Universal Design | Evaluating Equal Opportunity

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Universal Design | Evaluating Equal Opportunity
Ryzhikova, Lisa V.
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This thesis analyzes the fundamentals of universal design by examining what disability is and how good design impacts people. By looking at award winning universal designs, I evaluate UF's first universal dorm, Cypress Hall, through the eyes of student's with disabilities who live there. ( en )
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Awarded Bachelor of Design, summa cum laude, on May 8, 2018. Major: Architecture
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College or School: College of Design, Construction and Planning
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Advisor: James Leach. Advisor Department or School: Architecture

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University of Florida
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Copyright Lisa V. Ryzhikova. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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College of Design, Construction, and Planning Honors Thesis Spring 2018 Universal Design | Evaluating Equal Opportunity Lisa Ryzhikov


Ryzhikov 1 Following ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) building code s in design is the accepted standard in architectural practic e, but one might ask why ? Although architects generally consider ADA compatibility on a daily basis, few architects have direct personal experiences with being disabled These or lack thereof, create barrier s, factors in the environment that limit functioning, for all users U niversal design design that can be accessed equally by all is the elimination of these barriers. Since ADA has become the minimum standard it no longer serves those who it seeks to enable ; instead it hurts the people who need it the most. People with d isabilities are the largest minority in the United States and the world. The 2010 Census states that 1 in 5 Americans have a disability, which equates to 56.7 million people, nearly 19% of the population. 1 As a society and as designers how do we respond? Disability is a term that is thrown around a lot in American culture, but what is it actually? A ntellectual, psychiatric, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment or a combination of those impa irments 2 However this definition does not begin to scratch the surface of what it means to be disabled. Individuals can be born, acquire, or have temporary disability. The most common type of disability, and th e most apparent, is physical. About one third of the U.S. population has mobility challenges; This includes difficulty walking/physical exhaustion to needing to use a wheelchair, walker, or prosthetics. 3 It is engrained in our society to stigmatize those w ho appear different than us, but with 1 in 1 Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S., Census Bureau Reports ." US Census Bureau Public Information Office. May 19, 2 016. 2 "What Is Disability?" Home Disability Services November 15, 2012. 3 Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S., Census Bureau Reports ." US Census Bureau Public Information Office.


Ryzhikov 2 In contrast to physical disabilities, there is another major type of disability which society completely those that are not initially evident but have just as a significant impact as physical disabilities. In many cases, these two types of disabilities coexist. Some o f the most prevalent invisible disabilities in America include: mental illness, hard of hearing, poor eyesight, brain injury, neurological disorders (i.e. epilepsy), learning disabilities, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes. Concerning two types mental illness alone, 7 million adults report having such severe depression or anxiety that they have trouble living their lives. However, this number may be higher since mental illness is often underreported, or they are grouped as effects of an existing disability. 4 The bigge st one question: why? Why would anyone w ant to be anything other than healthy? These questions, especially when asked by doctors, teachers, and work professionals, often bring about more issues that hinder people from being able to lead healthy and confident lives. It is important to recognize a nd be informed of the impacts of disabilities on the population; however, it is also crucial to realize that health and ability can change during a lifetime. It is naive to think ical conditions which may not yet be apparent. What is Universal Design? The ADA building codes d o not always serve good design because w hen we design for the average user, we accommodate for a few people [those without disabilities] 5 However, architects view ADA codes as legally necessary and fail to see accessibility as a design opportunity When 4 Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S., Census Bureau Reports ." US Census Bureau Public Information Office May 19, 2016. 5 Cynthia A. Leibrock and James Evan Terry, Beautiful Universal Design: A Visual Guide. (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 1999). XVI.


Ryzhikov 3 architects add ress as an addition to the original concept, it is less successful and emphasizes differences between users. For instance not only is a slapped on ramp ugly, it often does not even meet the needs of its intended audience. 6 Many people only feel disabled when they cannot do something In most cases a disability is caused by societal e xclusion, like systematic barriers and negative attitudes This is called the Social Model of Disability which states that an individual is not themselves disabled (although they are impaired in some way) but due to inflexible norms society fails to incl ude those with differences ; meaning that someone with an impairment must live a more difficult life than they otherwise would. This is especially evident in architecture F or example, s omeone in a wheelchair cannot choose where to sit in a lecture hall because wheelchair seating is only in the front or back row This not only segregates the individual from others but hinders typical interaction s which can cause extreme mental stress With proper universal design, the final goal is to eliminate barriers which segregate people from interacting normally with the architecture and those around them. Universal design is intuitive and in turn, makes architectural spaces easier to enjoy. This can be accomplished by techniques all architects employ during the design process : Contrast, lighting systems, and material selection (visual impairment), noise barriers and controlled sounds (hard of hearing/ mental health), controlling excess stimuli (mental health), and simplified floor plans These c onsiderations benefit all users 7 All architects approach design in unique ways however if we prioritize these universal design rituals we can facilitate universal design by providing new opportunities to be creative. 6 Ibid., 1. 7 Ibid., XIII XV.


Ryzhikov 4 Who Benefits from Universal Design? The answer is everyone. Universal design is vital because all of us are impaired in some capacity during our life time O n average every American will break two bones in their life time. As children, we all have experienced helplessness Many spaces, depending on program, are designed with average adult measurements in mind in turn making it hard for children to reach door handles, sinks, water fountains and other everyday components The same is true for circulation. Long stair cases are not only difficult for children to climb, they are challenging for older people to use as well. Large, confusing floor plans make it easy to become disoriented and exhausted whether disabled or not H ospitals are major offenders of this Instead of thinking about the designers focus on functionality for machines and administration. New additions try to mend the confusion, but exacerbate the se issues. Clear design should be address ed from the beginning. Just feeling ill or taking m edications can also affect the way people use and interact with architecture. With many medications, s evere or unavoidable side effects may occur such as drowsiness, weakness, and vertigo, all of which c within a space Simply complying with ADA building code causes many problems. By using universal design tactics, the concept of normality within design vanishes, therefore opening new possibilities and opportunities for architects and their clients When architects build universally, the benefit is shared by both present and future populations.


Ryzhikov 5 Criteria for Success | Case Study In 1997 the Universit y of North Carolina outlined sensible and flexible guidelines for universal design. The 7 guidelines are: 1. Equitable Use: Provide the same (or equivalent) experience for all users. Make designs appealing to all. 2. Flexibility in Use: Provide different choices on how to navigate and provide adaptability. 3. Simple and Intuitive Use: D esign is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. 4. Perceptible Information : C ommunicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities. 5. T olerance for Error : The design minimizes hazards (provides warnings) and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions (fail safe featur es) 6. Low Physical Effort : The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue. 7. Size and Space for Approach and Use : Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body siz e, posture, or mobility. 8 What is important to note is that these criteria are not impossible to meet, but to the inexperienced architect, these broad aspects can turn into confusion. Therefore, many look to the ADA code as a to designers who create innovative elevators, toilets, door knobs, and other small components. However, it is difficult to find a beautiful building that also meets the 7 principles. The biggest challenge facing architects is how to incorporate our new technology into a well designed building 8 "The 7 Principles." Centre for Excellence in Universal Design 2012.


Ryzhikov 6 University College Dublin Student Centre | Case Study In 2012, the Irish firm Fitzger ald Kavanagh and Partners (FKP) built a new student center for the University College Dublin (U CD ). This project later won a top award from the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) for the best universal design in 2013 9 and is a prime example of a building that meets the 7 principles of universal design. T his project is unique because the architects at FKP relied mostly on student input to drive design concepts. Additionally, an independent accessibility audit was commissioned to establish best practice solutions for all users of the facility, both within the campus and from the wider community. 10 This way, students and community were able to express their exact design needs resulting in a compelling, and unique universal design. The centrally located UCD Student Center is 11,000 square meters. It contains a 50 meter swimming pool gymnasium dance studios debating chamber 3D cinema drama theatre radio studio seminar rooms and a caf. 9 "UCD Student Centre, Winner 2013 RIAI Universal Design Award." Centre for Excellence in Universal Design 2013. 10 "UCD Student Centre, Winner 2013 RIAI Universal Design Award." Centre for Excellence in Universal Design 2013.


Ryzhikov 7 Equitable Use: The entrance to the student center is flat so everyone can easily enter the building. Every part is accessible to all students. Counters, desks, and even video screens are either low or have a dual height. Elevation changes on individual floor s are minimal, but very narrow ramps and excessively wide stairs are segregated by a solid guardrail ( top photo on page 9). Flexibility in Use: There are no hallways, each room is connected to each other providing ample room to move around. Furniture is spaced out and easily reconfigurable, a nd there are almost no permanent components except for circulation desks. Even the tepidarium has no steps, except into the baths. This illuminates possible barriers for physically disabled users. Simple and Intuitive Use: The plan of the student center is clear and easy to navigate. It is rectangular and comprised of smaller square modules which vary in size. The pool is at the center and all the activity rooms float around this centralized space. This makes it easy for individuals to orient themselves and determine where they would like to go. Also, there are only 3 floors vertical movement is minimal compared to other student centers


Ryzhikov 8 Perceptible Information: Color plays a large part in this design. Red, green, and yellow are the three major colors represent ing the move through the building, these colorful elements help the user to instantly recognize where they are The material pa lette used throughout vary in texture and contrast, making it visually stimulating and easy Tolerance for Error : U nderneath some stair cases there is no safety guard preventing someone who is totally blind or someone not paying attention from hitting their head The r ed underbelly signals that it leads to the fitness center, but for will walk towards the red volume, not knowing it is a stair.


Ryzhikov 9 Low Physical Effort: On of the most physically taxing experiences in a building is navigating vertical movement. In the student center, e levation changes among floors are minimal and the elevators are centrally located The photo above shows the only apparent grade change on the first floor. There are also many opportunities to rest as o ne moves through the building. Size and Space for Approach and Use: Some ramps and walkways are very small creating difficulty when a wheelchair user needs to push their chair Outside, there are automatic doors but on the inside, there are none. L ong, skinny door handles are put in place so anyone of any height or hand size can open the doors However, the lack of push plates or automatic doors means that people without the use of their arms cannot open doors. 11 11 Fitzgerald Kavanagh and Partners A Day in the Life: UCD Student Centre ( Ireland, 2012 ).


Ryzhikov 10 Final Thoughts: In a country where there is virtually no code for accessible components this building is commendable. Despite a few gaps, The UCD Centre goes beyond the minimum criteria to provide equal accessibility The designs success can be attributed to FKP the universi ty, and an independent accommodation agency to provide a space that was not just accessible, but universal for all users. University of Florida Cypress Hall Dormitory | Case Study The first universal dorm Cypress Hall, on the University of Florida (UF) campus was opened in the Fall of 2015. This is a smaller dorm only housing 255 beds. The ground floor is communal, the first has 35 large, single bed, ADA compliant rooms, and the 2 n d and 3 rd floors are large standard dorm rooms that are not wheel chair accessible. Cypress is located on the East side of campus and is near on campus dining options, Broward Recreational Center, libraries, Steinbrenner Band Hall and sorority row. 12 T his dorm was meant to be inclusive and to give student s with physical disabilities a n equal university experience. To 12 Cypress Hall ." Housing and Residence Education: University of Florida Date last modified: 2/12/2018.


Ryzhikov 11 evaluate how universa l l y accessible the dorm really is, I drew from the personal experiences of two residents, Hailey and Brad, and from my own experiences with disability Hailey is a 3 rd year neuroscience student who plays tennis and is passionate about photography and the arts She lived in Cypress for a year and a half and now lives off campus independently. Her roommate and therapeutic companion is Ros ie a now two year old black and w meow but plays fetch and is trained to sit her heart rate is elevated, or she is about to have a seizure Hailey was born with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which is a connective tissue disorder but became paraly zed from the waist down (L2 lumbar injury) her senior year of high school due to medical malpractice. She usually uses a manual wheelchair to get around and can take a few steps around her apartment although it is often painful to do so. Although Hailey now must use a wheel chair, she has an optimistic outlook and welcomes challenges with full force. Brad is a second year psychology student who is very active in UF clubs including Cru, psychology club, and is involved with the UF psych research lab which studies bullying. He was born with Cerebral Palsy (CP) which is a neurological disorder caused by a brain injury to or malformation of the cerebellum 13 Although i ntelligence is not affected by CP, it impacts motor functions like limb movement and speech mainly uses a motorized wheel chair and a walker to exercise. Brad is a charismatic guy who aspires to be a counselor for children who have disabilities after he graduates My name is Lisa and I am a fourth year architecture student. I am a dancer, watercolor artist, and do film photography. My first semester at UF I acquired a brain injury and this spring semester I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy type 2 a rare sleep disorder which causes perpetual sleepiness, sleep paralysis weakness, hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations (dreaming when you are about to sleep 13 "Definition of Cerebral Palsy."


Ryzhikov 12 and waking up), among other symptoms My brain injury has affected my speech, eyesight, and ability to walk long distances. Even now 3 years later, I still have difficulty with my vision and experience sever e headaches. My n arcolepsy makes me so tired it affects my ability to walk and I have the propensity to collapse without warning These unf ortunate experiences have sparked my interest in universal design we feel that T hrough our collective experiences and help from Heidi, Cypress resident and current Inter Residential Hall Association (IRHA) president, we will evaluate Cypress Hall on the 7 Principles of Universal Design Equitable Use: One issue you immediately notice is that there is a step up to the main entrance of the dorm. If Brad or Hailey want to enter through the front doors, they must to go around to the side and use the sidewalk which ramps up slightly to meet the door Since the dorm is built into a s lope at one end of the building the ADA floor is about 5 to 6 feet off the ground. Thus, to provide direct access to the ADA floor there is a winding ramp that can be tiring to use due to its many turns The 1 st floor is the only floor with ADA code room s. In theory the ADA rooms would be neighbors with standard rooms but students without physical disabilities can only rent the rooms if they are vacant. In the lobby and common spaces universal design is successful whe re the experience is nearly the sam e of all users. Circle indicates closest sidewalk approach that a wheelchair user c an access.


Ryzhikov 13 Flexibility in Use: The dorm room themselves are entirely customizable. Each dorm has a full bed, dresser, and desk. In Brads room, he even has a ceiling track system (this feature is available in select rooms) which helps him transfer out of his bed and to the bathroom. Brad also has his dresser and mini fridge elevated for easy reach. These modifications were completed once he moved in and figured out what he needed. Cypress has staff which can come modify rooms at any time. Simple an d Intuitive Use: Cypress floor plan is L shaped. The hallways are wide and open so if one stand at the crook of the L, one can see to the end of both hallways. When one enter s the dorm the front of the lobby is double height space This helps organization since natural light pour onto the floors through the large windows indicating the entrance uses are intuitive with centralized rooms for different activities like studying, hanging out, or cooking


Ryzhikov 14 Perceptible Information: The lobby walls are painted white and the floors are dark making it easy to clearly see the edges of different spaces There is also a centralized front desk which provides 24/7 assistance to residents. On the 1 st floor, the laminate flooring (tan) and walls (green) are both different colors to indicate the edge of spaces but there is not much contrast between the colors A wood buffer along the walls prevents residents from bumping their equipment into the concre te walls. At Cypress, and all over campus, scooter parking and disabled parking access lane have the same white hatched lines. Due to these conflicting parking colors, many scooters will park next to cars in disabled spots and then access is blocked. Tolerance for Error: Neither Brad nor Hailey have had any accidents in Cypress as a result of poor design. However, they still express difficulty using the stacked dyers and the stove. Each floor has two central washers and dryers and located next to the kitchen. The two washers sit side by side however the two dryers are stacked even though there is ample room to place the top dryer on floor level. Neither Hailey


Ryzhikov 15 or Brad can dry their clothes if the bottom dryer is in use (which i t re gularly is) and it is dangerous for them to attempt to stand Brad also wants to learn how to cook, but he cannot safely use the stove since the oven is underneath it. If he wants to cook he generally must ask a friend to cook for him since leaning over a wheelchair is dangerous. Low Physical Effort: As mentioned previously, although the entrance ramp is ADA code compliant still it can be challenging to use. It would have been more beneficial to the user to reconfigure the floors so that either the 1 st floor was flush with ground or so ADA dorms could have been placed on the ground floor. Cypress Hall is also at the bottom of a hill which poses a problem to those with disabilities. The hill starts at Cypress and slowly but surely inclines up to Tur lington Plaza (about a 10 minute walk) where most students living on campus attend class motorized chair can get him up and down many hills Zoomed in Map of UF Campus: CYP is Cypress Hall and JHH is the new chemistry building. The arrow indicates a steady incline that reaches to Turlington Plaza (TUR) JHH is also much closer to Library West and other classroom buil dings.


Ryzhikov 16 with ease, but for Hailey who has a manually operated chair, it requires much more physical exertion to co ver the same distance as brad because she must push harder and longer. Once inside Cypress, moving around is easy. Many other dorms on campus do not have elevators for student use meaning that many of the dorms were not accessible for students who have ph ysical disabilities. The communal/lounge spaces are made of very low carpet while the hallways and dorm rooms have laminate flooring, both of which Hailey and Brad can walk over with ease. Since the doors are all automatic, there is no need to strain to op en the door and maneuver a chair around it. This also means that the users chair (which can be as expensive as a small car) will not get damaged. Size and Space for Approach and Use: The entrances to the dorm hallways, lounges, and the dorms rooms are large and spacious Once one step s off the elevator and into a small lobby, the resident holds their key fob and the doors slide open. All the doors on the 2 nd floor have push plates, so residents can easily open their door. The bathrooms are sp acious, and a wheelchair can easily roll up to the shower. Final Thoughts: Brad and Hailey both love Cypress Hall. It has given both of them a more genuine college experience and has provided Hailey with the confidence to successfully live on her own. Cypress has a positive emotional effect on its residents because nearly all of them have experienced issues accessing the architecture around them including in their own homes. It is important to note that although Cypress is not perfect it considers universal design and provides a positive experience for all users


Ryzhikov 17 The rent at Cypress is more expensive than other dorms on campus, but that is mostly because it is new, and the rooms are spacious. One good thing to note is that ADA single rooms cost the same as standard single rooms. The rent per semester of a single room is 3,783 dollars totaling to nearly 8,000 dollars a year (not including summer semesters). ocation should have been considered more Its immediate context fails the Low Physical Effort criteria. By locating it at the bottom of a hill and the edge of campus, it makes it more difficult for residents to get to class. The concrete sidewalks are in disrepair and cause issues for Hailey and Brad. Hailey has fallen out of her chair from holes in the concrete and from shifts between slabs. If Brad pops a wheelchair tire, he cannot move, and will have to wait for the wheelchair company to come and fix it Often times, these discrepancies have to do with political agendas within the university. The new c hemistry b they were able to select the site for the new buil ding which is in a central part of campus on top of th e hill. This site would have been better for Cypress Hall residents because it is near Library West, Mid Town, Turlington, the football stadium, and other vibrant parts of campus. These areas of campus would be easier to access since residents would walk slightly downhill to go to class. to educate the client and challenge their initial assumptions. Often, architects fear challeng ing the client and the status quo however It is also the responsibility to communicate with the client and educate Another missed opportunity for Cypress is that the ADA and standard dorm rooms should be neighbors thus equitable experience is jeopardized for both parties The ADA f loor is segregated from other floor unless they both are in communal spaces at the same time. By having both types of rooms together,


Ryzhikov 18 students without disabi lities would live with and learn from those that do This teaches students to be empathetic to fellow students situations and therefore people with disabilities in general In addition, the equitable use of Cypress fails due to the amenities put in by th e client post construction. These includes the stacked dries (when there is ample room to put them elsewhere) and having a non accessible stove on the ADA floor s kitchen To implement universal design, architects must play many different roles well to succeed In addition to being an architect, they must be educators, sociologists, psychologists, social activists, structural engineers, and builders. By seeing the world through these multiple lenses universal design becomes something that everyone appreciates but does not initially notice. The best universal design is successfully integrated and invisible.


Ryzhikov 19