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Victoria Lanteigne is a Senior Accessibility Consultant with Steven Winter Associates. She has a background in civil rights and has been working on accessibility issues for the bulk of her career. Victoria enjoys eyeing the homes in Dwell magazine and is currently undertaking the challenge of making a small space functional for two in Washington, DC.

Posts by Victoria Lanteigne

Vote for Access 2016!

Is Voting Accessible?

Having lived in Washington, DC for over a decade, I’ve cultivated what some may call a geeky sense of pride in upholding my civic duty to vote. Last Saturday I stood in line at 8am with nearly 200 other Washingtonians, eager to cast an early ballot for the 2016 Presidential Election. I noticed a man using a cane join the line behind me. Further ahead of us was an elderly woman in a wheelchair. My mind started wandering down a path that is all too familiar for those of us on SWA’s Accessibility Team:
Accessible_Voting

Would the front entrance provide access for wheelchair users?
Would clear pathways be provided to registration tables and polling machines?
Have volunteers been trained to provide reasonable accommodations?

Unfortunately, my concerns aren’t unfounded. In a 2008 study, the Government Accountability Office estimated that 73% of polling places used in 2008 had architectural barriers that made access difficult or even impossible for people with disabilities. While Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local governments to provide accessible polling places; the GAO survey showed only 27% of polling places to be accessible to people with disabilities in the 2008 elections.

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What is Human Centered Design?

Post written by Chelsea Wales, SWA Intern in Washington, DC

“Human centered design is a creative approach to design solutions that are tailored to individual users. Oftentimes human centered design is about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; which is critical when we design for people with disabilities.” That’s how industry experts Katie Osborn, Hansel Bauman, and A.J. Paron-Wildes define this innovative design approach. On August 2, 2016 the American Institute for Architects Committee on Accessible Design located in Washington, DC hosted its first-ever panel event entitled, “Trending Strategies for Human Centered Design”. The District Architecture Center was bustling with people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities as they filled the glass-walled lecture room to hear the industry thought leaders discuss the importance of human centered design.

Panel Speakers Row_VL

From left to right: AJ Paron-Wildes (panelist), Victoria Lanteigne (moderator), Ben Scavone (committee co-chair), Hansel Bauman (panelist), Katie Osborn (panelist).

Moderated by SWA’s own Senior Accessibility Consultant and Accessibility Committee co-chair, Victoria Lanteigne, the panel format allowed for each human centered design professional to share their stories and expertise in their respective fields. Following the presentations, Victoria lead the panelists in a group discussion which ended with a Q&A session during which audience members asked their own questions related to human centered design. (more…)

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

SWA Keeps it Healthy in DC

City Market at O in Washington, DC: Picture courtesy of Bozzuto

A recent SWA Accessibility project, City Market at O, was featured as a local case study on health in design during a recent event held by the American Institute of Architects in Washington, DC. The day-long seminar, Healthy Design, Healthy Building, Healthy City: An Interactive Workshop, featured key leaders in the field of health in design who spoke on new design initiatives intended to improve the health and wellbeing of building occupants.

SWA moderated the case study panel discussion which included City Market leaders Richard Lake, Founding Principal of Roadside Development and Andrew Taylor, Project Architect with Shalom Baranes Associates. The panelists framed the discussion around the AIA 6 Principles for Designing for Health to highlight ways in which the project successfully embodies health in design.

SWA consultants assisted in achieving the first key principle “Safety” by ensuring safe access for people with disabilities. Check out the rest of the team’s healthy design strategies below! (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.

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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!

An Insider’s Guide to Restaurant Accessibility

As a resident of Washington, D.C. for nearly ten years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time frequenting the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene. Much like my fellow Accessibility Consultants at SWA, even when we’re off the clock, we notice structural violations of federal accessibility laws on a daily basis. I would love to say that DC’s restaurant industry is an exception, but unfortunately there are still many challenges facing diners with disabilities in Washington.

Accessibility regulations that apply to restaurants are outlined under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Achieving compliance with the ADA can be a substantial task, but not without significant benefit. Recent statistics show that people with disabilities spend over $35 billion in restaurants a year. This is no small change for an industry with ever-increasing competition. Compliance also mitigates risk of litigation, which is particularly important as the U.S. Department of Justice and advocacy groups continue systemic investigations across the country.

Following are a few general rules of thumb to remember when providing equal access to guests with disabilities:

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