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Ride a Mile

Dallas-Fort Worth
Ride a Mile
There is but one way to truly understand wheelchair accessibiltywhen designing buildings and offices: Architects in wheelchairs.
Swain Mayo
We snapped W.R.A. Architects principal Swain Mayo, who took up the challenge in the fall as part of the Dallas AIA’s Accessibility Awareness exercise. He was navigating the long, uphill handicap entrance to the Dallas Center for Architecture along with nine other AIA members who spent a day in wheelchairs. Swain says the experience opened his eyes to the difficulty of doing everything seated: getting in and out of a vehicle and even opening a door. BGO Architects’ Walter Kilroy, who organized the event during his term as committee chair, says while meeting code has always been in the back of his mind, hearing the challenges of getting around from a wheelchair-bound attorney lead to this program.
Jonah Sendelbach
Walter says more than 50 architects have participated in this social experiment over its six years, including Page Southerland Page associate Jonah Sendelbach, whom we caught struggling to get in the door at the DCFA. The participants start the day with an agenda of things to test. Ramps (as Swain learned) may be hard to navigate. Jonah found many issues in his first few hours: “I had to back up to get into the elevator and it was a small maneuvering space; thewalkway into the building was hard to get up, too.” Then, there was the trashcan under the handicapped sink in the restroom and the paper towel dispensers that were away from the sink and too high to reach. Before lunch, Jonah already had blisters on his hands from braking on the steep handicap ramps. Lessons learned, he says.
Walter Patterson
Community activist Walter Patterson, who contracted polio as a toddler, spoke at an AIA luncheon as part of the awareness activities. He tells us when architects experience the challenges of disabilities, it yields better results. Common activities like getting acup of coffee or purchasing a pack of gum from a vending machinecan be very challenging for anyone with a motion-related impairment, he says. His advice to architects: Forget the past, and don't be limited by your budget. Coming up with a creative way to move people from the ground floor to a higher one may cost more than sticking an elevator in the corner of a department store. But the more accessible and attractive you make a building, the more people will want to come and experience it.
David Shively
This was Page Southerland Page senior associate David Shively’s second time doing the event. (In back, HKS intern Tucker Englishwaits his turn with MAA’s Drew Hayes in white.) He encouraged others to give it a try—even for an hour at a time. ADA compliance ismore than just a requirement, he says, and this experience can help make the world a better place.