Page 1

(Image 1: Above. International symbols for disabilities)



“The boundary between inclusive design and mainstream design is always blurred and moving. Seeking a resonance between the needs of some people with a particular disability and some people without could also blur the boundary between design for special needs and mainstream design. Exciting opportunities could exist on this frontier of resonant design.� -Graham Pullin: Design Meets Disability

(Image 2: Above. International symbol for hearing impaired)

Although the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has come a long way since it was first enacted in 1990, there is still a lot of work to be done. As it stands, ADA solutions have a reputation of feeling sterile and institutional; characteristics that make users and designers cringe. This book seeks to offer designers, disabled individuals, and disability allies a quick reference for understanding ADA codes. As a result, it aspires to give them the necessary tools to combine ADA guidelines with other design strategies to improve universal design. Ultimately, this book is a jumping off point and will be the basis of a blog focused on improving universal design. The blog is meant to encourage designers to think before they act, eliminating the need for ugly or cumbersome retrofits. Hopefully, this project will provide people in the disabled community a stronger voice in universal design.

(Image 4: Above. International symbol for wheelchair accessibility)

UNDERSTANDING ADA: The primary goal of ADA design is to eliminate discrimination and exclusion based on physical disability. According to the Center for Universal Design: “(t)he intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communication, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost.” This creed is what the ADA design standards have been based on, resulting in low cost solutions designed around an average body type. With this goal in mind, the U.S. Department of Justice has released a series of informational books, which detail out the most up-to-date set of guidelines. According to ADA guidelines any new building project is required to adhere to the most recent set of state and federal ADA guidelines. Additionally, for any “alteration to a business building or facility begun after January 26, 1992, the areas of elements that are altered must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities in accordance with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design to the maximum extent feasible.”

For more information visit:

(Image 3: Left. Russian Museum of Art done in the Neoclassical architectural style with a retrofitted metallic ADA ramp)


(Image 4,5,6,7: Above. Diagrams from the ADA manual showing corridor clearance for a wheelchair)

HALLWAYS To the left a series of diagrams, which can be found in the ADA Manual, depict the standard dimensions of a hallway. These dimensions are based the on accommodation of a “standard” wheelchair user and call out the specifications given a number of situations. Upon studying the various diagrams, a few numbers begin to emerge as a set of basic measurements. The basic wheelchair requires a width between 32-36 inches to maneuver and a turning radius between 48-60 inches depending on the width of the adjacent corridor.

RAMPS To the right a series of diagrams, which can be found in the ADA Manual, depict the standard dimensions of an ADA compliant ramp. Again, these dimensions are based the on accommodation of a “standard” wheelchair user. These diagrams inform us that the handrail of a ramp must have a minimum of a 12” flat surface at every landing. Each landing is required to have a minimum length of 60” and a width the same as that of the “ramp run”, typically 36” minimum. Another diagram provides the ideal rise and run of a compliant ramp: a 1:12 to <1:16 rise for a run of 30’ or a 1”16 to < 1:20 rise for a run of 40’. (Image 8,9,10,11: Above. Diagrams from the ADA manual depicting proper dimensions of a wheelchair ramp)

RESTROOMS To the left a series of diagrams, which can be found in the ADA Manual, depict the standard dimensions of compliant restrooms. These dimensions are based the on accommodation of a â&#x20AC;&#x153;standardâ&#x20AC;? wheelchair user and call out the specifications given a number of situations. Upon studying the various diagrams, the number 60 begins to emerge as an important measurement. This indicated the minimum turning radius of a mobility device. Additionally, the bathroom diagrams identify the location of the two required grab bars, off-center of the toilet as well as the proper mounting height of a urinal.

(Image 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17: Left and Below. Diagrams from the ADA manual depicting proper dimensions of an accessible bathroom. Including a stall with a sink, a 35-37 inch stall, a 60 inch stall, a mounted and a standing urinal.)

ELEVATORS To the right a series of diagrams, which can be found in the ADA Manual, depict the standard dimensions of an ADA accessible elevator. These dimensions are based the on accommodation of a “standard” wheelchair user and call out the specifications given a number of situations. Once again, the 60” measurement emerges as a minimum for accommodating the turning radius of a wheelchair in a confined space. Additionally, the diagrams indicate a required minimum door width of 36” to provide adequate arm room for someone operating a manual wheelchair to pass.

(Image 18: Above. Diagrams from the ADA manual depicting three options for the dimensions of an accessible elevator)

DOORS To the left a series of diagrams, which can be found in the ADA Manual, depict the standard dimensions of various doorways. These dimensions are based the on accommodation of a “standard” wheelchair user and emphasize the importance of a turning or pausing radius on either side of a doorswing. Although it is not expressly shown, the standard door with based on the use of a wheelchair is between 32”-36”. (Image 19, 20, 21: Left. Diagrams from the ADA manual depicting proper dimensions for swinging and sliding doors. The dimensions are given for openings, jams, and turnabout space on either side of the opening)

CLEARANCE Below and to the right a series of diagrams, which can be found in the ADA Manual, depict several instances of built obstructions in a hallway. These dimensions are based the limited reach of someone in a wheelchair, as well as the potential dangers posed to someone with a visual impairment. Primarily, these diagrams illustrate the importance of a 60â&#x20AC;? minimum height of hanging objects and a standard depth of wall projections ranging between 10-24â&#x20AC;? maximum. (Image 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27: Right and below. Diagrams from the ADA manual depicting proper dimensions for standing and mounted objects protruding into an egress space)

BENEFITS OF ADA STANDARDS: +Creates ease of access for those with permanent and temporary physical disabilities +Creates open spaces, which appeal to everyone +It is legally enforced +Creates interesting design solutions for difficult spaces +Eliminates unnecessary barriers that can be potentially dangerous to user.

NEGATIVES OF ADA STANDARDS: +Primarily targets those with physical disabilities, ignoring the needs of people with cognitive disabilities +Often done in the most cost effective way possible, resulting in sterile and cold environments +Viewed as costly and unattactive +adhering to a strict set of standards has the potential to limit creativity +Can result in the exclusion of some disabilities, perpetuating the â&#x20AC;&#x153;at least we have our mindsâ&#x20AC;? mentality among physically disabled and non disabled individauls.

(Image 28: Left. Black and white photograph of an ADA compliant hotel bathroom. It features grab bars around the floor mounted toilet, grab bars in the shower, and no tread between the bathroom floor and the shower.)

DESIGNING BEYOND THE STANDARD Now that we have explored the cookie cutter world of ADA compliance, we will begin to explore options that can be combined with existing ADA guidelines to create more inclusive and desirable public spaces for disabled and non-disabled individuals alike. Although there are a number of design strategies that can be used to improve universal design, for the sake of this introduction I will be focusing on the use of animal assisted therapy and biophilic design.

(Image 29: Left. Black and white photograph of an ADA compliant ramp integrated into an urban staircase, depicting the ability of universal design to be beautiful)

(Image 31: Above. International symbol for the blind)

ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY (AAT): Animal-assisted therapy improves patientsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; mental, physical, social and emotional functioning with the aid of animals. Depending on the needs of the patient, many different animals can be used in therapy, including horses (also called equine-assisted therapy), dogs (also called canine-assisted therapy), dolphins, llamas, rabbits and other animals. Animal-assisted therapy takes place in a variety of settings, including prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, therapeutic boarding schools for teens and mental health facilities. This form of treatment can take place individually or in groups, and is led by a qualified therapist or professional with specialized expertise. Much more than simply spending time with an animal, animal-assisted therapy involves specific therapeutic goals, strategies and outcomes measures. Therapeutic experiences can include walking, brushing, petting and caring for an animal, as well as processing the experience of trying to achieve a given task. -CRC Health Group What Is Animal Assisted Therapy?

(Image 30: Left. Black and white photograph of an individual in a wheelchair being accompanied by her service dog through a mall)

BENEFITS OF ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY: There is a strong bond between animals and people. Animals are accepting, nonthreatening and non-judgmental, making it easier for people to open up. Some of the benefits of animal-assisted therapy include: +Improved fine motor skills +Improved balance +Increased focus and attention +Increased self-esteem and ability to care for oneself +Reduced anxiety, grief and isolation +Reduced blood pressure, depression, and risk of heart attack or stroke +Improved willingness to be involved in a therapeutic program or group activity +Increased trust, empathy and teamwork +Greater self-control +Enhanced problem-solving skills +Reduced need for medication +Improved social skills Because many children, teens and adults enjoy working with animals, animal assisted therapy can be particularly beneficial for individuals who are resistant to treatment or have difficulty accessing their emotions or expressing themselves in talk therapy.

THERAPY ANIMALS: Although cats and dogs are the most common types of animals used for Animal Assisted Therapy, other animals have recently been incorporated into the practice. As depicted in silhouette to the left, these animals, in order of prevalence include: +Dogs and Cats: 70% +Large Mammals (dolphins and horses): 10% +Small Mammals: 5% +Fish, reptiles, and other amphibians: 4% + Birds and other animals: 2%

(Image 32: Left. Black silhouette of the therapy animals mentioned above)

WHO DOES ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY HELP: Although Animal Assisted Therapy is best known for helping people with physical disabilities, recent studies indicate that it also has the ability to improve life for individuals with mental and emotional (disabilities). Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy for those identified as physically disabled: +Visual Impairment: The assistance of an animal companion has proven to aid those with visual impairments complete daily activities such as: getting around, retrieving objects, and alerting the (human) to any obstacles or dangers. Additionally, these relationships create strong emotional bonds, which have shown to contribute to an overall mental well-being. + Seizure Alert: Service animals have been used to alert those with Epilepsy before the onset of a seizure. This relationship allows those with a potentially dangerous disease prepare for a traumatic event, reducing the physical consequences associated with having a seizure. Again, these relationships create strong emotional bonds, which have shown to contribute to an overall mental well-being. +Diabetes Alert: Service animals have been used to alert those with diabetes of a drop or spike in blood sugar. This allow the diabetic to take preventative measures to reduce the risks associated with this type of event. Additionally, service dogs are trained to retrieve items, such as glucose tablets, snacks, blood sugar meters, ect. Again, these relationships create strong emotional bonds, which have shown to contribute to an overall mental well-being. +Hearing Support: Service animals have been trained to assist those with hearing impairments, acting as an alert system to potential dangers. These dangers tend to have audible alarms associated with them: such as the occurrence of a fire. Additionally, these relationships create strong emotional bonds, which have shown to contribute to an overall mental well-being.

WHO DOES ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY HELP: Although Animal Assisted Therapy is best known for helping people with physical disabilities, recent studies indicate that it also has the ability to improve life for individuals with mental and emotional (disabilities). Some benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy for those identified as mentally (disabled): +Clinical Depression: Studies show that animals can reduce tension and improve mood. Along with treatment, pets can help some people with mild to moderate depression feel better. (Web MD) +Anxiety Disorders: Animal-assisted therapy was associated with reduced state anxiety levels for hospitalized patients with a variety of psychiatric diagnoses, while a routine therapeutic recreation session was associated with reduced levels only for patients with mood disorders. (Psychiatry online) +ADHD: Researchers in health studies today are discovering interesting connections between looking at an aquarium fish tank with live fish in it and its positive effects on human health. It has been found that observing fish in an aquarium fish tank lowers the blood pressure, letting one feel stress-free and relaxed. Relaxation has positive effects on the ability to focus. When someone feels less stress or anxiety they have more energy to focus on necessary tasks. (Examiner) +Autism: Pets help children develop in various areas including love, attachment, and comfort; sensorimotor and nonverbal learning; responsibility, nurturing, and competence; learning about the life cycle; therapeutic benefits; and nurturing humanness, ecological aware-ness, and ethical responsibilities. Children using AAT exhibited a more playful mood, were more focused, and were more aware of their social environments when in the presence of a therapy dog. ( +Alzheimer’s: Studies have shown that: “Alzheimer’s patients still living at home with pets had fewer mood disorders and fewer episodes of aggression and anxiety than did non-pet owners.” ( +PTSD: +Abuse Victims: pet-owners that have suffered physical abuse report their pets are an important source of emotional support (

(Image 33: Right. Black and white photograph of a man resting his head against the head of a therapy horse. He appears comforted)

AAT, SERVICE ANIMALS, AND DESIGN: The ADA already makes accommodations for animals identified as service or therapy animals. These accommodations provide the animals with access to any public service including transportation and commercial venues. Although this classification is currently based on rather strict guideline: The following are NOT considered to be service animals: 1. Animals that are not a dog. 2. Therapy animals; comfort pets; companion animals; and ”social/therapy” animals. 3. Dogs training to be service animals are technically not service animals. There is no obligation or requirement to allow these animals in the building or venue, but an organization may decide to allow them. Each year more and more animals are being accepted as official service animals including cats for anxiety and miniature ponies as an alternative to service dogs.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR DESIGN? As our culture begins to understand the importance of animals in our day-to-day life, the ADA will be forced to accommodate a larger range of animals in public buildings. This means that although many of the standards previously mention will remain mostly intact, they will have to be altered to provide adequate access for people AND their service animals. This will include: +Providing more left to right corridor space +Creating larger turnabout radii in front of door, in public restrooms, and in elevators +Providing adequate space for animals to rest near their partners +Providing watering stations for animals to prevent dehydration +Providing more soft surface areas in cities to ensure a place for the animals to “play” +Providing designated animal “restrooms” with accessible means to dispose of waste +Providing accessible fixtures for service animal equipment, such as harnesses


4” MAX

48” MIN 106” MIN

(Image 34: Above. A manipulation of an ADA diagram about corridor space. It depicts a man standing with his service dog in a hallway and a person in a wheelchair moving the opposite direction with their service dog. It is meant to show how the ADA standard would change to accommodate service animals and includes a new set of measurements)

(Image 36: Above. International symbol for visually impaired)

BIOPHILIC DESIGN: “The idea that the presence of, or interactions with, animals can produce calming effects in humans is commonly cited in the AAI literature. One popular explanation for this phenomenon is derived from E. 0 . Wilson’s so-called biophilia hypothesis. This theory asserts that humans possess a genetically based propensity to attend to, and be attracted by, other living organisms or, as Wilson put it, an “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes”. The foundation of bio- philia is that from an evolutionary standpoint, humans increased their chances of survival through their attention to, and knowledge of, environmental cues. Clinically speaking, it is hard to imagine a better pairing of attributes-a tool that can simultaneously engage and relax the patient.” -Katherine Kruger and James A. Serpell

Animal-Assisted Interventions in Mental Health: Definitions and Theoretical Foundations

(Image 35: Left. A colored photograph depicting a tree canopy backlit by the sun.)

BENEFITS OF BIOPHILIC DESIGN: Studies have shown that the use of biophilic methods in design can have quantifiable benefits in healthcare practices and overall wellbeing. The positive effects of biophilic design can be measured whether the individualâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s exposure to nature is simply visual or if the exposure is total immersion. +Reduces Stress and anxiety +Promotes quicker recovery from medical procedures +Increases focus and attention +Improves performance skills associated with attention +Increases creativity +Improves cognitive functioning +Improves willingness to engage with others +Improved pain management

WHO DOES BIOPHILIA HELP: Although biophilic design improves the built environment for all users, some studies have suggested particular groups that have shown positive mental and physical changes after being exposed to biophilic design. These groups include individuals falling under the following categories: +Dementia +Post op. +ADHD +Autism +Depression/Anxiety +PPD

(Image 37: Right. A color rendering of an underwater hotel room. Outside of the window, one can see a vibrant coral full of fish and two large sea turtles)

BIOPHILIA AND DESIGN: As our culture continues to understand the importance of human interaction with nature, biophilic design will only become increasingly present in constructed spaces. According to Environmental Building News, designers cans bring nature closer to people through “building design, landscape design, and interior design, or any combination of the three.” They also argue that the practice of biophilic design is the next step in advancing “green design”. This is based on studies that prove that the use of biophilic strategies reduces excessive energy use and increases the quality of the surrounding environment.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR DESIGN? As the desire to incorporate the natural environment with the built environment continues to grow, the following steps can be taken to ensure the most successful integration: +Build open spaces around buildings +Maintain native landscapes +Include pathways through surrounding landscapes +Eliminate paved/impervious surfaces +Use living walls and green roofs to create access to nature on vertical access +Consider building orientation to maximize “good” daylight and line of sight +Provide views to nature +Incorporate high levels of daylight +Provide operable windows for passive ventilation +Address moments of spaciousness and refuge throughout building +Incorporate organic forms when possible +Use interior water features +Use natural finish materials +Optimize indirect sunlight when possible Ultimately, these changes will provide open interiors with a variation of access routes and finish materials. Meaning that incorporating biophilic design is the best way to improve upon universal design.

(Image 38: Above. A floor plan of a mixed-use building, illustrating how to use some of the suggestions made in the text for creating a building using biophilic design.)

(Image 39: Above. A rendering of the building containing the floor plan from Image 38. The rendering shows how to maximize daylight and incorporate green space in an urban setting)

(Image 40: Above. International symbol sign language)


Although the initiation of the Americans with Disabilities Act was an important step in the fight for equal access to public space for individuals with disabilities, it still has a long way to go. This is in part due to the fact that the law is based on ableist notions and. As a result, almost exclusively benefits those with physical disabilities as opposed to those who identify as neurodiverse. Additionally, because the ADA is based on disabilities traditionally linked to physical health, it is often associated with a medical connotation, resulting in sterile and unwelcoming spaces. In order to move the ADA to the 21st century, it is imperative that designers begin to participate in disability discourse and understand how many people are left out by ADA codes. The first step is to reject notions of disability being a static condition, and understand that at any given time any user of a space may be experiencing a disability; whether permanent or temporary. This fact may ultimately affect the way that a person is able to interact with a space regardless of its adherence to ADA guidelines. With that in mind it is time to â&#x20AC;&#x153;think aheadâ&#x20AC;?, as Graham Pullin suggests, and design spaces that improve the overall experience for everyone. The best way to achieve this goal and break the mold of the, sometimes oppressive, ADA standard is to rethink how we currently use the spaces that we occupy and consider the voices of those currently left behind by the ADA. Although there are a variety of ways to improve ADA spaces, incorporating nature seems to be the easiest and most logical. By creating biophilic spaces and being more welcoming of service and therapy animals in public spaces, the built environment will naturally evolve to be more inclusive.

REFERENCES: “2010 ADA Standards for Accessibility.” 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014. “ADA Accessible Room.” Hotel Management Provides the Top News, Expertise and Insights into the Hotel and Hospitality Industry. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2014. Image ADA accessible restroom Allen, Karen, Sandra Barker, and Allen Beck. The Health Benefits of Animal Companions. Ed. Andrea Brooks. San Francisco: Pets Are Wonderful Support, 7007. Print. “Aquarium Therapy and ADHD.” N.p., 14 Aug. 2012. Web. Feb. 2014. The Associated Press. “Impostor Service Animals Pose a Growing Problem.” TBO. com. The Associated Press, n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2014. Real service dogs can be the victims of unruly fakes, said Wallis Brozman, 27, of Santa Rosa. She has dystonia, a movement disorder that left her unable to walk and barely able to talk. She uses a wheelchair, voice amplifier and her service dog, Caspin, who responds to English and sign language. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Barker, Sandra, and Kathryn Dawson. “CME Activity.” PsychiatryOnline. N.p., 01 June 1998. Web. Jan. 2014. Beatley, Timothy. Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning. Washington, DC: Island, 2011. Print. Browning, William. “Bottom Line Benefits of Biophilia.” com. N.p., Mar. 2012. Web. Mar. 2014. De Chiara, Joseph, Julius Panero, and Martin Zelnik. Time-Saver Standards for Interior Design And Space Planning. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2001. Print. Eric. “The Water Discus Underwater Hotel Planned for Dubai.” HomeDSGN, a Daily Source for Inspiration and Fresh Ideas on Interior Design and Home Decoration. N.p., n.d. Web. Jan. 2014. Image: underwater hotel room Feature, Kathleen DohenyWebMD. “Pets for Depression and Health.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. Feb. 2014.

Fine, Aubrey H. Handbook on Animal-assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice. San Diego, CA: Academic, 2010. Print. Fowler, Susan. Multisensory Rooms and Environments: Controlled Sensory Experiences for People with Profound and Multiple Disabilities. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2008. Print. Heath, Sarah. “A GREATER HOPE: Animal Assisted Therapy.” A GREATER HOPE: Animal Assisted Therapy. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2014. Image of man with head against head of therapy horse Higuti, Andre. “Ark Texture #016.” Arktetonix. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2014. Holmes-Siedle, James. Barrier-free Design: A Manual for Building Designers and Managers. Oxford: Butterworth Architecture, 1996. Print. Kellert, Stephen R., Judith Heerwagen, and Martin Mador. Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008. Print. “Leaves in Sunlight Blurred Background.” Leaves In Sunlight Blurred Background. N.p., n.d. Web. Jan. 2014. Image: backlit leaves Lind, Nancy. Animal Assisted Therapy Activities: To Motivate and Inspire. Lombard, IL: PYOW Pub., Ink, 2009. Print. McDermott-Kelty, Jacqueline, Laura Weaver, and Yuan Laing. A2 Place. 2013. Print, Model, PDF, self-printed booklet. Personal, Ann Arbor. Image: two images from a personal studio project completed in the winter of 2013. “Paul Annett.” Paul Annett. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2014. Image: international disability icons Pullin, Graham. Design Meets Disability. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2009. Print. “What Is Animal Assisted Therapy?” CRC Health Group. N.p., n.d. Web. Jan. 2014. Wilson, Alex. “Biophilia in Practice: Buildings That Connect People with Nature.” Http:// N.p., 01 July 2006. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

Understanding ADA  

This booklet was made as part of a class. It attempts to engage the discourse of disability studies in the practice of architectural design.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you