There is an trend emerging all around us, that as architects we must recognize and address. We are all living longer and longer, and will most likely be affected by the products of senior aging. Populations are growing at historic highs. Aging baby boomers have become a majority of our population. A product of our worldwide military efforts is the rolls of returning wounded and disabled veterans. There is an upward spiral in the number of national highway traffic accidents. As a society, we are also becoming sensitized to the problems attached to the disabled.
There are attempts to focus on some not so new proliferations . “Mobility Impaired” . . . “Impaired Mobility”. . . “Mobility Limited” . . . “Limited Mobility” . . . or any other description with names such as “Considerate Design” . . . “Design for the Handicapped” . . . or the “Americans with Disability Act.” These buzz words flavor the conceptual approaches of design for all matters of architectural and other interior space design for those living with some form of disability.
Frequently other sets of criteria add to the crowd of design parameters as well. These police our creative juices. At the same time, they assist in guiding our efforts in energizing architectural practices to be leaders in new design business ventures.
Design principles and goals of assisting the mobility impaired are similar regardless of their focus. This includes interior and exterior access to residential dwellings, commercial installations, institutional facilities, offices, retail stores or public spaces. They remain constant when viewed by categories of buildings, means of transportation, types of clothing, medical devices, food preparation certification, tools and many other everyday utensils, technical equipment, comfort and entertainment items and issues. There of course, is no nirvana, but every sincere attempt counts.
We, as architects and interior designers, as everyday people and educated professionals, must learn to engage that portion of the population incapable of conforming and utilizing the general public standards as set. In simple terms, how can handicap issues be designated to receive a fair share of attention, effort and design and construction dollars? How can they be integrated into our design products? How do we get beyond code and lip service design? How can disabled design be made to be both smoothly integrated and invisible?
These are questions I will attempt to ask and answer as I continue.