November 9, 2010
by: Lisa Delgado

Event: Inclusive Design Guidelines, New York City
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.01.10
Speakers: Matthew Sapolin — Commissioner, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD); Robert Piccolo, AIA — Deputy Commissioner, MOPD & Editor in Chief, Inclusive Design Guidelines; Jason Mischel, Esq. — General Counsel, MOPD; Fatma Amer, PE — 1st Deputy Commissioner, Technical Affairs, NYC Department of Buildings; Steven Winter, FAIA — President, Steven Winter Associates, Inc.; William Stein, FAIA — Principal, Dattner Architects; Steven Landau — Director of Research, Touch Graphics; Robyne Kassen, Assoc. AIA — Design Director, Urban Movement Design; Sarah Gluck — Director of Movement Design, Urban Movement Design
Introductions: Rick Bell, FAIA — AIANY Executive Director, AIA New York Chapter; Jerry Maltz, AIA — Co-chair, AIANY Design for Aging Committee
Organizer: AIANY Design for Aging Committee


Inclusive wayfinding: This 3-D model of the Carroll Center for the Blind near Boston acts as a map that can be explored by touch, triggering audio clips with further information. Created by Touch Graphics, the “illuminated talking touch model” has a high-definition video projected onto it.

Steven Landau

“Inclusive design” addresses not only the needs of people with disabilities, but a wide range of other populations, too: a three-year-old may not be able to reach a standard handrail, for example, and a person with limited dexterity may find an ordinary water faucet tricky to use. A new book from the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Inclusive Design Guidelines, New York City (IDG), offers technical assistance for architects, so their designs can be more accessible to all.

IDG Editor-in-Chief Robert Piccolo, AIA, explained that the guidelines’ mission is to help designers learn how to “produce multi-sensory enhanced environments accommodating a wide range of physical and mental abilities for people of all ages.” The book’s recommendations are voluntary, but it is designed to function as a companion to the NYC Building Code. The goal was to produce a book that is easy to understand and familiar, and to avoid causing confusion between the guidelines and legal regulations, he added.

The IDG’s basic format is similar to the ICC/ANSI A117, noted Dattner Architects Principal William Stein, FAIA. But while he’s found that the code standard can seem complex and confusing, he praised the new guidelines for being more engaging and educational. Of particular interest are special sections that describe the rationale for why certain recommendations were chosen, such as a minimum corridor or stairway width. All in all, the guidelines struck him as an “inspirational” yet “highly practical” guide to “what really works to make the built environment inclusive to a wide range of people.”

Rounding out the evening, representatives from a couple of companies presented some of their accessible product designs, including grab bars by Urban Movement Design and multi-sensory maps by Touch Graphics, which can be explored by touch, sound, or sight. While inclusive design is still not as high-profile as sustainable design, that’s beginning to change, remarked Steven Winter, FAIA, president of an eponymous consulting firm that specializes in both areas. “In the next 10 years, the term ‘inclusive design’… will be as tightly woven into our urban fabric as green design,” he predicted. If so, the pages of the IDG are sure to soon be well known and dog-eared in architectural offices across the city.

Lisa Delgado is a freelance journalist who has written for Oculus, The Architect’s Newspaper, Architectural Record, Blueprint, and Wired, among other publications.


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