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Universal Design vs Handicapped Access

I got a boost of self esteem recently visiting the bathroom at the La Vegas airport. Airports are notorious for having older toilets that seem to be 12″ off the ground. I have 25 year old prosthetic hips. My ability to do deep knee bends is rather compromised. Without a bar or something to grab, I am challenged being able to squat down and then get back up when my knees are level with my chin. When I see low to the ground toilets, I often opt for the Handicap accessible stall, all the while feeling guilty if someone in a wheelchair or with small children greets me on the way out. They need the space and extra accommodations. My challenges are invisible.

But I spotted a “new” type of bathroom stall. It was next to the Handicap accessible stall, with a tall toilet and a grab bar. Basically all I need, minus the guilt. This stall had “universal design” features. Anyone could use it, it was accessible for all. marybyrneeigel

The movement to incorporate universal design into original building plans is catching on. Katherine Logan, in a recent article in Architectural Record, entitled “Level Playing Field” addresses recent projects and the advantages for planning for a broader community.

I am currently working on a series of chapter books for children aged 6-9. The main characters are physically challenged children who do not see themselves as diminished; they only see obstacles requiring creative problem solving. They are not looking to be separate, only allowed equal access. The kind that Universal Design includes. We all navigate this world in different ways. Let’s widen the lens to include more options.

Have you noticed any new “Universal Design” features in places you visit?

 

 

 

 

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About Mary Byrne Eigel

Before writing children’s books, Mary spent many years teaching in classrooms and creating art in her studio. She was born with bi-lateral hip dysplasia, a painful condition that causes normal activities, like walking, to be challenging. As a child, when Mary had to trek long distances, she often wished she had a wheelchair. For her, a wheelchair offered pain-free opportunities, not limitations. Mary grew up in Chicago, which is the lakefront inspiration for the town of Sail. She lives in Missouri with her husband and two dogs, Beaux and Trey.

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