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Accessibility’s Top Five from 2015

As we wrap up another successful year here at SWA, the Accessibility Compliance and Consulting Group would like to take a moment to reflect on some memorable achievements from 2015. Here are a few SWAwesome things we want to celebrate:

  1. An Anniversary. On July 26th, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) officially turned 25, providing an opportunity to reflect on how this law has changed the face of accessible design and continues to promote equal access for people with disabilities. SWA marked the milestone with a hugely successful twitter campaign #ADA25 SWAnniversary, led by our in-house expert Tweep, Theresa D’Andrea, Accessibility Specialist.

    UD Kitchen

    Universally designed kitchen showcasing products for enhanced accessibility.

  2. Accessible Products. We kicked off the year by rolling out SWA’s Product Guide for Enhanced Accessibility which was developed as a direct response to the needs of our clients. This guide showcases potential product solutions that can improve access to and usability of spaces and features contained within them for a wide array of building occupants. We’ve also recently established partnerships with more than a dozen new vendors. Stay tuned for more products to be added in early 2016.
  3. Health and Accessibility. We’ve made serious headway in championing the idea that designing for health is linked to designing for people with disabilities. SWA was appointed as Lead on Accessibility for AIA|DC’s Design + Wellbeing Committee and debuted our new role with a blog post published in Architecture DC. SWA was also invited to present next year at the AIA 2016 National Convention on the relationship between healthy design and accessible design. Be sure to come see us next spring in Philadelphia.
  4. Travel USA. This year, our accessibility consultants had the opportunity to travel to projects all across the country, from California to Florida. Particular travel heroes were Senior Accessibility Consultants, Harold Bravo, Certified Access Specialist in the State of California; and Jeff Heitert, Registered Accessibility Specialist in the State of Texas. And let’s not forget the countless industry presentations led by Senior Accessibility Consultant, Mark Jackson, who presented at Design DC in Washington, DC; the Build Expo in Dallas, TX; the 2015 AIA National Convention in Atlanta, GA; among many other.
  5. YOU. Last, but never least, we are grateful for another successful year with our clients, partners, and colleagues. Because of our diverse set of clients, we’ve had the opportunity to work with state and local governments, builders and architects, and others to create accessible homes, restaurants, retail stores, hotels, and more. The Accessibility Group wants to thank clients, new and old, who have helped us achieve our mission of creating safe and equitable spaces for people with disabilities.

Wishing you and yours a very happy, healthy, and accessible Holiday Season!Overview1-01 (2)

SWA Accessibiltiiy Group Photo_small

-The Accessibility Compliance and Consulting Group

Victoria Lanteigne Talks Accessibility on DC Radio

SWA Accessibility

This week, SWA Senior Accessibility Consultant Victoria Lanteigne joined the program “Business Matters” on WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington, DC. Read more

Accessible Design and Designing for Health and Wellness

What is the relationship between accessible design and designing for health and wellness?

As Lead on Accessibility for the AIA Committee on Design + Wellbeing and Senior Accessibility Consultant for Steven Winter Associates, this is a question I am often asked. The answer is threefold:

1) The six AIA Principles on AIA Design for Health PrinciplesDesigning for Health directly impact people with disabilities. For example, to help people with disabilities safely navigate the built environment and engage with their community, we must promote Safety and Social Connectedness; by addressing Environmental Quality we can mitigate the onset of certain disabilities, such as asthma, that can arise from polluted surroundings; the effective design of Sensory Environments and Access to Natural Systems can reduce stress and anxiety to enhance physical and mental health; and Physical Activity can be critical to physical therapy and rehabilitation for people with disabilities.

2) Read more

The Future of Accessible Housing

Fair Housing Act Happy Fair Housing Month! This April marks the 47th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the FHA into law, making it illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing, among other transactions, based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin. However, it wasn’t until 20 years later (1988) that the FHA was amended to include protections for people with disabilities, which instituted a host of accessibility regulations that are still the standard for multifamily housing design today.

As our country and politics evolve, I wonder how an additional 20 years will change the face of accessible housing. There are many initiatives that challenge us to look beyond the current standards written into federal laws and building codes. The Visitability Movement, for example, led by Eleanor Smith, champions a modest level of accessibility for single family homes, which currently are not required by federal law to meet any level of accessibility (see SWA staff present with Ms. Smith at the 2015 AIA National Convention). In addition, the U.S. Access Board and American National Standards Institute (ANSI), two parties responsible for writing accessibility standards, continue to expand on accessible design, particularly as the disability rights movement continues to shape public policy, allowing for increased levels of accessibility.

Equal Opportunity LogoWe are also seeing a trend in the voluntary incorporation of accessible features in design initiatives such as Universal Design, which promotes usability for all ages and abilities, as well as aging in place initiatives. SWA has been compiling an accessible product directory (to be released soon) that features a wide range of sleek and modern products that enhance accessibility without compromising style. We’ve also been on the cusp of ventures that address health and wellness through design, such as the WELL Building Standard, which promotes accessibility as a main component of a building occupant’s health and wellbeing.

We at SWA will certainly celebrate this Fair Housing Month and all the progress made towards housing that is inclusive to all; however we would be remiss if we didn’t think about what’s in store for accessible design in the future. We look forward to learning and growing with our clients and partners as we continue to bring accessibility to the built environment.

Let us know how the Fair Housing Act has made a positive impact on your life and what you hope to see in the future. Follow us on Twitter and use #FairHousingMonth to follow and contribute to the conversation!

SWA 2014: “By the Numbers” Infographic

Green Building Infographic