Local group pushes Universal Design

MARQUETTE – “A few years ago going green was a new concept, now we’re saturated with an awareness of it. This could be the same thing,” Marquette resident David Boyd said about a concept called Universal Design.

The idea is an international movement that promotes an inclusive nature for people of all ages and disabilities and that can be applied to places, products and programs.

“We see a lot of the disabled community that may not be as engaged as they could be,” Boyd said.

It is because of this that the Marquette Access Group formed a few years ago with a goal of creating awareness and promoting the concept of UD as a way of improving life for everyone.

The group includes four principle members, two of which are David Boyd and vice-chair Robert Chapman, and six consultants. They meet on a regular basis.

“We don’t have as much of an impact as we’d like yet, but it’s a process,” Chapman said.

UD follows seven principles that include:

  • Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  • Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  • Simple and Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills or current concentration level.
  • Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  • Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  • Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation and use regardless of user’s body size, posture or mobility.

“Overall, the concept states that when you build something, whether it’s a building or a program, you need to make it so it’s accessible to everyone and that they can feel safe using it,” Chapman said.

The Marquette Access Group has had some influence over the Marquette Parks and Recreation Master Plan, Chapman said. He added that the city has adopted the concept and is making progress. He gave the example of a fishing pier that was created at the new Tourist Park basin, which incorporates UD concepts.

“NMU has also been very good about access issues and incorporating UD concepts into their buildings as well as redoing some of their existing facilities,” Chapman said.

Chapman and Boyd both noted that their are similarities between UD and the Americans with Disabilities Act, but there are differences.

The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunity in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications. The ADA is used more as a foundation to build off of, Boyd said. Chapman concurred and added that UD is the fine-tuning of the ADA.

Bill Sanders of Sanders & Czapski Associates, PLLC in Marquette has done volunteer work with the Marquette Access Group and assisted in making the south garden area at Peter White Public Library more accessible to all by using UD concepts. He said UD makes for an overall better design.

“In this country the ADA is law. So designers will pick up a book and see what they have to do by law and leave it at that. UD pushes ideas further and makes you think outside the box,” Sanders said.

He stressed that UD is important because it takes everyone into consideration and makes designers think a little more deeply about how people interact with space and structures on all levels.

To increase community awareness on these concepts, the Marquette Access Group will hold its second annual conference Oct. 2 and 3 at Peter White Public Library. UD issues and discussion on access in the community will be addressed. In addition, awards will be given out for businesses and organizations that have displayed exemplary work in regards to what the group stands for. To learn more about UD, visit www.universaldesign.com.

Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240. Her email address is ahauswirth@miningjournal.net.