Archive for February, 2010

Tight grasping and twisting of wrist?

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

When design professionals select accessories for restrooms there are many factors to decide upon for the selection.  It is not enough that it functions the way you want, and look good in the restroom, but they also have to keep in mind a “universal” user.  Who all will be using this fixture?  Adults, children, elderly people, people who can’t see?  And each one of those groups of people will bring with them their own needs and requirements.

What if the adult has a disability?  What if the elderly person has arthritis?  How do you accommodate for both children who need to reach the fixture and maybe a tall adult who may have a hard time bending down to reach it?

One example of this is a feminine napkin dispenser.  There are several types that one can select, but only one is truly universal.  The type that is recessed (so that a blind person would not bump into it since they can’t see it) and its mechanism does not require that a person grasps tightly, or twist their wrist to operate.

The challenge comes from the fact that everyone uses the public restrooms, and the design professionals cannot dictate how people will use it.  Being sensitive to universal design criteria and the model codes as well as the ADAAG will assist in the process.

Here is a video of an inspection I performed where the vending machine did meet the requirements and did pass as accessible.

Training Guide Dogs for the visually impaired

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

I have a great friend, Suzanne Branch, who is an excellent architect and lighting designer.  She has great passion for what she does.  But the one thing she shows great passion for as well is training guide dogs for the visually impaired.

What a noble cause.  She actually takes in puppies, trains them, loves them, takes care of them and when they are ready she gives them up to go and help a person in need.  Can you imagine?  That not only takes patience and love, but courage.

Of course with all noble causes, there is always a need for funding.  There is an excellent opportunity to make a difference by donating money to this cause.  Check out the link to their website to see what you can do  to help!  Thank you Suzanne for what you do!

Do children’s toilets need to be accessible?

Monday, February 15th, 2010

My three year old is very independent.  As I’m potty training him he wants to get on the potty all by himself, use toilet paper (even though he doesn’t need to) and flush the toilet all by himself.  I could imagine if he was in a wheelchair he would be just as independent and stubborn.

The new ADAAG does give provisions for children’s facilities (like day cares, elementary schools, and even shopping centers).  They have requirements for grab bars, for different heights of things and even knee clearances at sinks and lavatories.

There have been arguments against having a separate toilet or accessory for kids, which goes something like this:
” There will always be someone there with them”.  “What does a toddler care who puts him in the potty?”

Obviously not anyone who has dealt with a two or three year old recently.

But even if it’s for a child who allows their care takers to do things for them without a fuss, it is all about the dignity and quality of life for the disabled child.  Just because they have a disability does not take away from the fact that they are normal kids with normal desires, especially the desire for autonomy.

Texas already has these rules in place, and we follow them strictly.  And now with the new ADAAG almost coming to effect, this will be the law of the land.

Who says that grab bars have to be ugly?

Friday, February 12th, 2010

“I would rather fall than have my friends think I have a grab bar!”

Those words changed the world of Abbie Sladick, sending her on a fantastic journey of creativity and innovation in a seemingly dull industry.

For over eight years, Abbie had been making dreams come true by designing and remodeling extraordinary bathrooms for her clients. She used products from all over the world for her projects but when one of her clients refused to use a grab bar – Abbie was stumped.

How could she create a beautifully bathroom with an ugly grab bar?

Never to be discouraged, Abbie decided if she couldn’t buy a stylish grab bar… then she would design one. The company’s signature Wave bar was the result. Now Abbie and the Great Grabz team look towards the future redefining safety in the bathroom by creating stylish products that allow people of all ages and abilities to maintain their dignity and independence.

And you thought Accessible Dressing Rooms were easy to understand

Friday, February 12th, 2010

My colleague Ken Otten from my professional organization TRASA just sent an email that explains where the space that a wheel chair requires to transfer onto the bench provided must be located. 

The Access Board put out a publication in 2002 about locker rooms/dressing rooms and here is what it says:

Dressing, Fitting, or Locker Rooms

  • If they are in a cluster, 5 percent, or at least one must be accessible.
  • There must be an accessible route through the door and to all elements required to be accessible in the room.
  • Operating mechanisms provided on accessible lockers must also meet ADAAG provisions for their operation and height.

These rules also apply to dressing rooms in retail shops


If lockers are provided, at least 5 percent, but not less than one of each type (full, half, quarter, etc.) must be accessible. Accessible benches should be located adjacent to the accessible lockers.

Notice that the figure shows the clear floor space (CFS or the wheel chair space) perpendicular to the bench and the wall where the long side is located.  The 30X48 CFS is to be located along the short side of the bench, not in front of it, and positioned so that a person in a wheelchair can transfer directly onto one end of the bench.  Even though this only shows the bench next to the lockers, it also applies to dressing room benches that are inside a retail shop.

Your Home is your Ketchup bottle

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

This is a very interesting article about Universal Design ideas.  It compares how Heinz changed their iconic, hard to open, hard to operate ketchup bottle to a more user friendly bottle to achieve a Universal Design…

Read the full article here.

Jewish Special Needs Awareness Month

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

February is Jewish Special Needs Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to raise awareness and understanding for individuals with disabilities.  The Dallas Community will be educated on how to be a truly inclusive community and how to deal with the issue of differences between their members.  There will be a month full of programs to achieve their goal.  They will focus on schools and how children with special needs are educated and helped along to be included in all the activities that able bodied children enjoy.

This is a great thing to be happening, especially since our population is aging and developing disabilities.

Support and attend the programs!  for more information visit

Read more here.


Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

A friend of mine from Canada, Michael Mackenzie, posted this in our LinkedIn group, Abadi Accessiblity News.  This is what he said

Imagine you are a brilliant curious mind trapped in a body that doesn’t ‘operate’ and you wait desperately for the tech creators of whizzards & apps to recognize your need to communicate and explore..

What insanity creates the redundancy of 100,000 iPhone apps yet ignores our massive and growing aging population with a variety of physical challenges who are unable to use the proliferation of ever smaller, unintuitive tech gadgets and toys?

I need to answer and make ‘phone calls’, I need to explore the magnificent web, I want to read again, I want to watch the Documentary channel, I want to write poetry and journals about my life and experiences to enrich the lives of others. I am the virtual human, my limbs are virtually useless…WHERE THE HELL ARE MY GADGETS!

I did a little research and found gadgets for the hearing impaired and some for people who can’t use their hands.  Here are a few

Alterations Checklist

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
If you have an existing facility that you are not sure is accessible, the Department of Justice has a checklist that you can use to make an assessment.

ADA vs. ANSI Water Closets

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The ADAAG has figure 28 which shows you the three layouts you can use for a water closet not located in a stall

Depending on the direction of travel this Figure guides you in the amount of clear floor space required at the water closet and the location of an adjacent lavatory.

ANSI, on the other hand, only has one way that they allow it. Figure 604.3. This figure describes not only the clear floor space required, but also that a fixture may not overlap the space.

When designing in a municipality that requires the use of IBC and ANSI, make sure you don’t design per ADAAG, or you would miss this one.