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Designing for All: What the Cooper Hewitt’s Access+Ability Exhibition can teach us about Accessible Design

SWA’s Accessibility Consulting Team at the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s Access+Ability Exhibition

SWA’s Accessibility Consulting Team recently had the opportunity to tour the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s Access+Ability exhibition, where the theme of inclusive and accessible design is displayed and celebrated. The exhibit narrates a history of design with disabilities in mind, focusing on the “surge of design with and by people with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and sensory abilities.” As we moved through the exhibit, I found it fascinating to see how products or designs that were initially intended to address a need brought on by a disability (like email or text messaging) have now been adapted into everyday modern conveniences. It’s interesting to bring this idea back to our work as accessibility consultants – often, if designers are willing to incorporate inclusive or universal design principles, it is possible for accessible features to blend seamlessly into the overall design intent, providing an environment that can be easily and equally used by everyone, with or without a disability.

Here are some thoughts on the exhibition from other members of our Accessibility Consulting Team…

 

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Sustainable Spaces for Seniors

Panelists and organizers at the “Sustainable Spaces for Seniors: Design for Aging and the Environment” event at Hafele’s NYC Showroom

On May 1st, 2018, Steven Winter, founder and chairman of Steven Winter Associates (SWA), and Harold Bravo, Accessibility Consulting Director at SWA, moderated an event at the Hafele Showroom to discuss senior housing in New York City and its relation to accessible and sustainable design. The event was organized jointly by the AIANY Design for Aging Committee (DFA) and the AIANY Committee on the Environment (COTE).

A panel of experts presented perspectives from architecture, real estate development, and municipal government, and discussed the challenges of designing sustainable, comfortable, accessible, and healthy buildings for the aging population in New York City. The panel included Kleo J. King (Deputy and General Counsel, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities), Isaac Henderson (Development Director, L+M Development Partners), Jack Esterson (Design Partner, Think! Architecture+Design), and Rich Rosen, AIA, LEED AP (Principal, Perkins Eastman).

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Tech Notes: Accessible Design Solutions for Protruding Objects

Limits of Protruding Objects
[US Access Board]

When most people think about accessible design, the first thing that comes to mind is designing for people in wheelchairs. However, there’s a lot more to it than that. Requirements in federal, state, and local accessibility laws and codes account for a wide range of disabilities, including vision impairments. One of the most important design considerations for people with vision impairments is eliminating projections into the circulation path. Objects projecting from walls or other fixed elements can pose a hazard if they do not meet certain requirements. Any object that extends more than 4 inches into the circulation path between 27 and 80 inches above the finished floor is considered a protruding object and must be protected by a fixed cane detectable barrier installed below the object.

There are many ways to provide adequate protection at protruding objects and our accessibility consultants are always keeping an eye out for accessible design solutions that look like they were an intentional part of the design, rather than an afterthought. Here are just a few of the more successful and aesthetically pleasing examples of cane detectable barriers that we have come across…

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Tech Notes: Accessible Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Electric vehicle charging stations must provide a basic level of accessibility, including controls within reach and user access.

Over the past several years, as the desire for more sustainable and environmentally friendly transportation has increased significantly, we have been seeing a corresponding increase in the number of electric vehicle charging stations provided in parking lots and garages. Applicable federal, state, and local accessibility laws and building codes may not specifically address how to make these charging stations accessible, but that does not mean they are exempt from compliance. Under most regulations, where electric charging stations are provided, at least one must be accessible.

But what does an accessible charging station look like?

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Innovations in Accessible Products

Our accessibility consultants are constantly on the lookout for improvements in product design that will make it easier for our clients to comply with accessibility criteria. As manufacturers become more familiar with accessibility requirements under applicable federal, state, and local regulations and building codes, a number of innovative, accessible products have emerged to make compliance simpler and more stylish.

Here are just a few examples of accessible products that we have been recommending recently…

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