Tour of IndependenceFirst

Last week Monday when I attended “Multiple Facets of Accessible Design” at Milwaukee’s IndependenceFirst, I came away with a treasure trove of excellent material to share.

In my last couple posts, I recapped the insights of Shawn Henry and Scott Mayer. That was only part of the experience. After their presentations, we were treated to a tour of the IndependenceFirst facilities.

Carol Voss, the Public Relations and Marketing Director as well as the Twitter voice for IndependenceFirst, took our small group around the building. It was really great to finally meet Carol in person, after many months of Twitter conversations as well as the email interview she had done for this blog in summer. (See IndependenceFirst interview part one, two, and three)

Contrasting color between floor center and edgesIt wasn’t news to me that constructing a building for an organization servicing the disabled requires special considerations. However, it was both surprising and deeply impressive to see the extent of it.

For example, consider the floors. In the hallways, the floors have darker borders, to serve as a visual waypoint where the halls continue and where they lead to doorways.

Also, no matter the flooring material — carpeting, tile, wood, whatever — all surface transitions are completely flat and even. This is very important for those traversing room to room via wheelchair or with difficulties walking. It also requires a tremendous level of attention and detail by the building constructors.

Example of door opening buttons being at multiple heightsSomething else that I hadn’t considered before but makes perfect sense — there are activation buttons for opening doors just about floor level, in addition to their typical higher location. This enables somebody unable to use their hands to open the door with their foot.

Similarly, door handles as well as scanners for security access are lower than you typically see at other offices, to further increase accessibility to wheelchair users.

This is the just the physical makeup of the building, but such details go a long way in making it easier for those with disabilities to fully utilize the facilities. If you think that’s impressive, in my next post, we’ll share even more examples. From copy machines and weight scales to cafeterias and library rooms, there are a whole lot more accessibility considerations within the walls of IndependenceFirst.

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