The impediment to campus accessibility by design, really isn't in the
area of gathering enough design ideas. It's in how you hire and give
marching orders to design firms.
1.) The most important thing a college can do to get the best results
in new campus design, in terms of true equality & equity in
"accessibility" -- is to simply communicate to design firms very clearly
from the start, that this is what you want. If you do that, you'll
probably be the first client that any of those firms has ever met, that
said such a thing to them.
The client is in the driver's seat. It's just a matter of the client
using "the power of the purse" to demand fully equal design of hired
architects, site planners, and if any are hired, interior designers.
(In the absence of spelling it out in both - the recruiting and making
of contracts with architects & planners, they'll tend to assume you're
like other clients, not caring about this, or just wanting whatever is
the cheapest design the codes & local level of code enforcement, will
I have recently written an innovative "Rider" to specify that the
"owner" (client) wants "universal design", that can be added to any
Architectural Design Services Contract,
It says that "universal design" (not just bare-minimum code-compliance)
is what is wanted whenever possible, and it further defines this as
"design that facilitates accessibility and usability for people of all
kinds, including PWDs, that is EQUAL IN ALL REGARDS". It also gives
simple & inexpensive examples of how that language applies to specific
building features, so that it's not entirely abstract.
I would be happy to send a copy of this document, to you & ANYONE ON
THIS LIST-SERV wishing to try to get it used at their university, or by
any other non-profit corporation.
I am offering that any university or non-profit can use this legal
language, without paying any licensing fee (which is the norm, such as
the American Institute of Architects' standard contracts. I'm low
income; I would like to get paid a bit for this some day, to supplement
part-time teaching income), for 4 years. The language is copyrighted,
but to get a license to use it for free, the institution just has to
agree to give me access to info about the use (like copies of the full
contract to which it's attached) and to info on how things turned out --
so I can study how this plays out in real applications, to devise any
improvements I may wish to make in the language.
This contract rider language is aimed more at clear pro-active
communication, than at enforcability, which is problematic in a "new"
field like Universal Design.. The idea isn't to win in court, it's to
never need to go to court.
2.) The second thing that a college in your enviable position can do,
is something I got by activist / advocacy negotiations with the
public-private corp. building New York City's new Penn Station:
(Doubling the size of a commuter train station; to open in 2005. By
disabled-community-based pro-active public-input organizing, advocacy &
negotiation, we won 16 equal access design improvements above the
requirements of the weak access codes.) In the documents by which
architectural / planning / design firms are invited to apply for these
commissions (often called RFP's, "Request for Proposals"), various
questions are asked about the firm's qualifications. They even ask what
specific "team" of people will be available for the project if it is
awarded, and asks about each team-member's qualifications.
Precedent: In 1997 I succeeded (through an org. I co-founded in 1996,
the Ad Hoc Working Group on Penn Station; later merged with Disabled In
Action of Metropolitan New York, under the name "Public Facilities
Accessibility Committee") in getting the Pennsylvania Station
Redevelopment Corp. to, possibly for the first time in any RFP in the
world -- add to this list of questions, another one about "What
expertise does your design firm have in Universal Design.....?" This
puts firms on notice from the start, that the client is serious. And it
can weed out any firms that don't have enough "ideas" or ability to do
this kind of "design for all" work.
Design ideas or lack of them, per se, are really not where the
bottleneck is, in getting truly non-discriminatory campus design, AKA
universal design. Especially in design for something totally new, where
you have a tabula rasa; no pesky old design errors to remedy.
The first university to agree to use this Universal Design contract
rider is New School University, in New York City (formerly called "The
I would be delighted if yours would be the second school in the world,
to sign up!
Good luck on your school's great project!
(B. Arch., consultant)
(do not reply to above E-Mail address.)
Please send E-Mail: regarding this to
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Jim L. Davis
P.O. Box 9452, Elmora Station
Elizabeth, New Jersey 07202-0452
Tel. (908) 820--8677
Mobile (347) 528-6832
(voice mail, on both)
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