When it comes to architecture and design, everyone wants to stand out… to be different. At the same time, when it comes to the user-friendliness of a building, there are certain design parameters that must be adhered to, in order to make it user-friendly for everyone. For example, simply think of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Without certain design standards, rules and regulations, an entire segment of the community would not be able to enjoy the conveniences that so many others take for granted.
Universal Design (UD) is a concept that has been around since the 1970s. The concept behind UD is to ensure that everyone has access to the same spaces, tools, and devices. UD levels the playing field for everyone, no matter their abilities.
UD enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness and social participation.
Even today, there are still buildings being designed that prohibit everyone from being able to participate on equal levels. Providing an ADA compliant ramp for someone in a wheelchair is great. But once that person has accessed a building, is he or she able to interact with spaces the way that others can?
Enter UD Enterprises (UDE), a business that concentrates on design programs, services, and activities that everyone can access. UDE founder, Susan Mann Docle PHD (photo – inset) has spent her life considering ways that everyone can get a fair shake in life, not just people with disabilities, but anyone who is stigmatized for whatever reason. For example, Susan recently teamed up with East Meets West (yoga) to design pilot program for UD Yoga (originally a pilot class at University at Buffalo in 2008) featuring a number of poses that could be conducted by virtually anyone, no matter their ability.
The UD Yoga team is developing programming for community based Universal Design Yoga, with the goal of sharing our knowledge and experience.
Susan made sure that the studio was accessible to everyone, analyzing everything from public transportation limitations to double doors that would allow people in wheelchairs to attend the classes.
The entry requirement for participating in the UD Yoga class is being human and having an interest in yoga, not what is “wrong” with you that yoga might “fix”. It allows us to explore, for a short time, through the lens of a yoga practice, the many experiences of being human.
Susan (a certified Occupational Therapist) has created a blog that discusses all of these inclusive elements, including simple life lessons that revolve around making daily rituals easier for those who might have, say, arthritis. She calls her empowering suggestions Personal Design for Doing. Susan doesn’t just come up with these easement rituals for others, she spends a great deal of time making her own life easier to live. It was after shoulder surgery that Susan came up with her own self-atsught systems for conducting daily exercises and routines, from brushing her teeth to working out. The reason that she is so in tune with the world of Universal Design is that she practices what she preaches. By sharing her findings with others, Susan hopes to affect change on a much broader level… a universal level.
For more information, visit udenterprises.org.