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Universal design: it’s for everyone

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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Some things are intentionally and appropriately exclusive. Think of the honor roll, various halls of fame and MENSA, for example. While few would argue that it’s improper for those institutions to be exclusive, society has come to understand just as clearly that other things should be inclusive.

Universal design is an approach to design that seeks to make buildings, products and services accessible to everyone. That means those things are accessible to people with disabilities, those without and to older people as well. In other words, accessible to everyone in every community around Charlotte, North Carolina and the rest of the nation and world.

“It’s a great design opportunity to create a more inclusive community for everybody, from children to seniors,” said Colleen Starkloff, director and founder of the Starkloff Disability Institute in Missouri.

She said her institute reflects society’s efforts to making public spaces accessible to everyone. . “Are we perfect? No. But we’re getting there,” she said.

Sometimes complete renovation of a building to make it accessible might not be possible. But there are ways of making structures more accessible, said Judith Heumann, a senior fellow at the Ford Foundation and former presidential advisor. Adding ramps and lifts can make enormous improvements, she said.

She knows something about how even small changes can drastically improve accessibility: Heumann has been using a motorized wheelchair for more than six decades. She has seen transportation, buildings and public spaces transformed in that time.

She said one of the biggest remaining barriers is housing. For people with mobility disabilities, even a small staircase can be as daunting as Mount Everest, she said.

One of the commitments America has made to citizens with disabilities is SSDI. Social Security Disability benefits are a lifeline for workers unable to continue their careers. An attorney experienced in SSDI appeals can help you fight for needed, deserved benefits.