Archive for April, 2011

Early Accessibility Pioneer Selwyn Goldsmith Dies

Monday, April 11th, 2011

This announcement was from the Universal Design Newsletter

 Early Accessibility Pioneer Selwyn Goldsmith Dies, Leaves Rich Legacy

Selwyn Goldsmith, whose work on behalf of people with disabilities influenced the
development of the Universal Design (UD) field, died April 3, 2011, after a battle
with Alzheimer’s disease. Goldsmith’s Designing for the Disabled, first published in
1963, has been considered a “bible” for practicing architects around the world, and
served as a model on which the ANSI A117.1 standard, and thus, all other US
accessibility standards are based.

“If Ron Mace was the ‘Father of Universal Design,’ Selwyn was the ‘Grandfather of
UD,’” remarked John Salmen, president of Universal Designers & Consultants, Inc.,
and publisher of Universal Design Newsletter. “He led the way in establishing
analytical descriptions of how people with disabilities interact with the environment,
which grew into the accessibility criteria we know today as the 2010 ADA

Goldsmith studied architecture at Cambridge University and University College
London. In 1956, shortly completing his studies at age 23, he contracted polio, which
left him with a permanent physical disability. In 1961, he was appointed to conduct
the research which led to his authoring Designing for the Disabled, which was
subsequently updated in 1967 and 1976. In 1972, he joined the social research branch
of the Housing Development Directorate of the Department of the Environment, to
advise on housing and other services for people with disabilities. He later published
Designing for the Disabled: A New Paradigm (1997) and Universal Design (2000).
“I know of no person, beyond Selwyn, whose work, energies and spirit touched the
lives of so many people around the world who now have a better environment in
which to move, to live in more accommodating homes, to be able to go to work, to
visit friends, etc.,” said Jake Pauls, of Jake Pauls Consulting Services in Building Use
and Safety. “I have been inspired by how [he dealt] with uncaring bureaucracies and
officials who were not doing right for the people they were supposed to serve through
the provision of decent, usable and reasonably safe homes and other buildings.
Selwyn was, and will always be, a great influence on how I address similar problems
in the built environment.”

He is survived by his wife, Becky, and two sons, David and Ben. A memorial service
for Goldsmith will be held April 26, 2011, in London.

How to create a truly sustainable urban space

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

I’m presenting a seminar at the 2011 AIA National convention in New Orleans.  The title of my seminar is ADA and Urban Regeneration“.   I selected that topic to stay within the theme of the convention, but the more I investigated the connection, the more appropriate it became.  

Urban Regeneration is the process by which run-down parts of cities, towns or rural neighborhoods improve their social, environmental and economic well-being.  Its objective is ato reverse the cycle of exclusion suffered by people in disadvantaged areas, to provide decent homes,  good transport links, new jobs and safe, comfortable surroundings. These activities, when taken together, contribute to the growth of sustainable communities and the renewal of the built environment. 

So how does the ADA get tied in?  A community can be renewed and revitalized by means of environmental changes, sustainable strategies and economic stimulation.  But if us as designers forget about our aging population and other disabled patrons, then we are excluding a large portion of our citizens.  If buildings cannot be accessed and enjoyed by everyone, then we are not reaching its potential.  It is not by accident that the word regeneration is made up of “generation”.  It should be all generations that enjoy our spaces.  The ADA allows this to happen by giving us good guidelines to follow.

Urban Sidewalks

As part of thinking of how best to create a built environment that is universal, which is inclusive of the able-bodied community as well as the disabled community, urban sidewalks are one of the first issues to resolve

As pedestrian ways deteriorate, they create hazards for the wheelchair users as well as for the visually impaired.  This sidewalk has a larger change in level than the required ¼” which prevents wheelchairs from being able to go over the bump, and could be a tripping hazard for others.

 The way to fix this deficiency would be to repair the sidewalk to meet all the sloping requirements.  This is one of the considerations required when renovating a public sidewalk and accessible route.

Urban Entrances

In an urban setting, the entrances to shops and other establishments along the pedestrian way, must also be accessible.


In this entrance the ramp is too steep, and does not have the proper landing at the door.  This would cause the wheelchair user to slide down before he could open the door, that is if they were even able to get up the ramp to reach the door.

The solution would be to rebuild the ramp so it will have a 1:12 slope maximum and a 5′-0″ landing at the door.  The ramp could be placed on the side of the building reather than the front.  If the rise is more than 6″ then handrails on both sides will be required.

If some existing spaces are not able to have a 1:12 ramp, the new Standards allow for a steeper slope

Universal design and ADA allows for inclusion.  Buildings can be sustainable but if they don’t allow access to all then it fails at its goal.  The goal for regeneration is to utilize spaces for generations to come.  The ADA allows this to happen by giving us good guidelines to follow.