It was nearly 30 years ago that the Americans With Disabilities Act established its accessibility guidelines to protect the rights of people with disabilities. Accessible design has grown up a lot since then.
Those standard design requirements for public, commercial and government facilities were a critical step for the ADA, governing such elements as wheelchair lifts, curb ramps and handrails. But as designers have begun to understand the vast — and growing — demand for accessible living, the concept has evolved from a practical matter to a complex idea about beauty, equity and what it means to live well.
Architects and designers who are disabled themselves have brought attention to the need for a more holistic approach than grab bars and wheelchair-accessible hallways, a more homey feel than hospital chic. And many businesses are simply looking to the future: “There’s a giant wave coming,” Seattle-area interior designer Melinda Sechrist says