ADA Curriculum for Designers

The ADA & Accessible Design: A Half-Semester Course on Accessibility for Design Students

Architects and other design professionals have been a priority audience for the ADA Network since its inception.  We gave dozens of trainings to architects and other designers that offer American Institute of Architects (AIA) credits in Health/Safety/Welfare as well as a growing number of courses that meet American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) credit requirements.  But twenty-three years after the passage of the ADA, there is undeniable evidence that there is little or no opportunity during the course of architectural education to learn about the ADA.  For this new product, there is a serious gap in knowledge and capacity among design students that too often translates into a lack of knowledge and capacity among professionals with responsibilities under the ADA. Accreditation is the single most certain driver of design school behavior. 

In architecture, the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) issued new requirements in 2009.  NAAB has established 34 measures by which students must demonstrate understanding or ability, including accessibility. But it is a common deficit of the architecture curriculum.  If it is addressed at all, it is packaged into a ‘codes’ class along with the electrical code and the plumbing code and focuses on the state codes on accessibility that are integrated into the building codes and not on the ADA or other civil rights laws.

This new package will offer an 8-session/half-semester curriculum that is ready for design faculty to use immediately and meets accreditation requirements. The package will include a syllabus, lecture notes for each class, required materials for readings and representative case studies.  It is specifically designed to meet the needs of design students in undergraduate or graduate design programs, especially those who’ll become licensed architects with responsibilities under the ADA. New England has the highest concentration of architecture and design schools in the U. S. and IHCD has built strong relationships with these schools.  There are nine accredited schools of architecture within just 100 miles of Boston. Development of a penultimate course package will be tested in two schools of architecture before being offered widely.

Proposed course - The ADA and Accessible Design

  • 8 weeks / 1 class meeting per week / 3 hours per class meeting.
  • Studio-based (hands-on), with weekly lectures/presentations (some by faculty, some by invited guests) augmented by design exercises.
  • Could be offered by accredited schools of design to degree students or continuing education students in the following ways: as a 1.5-credit course that is part of core requirements (to address NAAB requirements), a 1.5-credit elective, or as a course in a certificate program.
  • Target audiences among students: Architecture (professional degree), Interior Design (professional degree), Landscape Architecture (professional degree), Planning and Urban Design, Sustainable Design, Environmental Studies.