Along with being the most sustainable, flexible, durable and cost-effective approach to planning and building, Universal Design gives people with disabilities a better shot at dignity and independence. People with disabilities are by far the most under-employed, unemployed and impoverished of all marginalized groups, in part because of barriers to their mobility in many workplaces, even in brand new buildings constructed long after the passage of the ADA. Less than one percent of housing stock, meanwhile, is move-in ready for people who use wheelchairs.
Far too many people responsible for designing our built environment leave disability out of the conversation because no one on the planning and implementation teams belongs to the disability community. Far too many others mistake the ADA for a type of building code — which can and should allow for waivers and variances under certain circumstance — rather than the iron-clad, non-negotiable, federal civil rights legislation that it is.