My name is
I am an interior designer who has worked in the industry for more than 40 years.
I have always been aware of the need to adapt public spaces to better serve the needs of people with limited mobility or sensory limitations. It rarely occurred to me, or I dare say, any of my colleagues, to consider using many of these features in a residential environment.
In fairness to my colleagues (and me), 30 to 40 years ago, a universal design consciousness was in its infancy. For commercial interior design projects, the building code clearly had provisions for what was then referred to as “handicapped accessibility”, and we were expected to abide by them, but the reality was, they were mostly ignored on smaller projects where we were pushed to maximize the marketable floor space.
Except for large projects and government buildings, corridors, bathrooms and sometimes, general access, was limited to able-bodied individuals.
For longer than I have been in business, I have written a newspaper advice column called Creative Space. Every week, I answered a reader’s question, helping them with an interior design or decoration issue. Today, of course, everything is computerized, but for years I would meticulously produce a hand-drawn floor plan to help illustrate the proposed solution to their dilemma.
Occasionally, I would receive a query from a person whose parent, sibling or significant other was in a wheelchair. The thing that struck me most about the reader’s question was their desire to “normalize” the life of the wheelchair-bound individual; to make it as easy for them to get around and access anything in the house, as anyone.
Those letters sent me on a path to learn a lot more about universal design and adapting the home so that each person using that home can live as comfortably and as independently as the next.