July 30, 2002 --
A new book published by Adaptive Environments describes the career development of 21 designers with disabilities from around the world. Written for young people with disabilities, the book shows how designers with disabilities are contributing to the style of our buildings and products.
"Building a World Fit for People" promotes the design professions as a viable career opportunity for people with disabilities, and so would make good reading for career and vocational rehabilitation counselors, design educators, and employers in design firms. The late Ron Mace, FAIA, inspired the book. Mace, founder of the Center for Universal Design in Raleigh, North Carolina (http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/) and creator of the term "universal design," was an articulate architect who influenced international thinking about design. For most of his life he used a wheelchair and understood what it was to try to participate in a world that was not designed to include him. "Universal design seeks to encourage attractive, marketable products that are more usable by everyone," he once said. "It is design for the built environment and consumer products for a very broad definition of 'user.'" For more on Ron Mace, go to http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/center/history/ronmace.htm
Each of the stories in "Building a World Fit for People" "is the tale of a young person with creative talent and a disability who required the education, skills, and employment that would enable him or her to express this creative gift in a socially meaningful way," says Prof. Raymond Lifchez of the College of Environmental Design at UC/Berkeley. The book can be ordered for $15 at http://www.adaptiveenvironments.org/accessdesign/profiles/order.php
The book was produced by Adaptive Environments' Access to Design Professions, which promotes the participation of people with disabilities in the design professions by offering a mentoring program that matches design professionals with students or entry-level designers with disabilities. More information on this project is available at http://www.adaptiveenvironments.org/accessdesign/ementoring.php
Adaptive Environments was founded in the late 1970s to address environmental issues that confront people with disabilities and elderly people; its mission is "to promote, facilitate, and advocate for international adoption of policies and designs that enable every individual, regardless of disability or age, to participate fully in all aspects of society." With funding from NIDRR, Adaptive Environments has produced a number of materials including design guidelines for supermarkets, an ADA Title II action guide for state and local governments, a checklist for existing facilities, ADA fact sheets, an ADA cost catalog for access modifications and an ADA core curriculum.