Accessibility Watch: Retrofitting

This helpful piece on the mainstreaming of Universal Design by Emily Leibin appeared in Metropolis:


A new trend is emerging as the baby boom grows older. Some homes and communities are designed to allow residents to age-in-place, or for young people to begin their lives in a house that can, eventually, be adapted as their mobility and accessibility needs change over time. These forward-thinking models provide an excellent vision for the future of housing. They can also serve as inspiration for improvements in consumer goods and the design of spaces, beginning today.

These new homes are ahead of the curve. They consider accessible space from the perspective of Universal Design, taking a more holistic approach to accessibility than most regulated public places. Over the past 20 years the Americans with Disabilities Act has had little to do with residential design. Suddenly, this summer, changes to ADA were passed to ensure that, in the future, a minimum of 5% of all housing built for sale to individual owners in the US will be accessible. This is a great amendment. Now for the first time some new housing developments will be required to accommodate the needs of the aging and the disabled. There is, of course, room for improvement; many older residences that fall outside of ADA still need to be adapted for safety and accessibility.

In a survey she conducted for Change Observer, my fellow Metropolis blogger, Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson told the story of a small number of radical visionaries in New Visions of Home.


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