July 26, 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Read on to learn about this important law, how ASID was involved in its creation, and how designers play a key role in its continued success.
What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.
In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law and became effective on January 1, 2009, and made a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability.”
In 2010, the ADA was updated to include specific building design requirements to make public buildings – like movie theaters, libraries, restaurants, hotels, medical facilities, and health clubs – accessible to people with disabilities.
The ADA and Interior Design
The American Society of Interior Designers members represent individuals of all specialties, including workplace, healthcare, retail, hospitality, education, institutional, corporate, and residential practice. ASID Interior Designers are recognized for their formal education, relevant work experience, and certification adhering to professional standards.
Interior Designers ensure all public spaces comply with the ADA.
Interior Designers create and renovate spaces which adhere to the standards set forth by the ADA in their daily practice. They are responsible for the process of providing appropriate environments which correspond to the abilities and needs of end users. Interior designers are integral in ensuring adherence to federal and state accessibility regulations to protect private and government clients legally and financially. Some examples of requirements include, but are not limited to:
Elevator controls, door hardware, countertop heights
Height and depth of objects protruding into a travel path or aisle
Ability and strength required to operate doors
Existence of ramps and handrails for accessibility
Mounting heights and clearances for restroom fixtures.
In both commercial and residential settings, designers strive to shape a world which those of every ability level can experience concurrently.
Notable ASID Members involved with the ADA
ASID has had a long involvement with the ADA, from its development to today and beyond. Some notable members who have had an impact over the years include, but are not limited to, William L. Wilkoff, FASID and Shelley Siegel, FASID.
William L. Wilkoff was instrumental in the development of the ADA and Shelley Seigel sits on the Access Board that she was appointed to by President Barack Obama in 2016.
ASID continues to support the tenets of the ADA, and advocates and educates regarding the effects of constructed environments on life, health, safety, and welfare of all members of the general public.
The Future of Interior Design and the ADA
Interior Designers use evidence-based and human-centric design to affect comfort, accessibility, safety, wellness, and sustainability. Much more than simply aesthetic decorators, Interior Designers showcase the impact of design through the creation of interior architectural elements and spaces where we live, learn, work, play, and heal using data, science, building codes, and regulatory standards.
Although the ADA does not currently apply to private homes or apartments, many designers have embraced the concept of accessible design. Interior Designers pay special attention to open-concept, single story plans; wide doorways and hallways; accessible countertops and storage; easy access switches; smart technology features; curb-less/roll in showers; energy efficiency; and a myriad of other applications in their everyday practice.