Accessibility Awareness

Author: Brendan O'Shaughnessy

Accessibility Awareness 1200

ND architecture students sample disabilities to learn equitable design

Architecture student Ginika Kalu quickly discovered the perils of using a wheelchair: elevator doors that close as you enter, bathroom doors that are hard to open while sitting, and finally, a pile of bricks partly blocking the basement hallway in the Walsh Family Hall of Architecture.

With room for only her wheels, she built up some hallway speed, folded her arms in to avoid hitting the wall or the bricks—and sailed through the opening with an inch to spare on each side.

Fellow student Angela Li complimented Kalu’s ingenuity before trying on blindfolds for about a minute, deciding the world was too dangerous for that. Classmate Hayden Strong tried a set of crutches for about the length of a football field before also giving up from exhaustion.

The students were participating in late September in an annual event called Accessibility Awareness Day, where budding architects in their fourth year divide into groups for the morning and try to navigate campus using a wheelchair, crutches, or blindfolds. The purpose is to experience firsthand the challenges or ease of accessibility in the kinds of buildings they could soon be designing.

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