’s needs in mind. They say to me “You built your house for your husband, right?” But I respond, “We built it for the both of us.”
The truth is, UD features can be invisible, beautiful and provide convenience for everyone in the home. You can walk into my house and never know that a person with a disability lives there. Yes, my husband is independent in our home — but, so am I, and so is anyone else who visits.
Consider how often we carry heavy bags of groceries into our homes. Most of us are greeted by steps, but can’t use the handrail because our hands are full. A no-step entry (left) eliminates this problem. Or maybe you’re a parent who finally gets that baby or toddler to go to sleep in your arms. You tip-toe quietly to the child’s room and find a closed door. Letting go of the child with one hand to manage the doorknob is risky at worst, and would at least sabotage the effort it took to get him/her to sleep. A lever handle lets one easily open the door with an elbow — guaranteed extra hours of sleep not included.
We Are All Temporarily Able-Bodied
I was 30 years old when we moved into our new house, and at 40, I’m thankful that I’ve had a pretty uneventful medical history. I’m more thankful that my house was built with UD in mind, because beyond convenience and comfort, UD features have let me function in the face of health issues.
At 33, I was in a car accident, leaving me with mostly minor injuries. But an injury to my right wrist — my dominant hand — meant I had to wear a bulky brace for three months. Any task that rotated my wrist or required grip was difficult and painful. Automatic can openers never made me so happy! I was even happier to have loop/pull handles on cabinets and drawers and lever handles on my doors (right), faucets and the shower mix valve! An elbow or a single finger was all I needed to function.
At 35, I had complicated Lasik surgery — the kind with a week-long recovery and fluctuating vision for six to eight weeks. After the first week at home wearing dark glasses, my vision would start the day at 20/40 and progressively worsen. In meetings with clients, I would see them somewhat clearly, then blink and see only a blur. After about two months of roller-coaster vision, I landed happily, at 20/20, but during that time I was incredibly thankful for the color contrasts in my home that helped me distinguish between objects, especially in the kitchen. It also helped that I could adjust light levels lower and higher as needed. Something as simple as a bullnose counter top edge was invaluable, since my impaired vision and depth perception meant I bumped it frequently. And having up-front controls on the stove and other appliances gave me increased access and safety, since I needed to get very close to locate and adjust them.
While back pain is played for laughs in TV and movies, I learned first hand what it felt like last year. After a week of unusual circumstances and exertions, I woke in the middle of the night in extreme pain, practically immobile. I managed to sit at the side of the bed and my husband, seated in his wheelchair, had to help me up.
A visit to a doctor brought the pain under control, but left me with difficulty reaching at or above shoulder level or below waist level. I was never so thankful for my pullout shelving! It had been a convenience before the injury, but now was an amazing benefit. I also appreciated the lowered cabinets and adjustable-height shelving, which put frequently used items within easy reach. My front-loader washer and dryer made laundry easier, and I could even use my side-by-side refrigerator — both fridge and freezer — without having to reach up or down. The pullout shelving in the fridge was the icing on the cake. Even the design and organization of our pantry closet, with the dog and cat food bins raised from floor level, let me continue feeding my furry children.
Consider Visitors to the Home
Those health issues passed, but I still enjoy the convenience of my home’s UD features, and I think of them when I am in others’ homes. I visited a friend who was on bed rest for the last few months of her pregnancy, to prepare food and keep her company. She asked me to heat up some leftover soup for her. However, there was a problem — the microwave was above the range — not out of reach for her 6’3” husband, but difficult for me — and for her, since she’s my height. I got the bowl into the microwave, but because it was such a high reach, I couldn’t get it out without spilling the hot soup on myself and all over the kitchen floor. This microwave location wasn’t just inaccessible to a person using a wheelchair — it was inaccessible and unsafe for me and for her.
My stories are not unique. In fact, people often have a temporarily disabling condition that affects important everyday activities. Because they’re temporary, we soon forget how our environment made things even more disabling — until it happens again.
UD isn’t about age or ability level. It is design that provides convenience, comfort and safety, and it benefits everyone. When integrated into the home design, it should be virtually invisible, blending into the aesthetics and flow. In this sense, it sells itself.
If you have UD features in your model homes, consider not starting out by telling potential buyers about those features, but simply having you or your sales staff walk them through, the way you would any other home. However, be sure to save time at the end to do a second quick walk-back to point out all of those cleverly integrated convenience features they did not even notice on the first run. That turns your model into a house full of wonderful hidden surprises!
UD is not accessible design. It is not design only for someone who is has reached a certain age, or already has illness, injury or disability. It is design for everyone.
Life has enough obstacles — a person’s home should not be one of them.
Debra Young, M.Ed., OTR/L, SCEM, ATP, CAPS is the owner of EmpowerAbility® LLC in Newark, Del., specializing in space planning and design for inclusive housing and communities.
Her background in occupational therapy affords her the unique knowledge of the person-environment fit. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Perkins+Will recently unveiled the new 262,000-square-foot Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The design process, led by Ralph Johnson and managed by Perkins+Will’s Boston office, resulted in a state-of-the-art healthcare resource for patients, families and the community at large. The Charlestown facility expands the offerings of the current 42-year-old hospital and features 132 private patient rooms, large common areas open to the community and a thoughtful design that promotes wellness for people with disabilities.
“The vision for the new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital was to create a space for patients that promotes healing and addresses the needs of the widest possible audience,” said Ralph Johnson, FAIA, LEED AP, design director at Perkins+Will. “What resulted is a building design that is transparent and carefully researched.”
Located on a remediated brownfield parcel in the Charlestown Navy Yard, the building is a new gathering place for the community – dedicating 75 percent of the first floor to public use and integrating with the Boston HarborWalk. Once part of a timber receiving basin, the landscape design incorporates reclaimed timbers throughout the site and takes full advantage of waterfront views of the Boston skyline. A trail running along the waterfront features therapeutic equipment and offers patients the opportunity to encourage the healing process by performing physical therapy on a variety of different landscaped surfaces.
Tied to the site’s naval yard history, the gray materials of the façade are reminiscent of the military battleships and aircraft carriers berthed at the yard for much of the 20th century. The scale of the building is visually reduced by dividing the structure into two connected sections – an eight-story patient tower and a three-story therapeutic gymnasium and pool. The building can be viewed from all sides – there is no back. Each section of the divided structure utilizes a variety of materials to create visual interest and reveal a slightly different building from each angle. Glass curtainwall is generously integrated into the design, creating transparency and an abundance of natural light throughout the interior, resulting in an atmosphere that is open and inviting.
The new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital incorporates inclusive design into every aspect of the facility. Perkins+Will’s design team was dedicated to researching and testing each component of the design so that the building addresses the needs of the widest possible audience, irrespective of ability. The team worked with accessibility experts and conducted extensive research on their own to create a hospital of the future, one that went beyond only meeting ADA requirements. Every aspect of the building design has been considered – the entry is at street level; the reception desk is low and rounded; the patient rooms have custom cabinetry and automated shades, patient lifts, private bathrooms and amenities such as private refrigerators, sleeping accommodations for family members and a wireless connection for patients and guests. The building program includes outpatient services, a pool for aquatherapy, two large gymnasiums, an activities-of-daily-living suite, transitional patient apartment and satellite gyms embedded on two inpatient floors.
“For far too long, rehabilitative care was an afterthought to many, relegated to the basements of hospitals and out of sight. This hospital makes a bold statement that a new era of rehabilitative medicine is hereby bringing together scientific innovation and patient-centered design that puts this institution on par with the major centers of healing in the world,” said David Storto, president, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. “It’s truly an honor to lead Spaulding and serve this region with its leaders who have the forethought to understand how vital Spaulding will be for decades to come.”
Led by Perkins+Will’s Global Sustainable Healthcare Leader, Robin Guenther, resiliency planning and sustainable design were also a key part of the design process. In response to climate change and probable rising sea levels, the main floor was raised one foot and all of the HVAC equipment was located on the roof. Gymnasiums, multi-purpose rooms and educational rooms utilize automatic operable windows for natural ventilation. Operable windows allow the building to remain operational even if mechanical systems are interrupted. Vegetated roofs mitigate storm water runoff and reduce cooling loads and heat-island effect. Therapeutic terraces on the third and fourth floors serve as places of respite for patients, staff and families. Gardens and views of Boston Harbor provide further uplifting diversions to the occupants. The project has achieved LEED-Gold certification.
“Beyond the energy performance and safety features of the design, we emphasized the importance of creating a healthy healing environment for patients,” said Robin Guenther, FAIA, LEED AP, principal. “We designed a human-centered patient experience — focused on restoration and health — that provides patients, families and staff a supportive, sustainable environment to improve rehabilitation results.”
U.S. Access Board Issues Final Guidelines for Federal Outdoor Recreation Sites
Photo Caption: View of a nature trail with accessible route. (Source: U.S. Access Board)
On September 26th the U.S. Access Board issued new accessibility guidelines for outdoor areas developed by the federal government. The guidelines provide detailed specifications for accessible trails, picnic and camping areas, viewing areas, beach access routes and other components of outdoor developed areas when newly built or altered. They also provide exceptions for situations where terrain and other factors make compliance impracticable.
“The Board is eager to release these guidelines, which were long in the making, to explain how access to the great outdoors can be achieved,” states Access Board Chair Karen L. Braitmayer, FAIA. “The greatest challenge in developing these guidelines was balancing what’s needed for accessibility against what’s possible in natural environments with limited development.”
Requirements for trails, outdoor recreation access routes, and beach access routes address surface characteristics, width, and running and cross slopes. Exceptions are included for these and other provisions under certain conditions stipulated in the guidelines. Departures are allowed where compliance is not practicable because of terrain or prevailing construction practices. Exceptions are also recognized where compliance would conflict with mandates such as the Endangered Species Act and other laws or where it would fundamentally alter a site’s function or purpose.
The guidelines originate from recommendations prepared by an advisory panel chartered by the Board, the Outdoor Developed Areas Regulatory Negotiation Committee. They were made available for public comment twice and finalized according to the feedback received. The rule applies only to national parks and other federal sites, but the Board plans to follow-up with rulemaking to address non-federal sites under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at a later date.
“The Board is moving ahead to issue the guidelines first for federal sites out of expediency,” explains Braitmayer. “In developing its guidelines, the Board must assess and aggregate their impacts. The Board was able to complete the necessary assessment on sites in the federal sector, but will require more time to analyze the impacts on the broader range of sites controlled by state and local governments covered by the ADA.”
The rule applies to federal agencies that develop outdoor areas for recreational purposes, including the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation. The new requirements will become mandatory on November 25, 2013 as part of the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standards, which apply to facilities that are built, altered, or leased with federal funds.
The Board will conduct a public webinar on the new rule on October 17 from 2:30 to 4:00 (ET). To register for this free webinar, visit www.accessibilityonline.org.
For further information on the rule, visit the Board’s website or contact Bill Botten at firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 272-0014 (v), or (202) 272-0073 (TTY).