Everyone Has a Disability – Universal Design Addresses that Issue < – Date –> < – Thread –>
From: David Hornick (dhornicknycap.rr.com)
Date: Wed, 26 Mar 2008 04:06:48 -0700 (PDT)
It’s important to broaden the discussion of designing housing for the
“disabled”. In fact, it’s important to consider the definition of
“disability”. I have visited several cohousing communities that are built
on steep slopes or which have unprotected walk areas requiring residents to
deal with snow and ice to travel to the commonhouse or which ignore the
enormous challenge that stairs impose on elderly residents or residents or
visitors that rely on wheelchairs. Because of concern about “footprint”,
some cohousing is designed to be narrow and tall incorporating stairways
that are difficult to negotiate.
I suggest that the issue of disability in cohousing be broadened to
encompass the subject of UNIVERSAL DESIGN.
Universal Design: “Design of as much of the environment as possible to be
as useable as possible by as many people as possible.”
This definition is attributed to Ron Mace, a talented architect and
considered by many to be the “father of universal design”.
Ron Mace died prematurely a few years ago. He lived with significant
disabilities and is credited with authoring the term “universal design”.
Learn more at:
Center for Universal Design NCSU – About the Center – Ronald L. Mace
Universal design encompasses much, much more than “barrier-free” or
For example, it addresses such issues as:
permitting children and shorter people to use light switches, counters,
hang bars in closets, storage spaces, etc.
acknowledging that we are all born with significant functional
limitations which we “outgrow” as we mature” and then develop other
limitations as we move through adulthood into old age
landscape design that is friendly to young and old and people with
significant functional disabilities
use of colors and textures that enable people with visual handicaps to
interface more safely and effectively with their living environments
The subject of universal design deserves special attention by everyone
involved in the design of co-housing communities.
I recommend that you read Ron Mace’s last speech to gain a quick
understanding of Universal Design:
Center for Universal Design NCSU – About the Center – Ronald L. Mace Last
This presentation will provide information that you’ll find extremely
helpful with understanding this simple but often neglected technology.
Among other points, Mr. Mace states:
Universal design broadly defines the user. It¹s a consumer market driven
issue. Its focus is not specifically on people with disabilities, but all
people. It actually assumes the idea, that everybody has a disability and I
feel strongly that that¹s the case. We all become disabled as we age and
lose ability, whether we want to admit it or not. It is negative in our
society to say ³I am disabled² or ³I am old.² We tend to discount people who
are less than what we popularly consider to be ³normal.² To be ³normal² is
to be perfect, capable, competent, and independent. Unfortunately, designers
in our society also mistakenly assume that everyone fits this definition of
³normal.² This just is not the case.
Take some time to explore this concept.