Thoughts on Accessibility

Here at “I ❤ ID,” the official IIDA Student and Emerging Professionals blog, we’re thrilled to bring you a new series of regular guest blog posts from Colorado State University IIDA Campus Center president Kaylyn Schmer.

Kaylyn Schmer

This past week I had the pleasure of going to Tennessee to watch my brother graduate from grad school. It was an excellent trip, but it really opened my eyes to  spaces that were lacking usability and accessibility.  This probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind, but my 75-year-old grandma was on the trip and traveling with her made me realize the vast Interior Design improvements that could be made.

My grandma is an ambitious individual and when she sets her mind to do something, she puts all of her energy into it. So, this is how our trip to Nashville went- my grandma giving it her all, with no complaints. My grandma is not very steady on her feet and she has trouble with her vision. She does not use a wheelchair, and sometimes uses a cane to walk.

This proved to be a very challenging combination when trekking around this very hot and humid state. Throughout the entire trip we warned her of things that she could trip on and avoided stairs at all costs. I thought this would be a very simple task, and it turns out that it was not.

Our view of the Grand Ole Opry stage

Just because I can design zero clearance entries and plop elevators wherever I want in my conceptual designs, does not mean that these are always implemented in real life.

An example of the difficulties that we encountered, as an ambling group of eight, was at the Grand Ole Opry. We had tickets to the highest section in the building, and I assumed that there would be an elevator to take us to the top. This turned out not to be the case, and we had to climb a flight of about 20 steps, with flimsy handrails and barely visible row numbers, in the dark. For anyone without physical limitations this wouldn’t have been an issue, but since I was with my grandma, this was a task that proved to be so difficult we almost didn’t make it to our seats.

A sign outside the Grand Ole Opry

The lighting on the stair treads was so dim it was almost nonexistent. The music was so loud that we couldn’t even direct my grandma where to go and the steepness of the risers made it seem like we were climbing to Mt. Everest to get to our seats! I’m sure everything was to code, but I would like to challenge my fellow designers to push beyond codes.

Let’s focus on how we can make all of our spaces completely accessible. What can we do as designers to make this experience for my grandma—-for everyone’s grandma—- easier? If we can keep this on the forefront of our minds, then we can make the built environment a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

My family with grandma during our trip

If you are interested contacting Kaylyn or guest blogging for “I ❤ ID,” please shoot Victoria Guerrero, Communications Intern at IIDA Headquarters an e-mail by  filling out the form below.  We’d love to hear from you!


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