Inclusive Design: a way of thinking about design

Guest Post by Andrea Kovich

In the way that many ideas evolve and build off each other, inclusive design has become the new buzzword for a design approach that embraces diversity. Closely related to Universal Design (which is also known as human-centered design), inclusive design is also about designing for a range of abilities. But whereas Universal Design is associated with disabilities and tends to be applied primarily to the built environment, inclusive design has a broader scope and is meant to pertain to all design fields—including the technological and digital realm. Accessibility is just one piece of the larger design puzzle.

One of the central ideas of inclusive design is that designing for people with disabilities will result in better designs that will benefit everyone. Considering the popular technological innovations that were originally designed to help people with disabilities—email, cell phones and texting have all been developed to facilitate communication with the deaf—this is not really a radical notion. What is radical is that Microsoft, a major global company, has wholeheartedly embraced the inclusive design philosophy.

According to Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit Manual, designing inclusively means “you’re designing for a diversity of ways for people to participate in an experience with a sense of inclusion.” Their methodology views design constraints, which can lead to exclusions, as an opportunity for creative solutions. To further bolster their new design mission, Microsoft has created a microsite with great resources to inspire and aid other designers—including several new videos that highlight the impact of design on people with disabilities.

Check it out at:


Online Guide to ADA & ABA Standards published by US Access Board

This is such great news for Architects and designers that I just had to share the announcement as written by

The U.S. Access Board has launched new online guides on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Standards and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Standards. This web-based material features illustrated technical guides that explain and clarify requirements of the ADA and ABA standards, answer common questions, and offer best practice recommendations. It also includes a series of animations on various subjects covered by the standards.

“The Board is very excited to offer this series of technical guides and animations to help users understand the requirements of the ADA and ABA Standards and how they can be met,” states Access Board Member Michael Graves, FAIA. “As a practicing architect, I know from experience how valuable this type of guidance is in following the standards and ensuring accessibility.”

The initial installment of the guide covers the first three chapters of the standards, including application and use of the standards (Chapter 1), scoping in new construction, alterations, and additions (Chapter 2), and basic “building block” technical provisions (Chapter 3). Guides covering other sections of the standards will be released at a later date. The supplementary animations, which range in length from 6 to 10 minutes, address wheelchair maneuvering, doors and entrances, and accessible toilet and bathing facilities.

“These new resources not only explain requirements in the standards but also demonstrate their rationale,” notes Graves. “Knowing the ‘whys’ behind various provisions is key to understanding what accessibility means and how best to achieve it.”

The Guide to the ADA Standards covers design requirements that apply to places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities subject to the ADA in new construction, alterations, and additions. The Guide to the ABA Standards addresses similar standards that apply under the ABA to facilities that are designed, constructed, altered, or leased with federal funds.

Future installments to the guides will be published as they become available. Users can sign-up to receive email updates on the release of new technical guides in the series.


Upcoming presentations and trainings, Spring 2013

I cordially invite you to join me at some great conferences coming in the next few months…. I will be presenting on the following days and topics.

UD Summit #5, St. Louis, MO

May 7, 2013

More Than Accessible: A Case Study with Resources & Ideas.

ACHUO-I 2013 Annual Conference and Exposition, Minneapolis, MN

June 16, 2013

Housing for Everyone: Promoting Universal Design in Residential Environments

AIA National Conference, Denver, CO?

June 19, 2013

Half-Day Preconvention Workshop: Prevent the Most Common Accessibility Errors in Multifamily Housing under FHA, ICC, and CBC

June 20, 2013

Compliance Under the 2010 ADA for K-12 Schools and Housing for Places of Education

Universally Accessible, Independently Active

PWD (People with disabilities) in Phoenix have no excuse to sit still. The Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center, known as SpoFit, has fitness equipment, classes, sport gyms, a climbing wall and aquatics programs for every ability. As the mother of a competitive swimmer who happens to ride a wheelchair, I know how hard it is to find pools and locker room facilities that really work for all abilities. This center has the best pool layout I’ve seen.

There are two pools and a hot tub, each with at least two means of transfer into the water.  The warm water therapy pool has steps, a transfer wall, a lift with a chair seat (including head and foot rest) and a in-water platform lift (first one’s I’ve seen).

Steps, platform lift and pool seat lift at warm water therapy pool.

Platform lift with mesh door lowers into pool. Traditional chair lift is beyond.

Platform lift with mesh door lowers into pool. Traditional chair lift is beyond.

(Sorry about the rotated image of the platform lift. My techie skills are failing me tonight.)

The lap pool has a transfer platform, a lift and a pool platform lift.  The transfer platform is aligned with gradual steps in the water to aid in transferring back out of the pool. SpoFit provides cushions for those who need butt protection during the transfer process.

Transfer platform into lap pool with hot tub beyond.

Transfer platform into lap pool with hot tub beyond.

I am so excited to know there are models of great fitness facilities that are inclusive of all abilities. My city needs our fitness facility to follow SpoFit’s motto, “Universally Accessible, Independently Active!”