Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Fell in Love

I fell in love, hard.

Beauty always overwhelms me.

Going to give a lecture, anywhere, has both Joe and I tense a little before arriving. What kind of accessible issues are we going to face? Cut curbs that are indentations in concrete rather than ramps from one level service to another? Doors made for the hips of skinny model women? Door openners that are for service or for show? Every new lecture venue has it's own challenges, we get there, get through and then make a list of what they really need to do if they want people with disabilities to feel welcome.

Well, it's different here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I lectured yesterday for staff (and will again today for parents) in the Grand Valley State University, pew campus. The place is brand new. It's design is welcoming. But, but, but, it's like who ever designed it incoporated accessibility into every feature. From the parking lot in we faced no obsticles. They even had this area where you go in through one door and then a few seconds later through another. You push the blue badge guy on the wall and the first door opens and the second door opens on your approach. Magic.

The lecture hall was sumptuous. The kind of place that audiences love but for me, upon hearing I was on a stage, I expected unweildy ramps at impossible angles. not here. It was designed like they thought that perhaps one day they'd actually have a speaker in a wheelchair in front of an audence. The conspired to make that eventuality possible.

What was amazing to see that universal accessiblity, when designed for, make the buildings both more functional and more beautiful at the same time. Accessiblity, when it's not an add on, enhances the environment for everyone.

This was the first time I was in a space where I felt that, from the ground up, disability was considered. I felt welcome in the BRICKS.

I fell in love with that building.

Because I felt loved by the building.

And only because it said, in its own language in its own way, 'Welcome.'

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

how fantastic you must have felt. it's painful to notice that more; ALL, places aren't more accessiable.

Anonymous said...

I live only 40 miles from Grand Rapids. I wish I had known you were there. I would have loved to meet you and hear you speak. My 26 year old son has Down Syndrome. I love reading your blog each morning before I go to work. I am so glad you found such a wonderful building here is west Michigan.

Betsy said...

Dave, I thought that I was very aware of handicapped accessibility - until the last month that my daughter has been in a wheelchair...

Even in hospitals, bathrooms are narrow and hold just one person, sidewalks have to be maneuvered by taking a running start at them...

People who are designing these things should commit to a week in a chair while they are doing the planning...that way they would truly see what accessible means.

Casdok said...

Biuldings do talk dont they?! So i know what you mean.

Gina said...

Any chance somebody reading this blog knows who the architect was? I'd like to know -

lilwatchergirl said...

That sounds fantastic. Do you know much about what their access for other impairments was like, e.g. induction loops for hearing aid users, voice announcements for visually impaired people? It's great to hear that building auditing is actually starting to work in a few places. Great stuff.

Melodie said...

Hey Dave. I am going to post this story in my on-line class at Ryerson. We are learning lots about universal design. Your response to it says it all. Great seeing you in Windsor!

Anonymous said...

The Architect was Design Plus, Inc. 230 E Fulton, Grand Rapids, MI. 616-458-0875