May 1, 2007
by Anne Lefferson IIDA

Event: Symposium On Inclusive Design: Accessible Residential Environments
Location: New York School of Interior Design, 03.31-04.01.07
Speakers: Patricia Moore, PhD — MooreDesign Associates & Adjunct Professor, Arizona State University; Jordana Maisel — MUP Director of Outreach and Policy Studies, Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access, University at Buffalo; Eleanor Smith — Director, Concrete Change, Atlanta, GA; Todd Brickhouse — Todd Brickhouse Accessibility Associates; Bruce Hannah — industrial designer and Principal, Hannah Design; Danise Levine — Assistant Director, IDEA Center; Patricia Rizzo — Lead Researcher and Residential Program Manager, Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Rosemarie Rossetti, PhD — Rossetti Enterprises; Valerie Fletcher — Executive Director, Adaptive Environments; Mary Jo Peterson — Mary Jo Peterson; Linda Volpe — Compliance Specialist, Accessibility Services, United Spinal Association
Organizers: New York School of Interior Design

Designers can help enable differently-abled populations from the aging to people with physical limitations. Patricia Moore, PhD, kicked off a symposium on Inclusive Design discussing what life is like as an 85-year-old woman. After going “undercover” for three years, her experiences led to a better understanding of the needs of the elderly. Outlined in her book, Disguised: A True Story, Moore recommends that designers create simple yet flexible spaces. Low physical effort is key and independence leads to the highest quality of life for the aging.

Designers can empower the aging through straightforward design, according to Mary Jo Peterson, a leader in Universal Design for the kitchen and bath. As memory fades, visual storage can help someone keep track of where things belong. Forget touch controls, and install the old mainstay — doorknobs. Technology can be complicated, and the screens can be difficult to read with diminished sight. Task lighting, handles with openings, and continuous counters at one height are also basic yet helpful techniques.

After being bound to a wheelchair, Rosemarie Rossetti, PhD, is building a home for herself and her husband. The “Universal Design Living Laboratory.” contains ramps, an elevator, low counters in the kitchen and bathrooms, and a sprinkler system throughout the house. The house will be available for tours and shows and will display design techniques that help them maintain active lifestyles.

Universal Design is about designing for the end user. Life is unpredictable, and that is an important factor for designers to consider.

Anne Lefferson, IIDA, is a designer at Brennan Beer Gorman Monk.

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