Research Essay

Brian Lee


Final Research Paper

People want to be included in anything and sometimes it’s up to the government to promote this inclusion in public areas. Inclusion is an important aspect towards more opportunities and the government could do little things to increase inclusion in public areas. “Greater social justice cannot be achieved without greater social inclusion” and this requires people to have access to a range of activities regardless of their disability or not(Farrington). Having an inclusive space means having an architectural design that everyone can use and eliminate barriers that isolate curtain groups of people from participating. Even as simple as implementing more chairs in public increases inclusion. One large group of people that have a hard time living their day to day lives are people with disabilities. With disabilities it is harder to get from point A to point B without any help. However that is why the government implemented laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act that prevent discrimination against people with disabilities and also had public accomodations for them. Public accommodations included ramp and elevators or even changing door knobs to levers, which would all give people with disabilities the same access as any other person in order minimize the amount of people who are excluded. Although the government has placed regulations on public accommodations to address concerns of people with disabilities to promote inclusion in public spaces, the system is still flawed in addressing all of the people concerns because of how broad and unspecific they are, certain groups of people are left out.

The inclusion of all people is an important aspect towards advancing as a nation and better for all people. By including more people, more opportunities are opened up for everyone. Thus we must define what makes a space more inclusive than others in order to provide a basic understanding of the architectural structure needed. Inclusive design is about making places usable by anyone. The ultimate goal of inclusive design is to “remove the barriers that create undue effort and separation” and there are some rules that could help encourage such inclusion(Fletcher). During the design process, people should be at the heart of it all, meaning that the first step to securing a strong inclusive community is by including as much people as possible during the designing phase, allowing all types of people to voice their needs and concerns. This leads into the second step which would be to acknowledge diversity and differences. While it is important to meet the needs of wheelchair users and mobility impaired people, it is also necessary to understand the barriers experienced by people with mental health issues, learning difficulties, visual and hearing impairments as well(Fletcher). With many different concerns needed to be met, it is best to include designs that offer choices and multiple solutions rather than single design solutions(Fletcher). A design with multiple design solutions embraces every person on equal terms whereas single design solutions places people with disabilities lower than anyone else. For example, having an automated door may be more beneficial than the typical open and closing of heavy doors. They serve as an equilibrium for those with accessibility challenges and people without issues. Last, an inclusive design must be flexible and adaptable. With a variety of people, sometimes rooms need to be changed accordingly to their uses and demands. Space should be made for wheelchair users and toddlers and screens should never be out of sight(Fletcher). Ultimately, an inclusive design must be tailored to everyone regardless of their disabilities or issues. Enabling the people the voice their concerns may go a long way as it allows the design process to address them all and promote an equilibrium of equality amongst the people.

With a basis for inclusive design established, now we know what to focus on to promote more inclusion in architectural design. The government has a responsibility of making sure that every citizen has the same equal opportunity to succeed in America and this includes people with disabilities. On July of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed as a civil rights law that “prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities” in several public areas including employment, transportation, communications, access to state and local government programs and services(USDOL). This meant that now public areas are suppose to have accommodations for those with disabilities such as ramps and elevators. This seemed like the government’s perfect solution to discrimination against the disabled and promote inclusion. In addition to the US Department of Labor, several other federal agencies play roles in enforcing the ADA. For example, the EEOC( US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) dictates Title 1 of the ADA which prevents private employers, employments agencies, labor unions, and state and local government from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in applying or firing from jobs(USDOL). Another example would be the US department of Transportation which enforces the transit system, roadways and pedestrian facilities from discriminating on a basis of disabilities. The government seems to have put lots of efforts into maintaining equality amongst the disabled by implementing laws and enforcing them with a variety of federal agencies to ensure that very aspect of people’s lives are not discriminated against in public. With a need for more inclusion, not only should private businesses focus on inclusive design, but also the government is trying to promote inclusion and equality with the Americans with Disabilities Act by forbidding the discrimination against people with disabilities.

With the government establishing a non discriminatory law against people with disabilities, there should be more accommodations in public areas. Public areas such as parks and government buildings should now have implemented accommodations such as elevators and ramps for people with disabilities. One simple way of promoting inclusive design and public accessibility would be adding more benches and sitting areas in public. In the 1990s the Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco had removed all of its benches and in 2001, all seating near the United Nations Plaza had been removed. These areas “give the appearance of public space, while simultaneously restricting access to it”(Arieff). An urban anthropologist, William H. Whyte says that “people tend to sit where there are places to sit”, therefore removing benches and seats makes our cities “unwelcoming” and feels like we are “criminalizing] sitting”(Arieff). This eliminates people such as the elderly, those who are tired, or those with disabilities from even entering the vicinity.  Another example of an inclusive design would be making tables and chairs different sizes, heights, and widths. Monica Ponce de Leon is the dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan and is working on designing libraries for the Rhode Island School of Design. She explains how no two cubicles are alike with each having different tables and chairs different sizes, heights, and widths. This allows for each individual to find their own favorite spot in the library because they could find a spot that best suits their needs. She acknowledges that each individual all have “different degrees of abilities” and with this in mind, her ultimate goal is to “render obsolete” the little wheelchair symbol that is placed everywhere(NPR). She essentially wants buildings to all have inclusive designs that is suited for everyone so that curtain buildings do not have to be recognized for being accessible friendly when everything should be. This should be the case for inclusive design, we should all aim to implement more inclusive designs so that people with disabilities do not have to worry about a building being easy to access or not when they should all be and make accessible friendly signs useless.

Although the government has implemented the Americans with Disability Act as a means to combat discrimination against people with disabilities and provide public accommodations, it is still flawed in addressing some issues that the disables still face today. With the enactment of laws that provide public accommodations and legislations prohibiting discrimination against disabled people, the emphasis of the law is on protection of the access right of the public(Lerman). Traditionally, public accommodation laws were narrowly defined by what places could be accessed by anyone however, the current view is different as privately owned establishments are to some extent public and need these regulations(Lerman). This is the same with another term used in the ADA, which is flawed and needs to be redefined. Stephen Orr has a small insulin pump which he uses  to help control his diabetes and allows him to continue working the job he loves as a pharmacist. He used to close the pharmacy for 30 minutes everyday at noon to eat his lunch which helped his diabetes. However his new boss suggested him stay in the pharmacy and eat in between helping customers. Orr tried this but it lowered his blood glucose level, causing him to get tired easily. When Orr asked his boss why he was being fired, his boss said straight up “because you’re diabetic”. So Stephen Orr sued under the Americans with Disability Act claiming that he was discriminated against because he was diabetic however, the judge threw out his case claiming that Orr should not be considered disabled because with his insulin pump, he could control his diabetes(Shapiro). When the ADA went in place in 1990, it opened new opportunities for people with disabilities, however the government has been  struggling to make sense of who should be considered disabled under the law. The ADA defines disability as “something that limits a major life activity” however the Supreme Court in 1999 said that those who could control their conditions with medications and tools might not be considered disabled(Shapiro). This caused a man with mental retardation not be counted as disabled in 2008. Clearly, the government struggles to define who is qualified to be considered disabled so even people with curtain limitations may not be considered disabled. Despite implementing the ADA which was meant to promote inclusion and prohibit discrimination against the disabled, the government fails to properly define the term disabled and this is a huge flaw in the Americans with Disabilities Act as it causes more discriminatory and inclusive issues.

Inclusion is an important characteristic towards social progression and everyone should do their best to incorporate more inclusive designs, that way specific groups of people are not left out. The disabled are one of the largest groups that are affected physically by architectural designs that do not allow them access to certain rooms or buildings. In an attempt to being equality among this group, the government passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in the 1990s, which made it against the law to discriminate against the disabled and accommodations were given in public areas making it easier for them to access areas previously unavailable to them. However, the government fails in addressing all of the people’s concerns with the ADA as the government is unsuccessful in defining the most important words in the law.