Pro Publica has a very interesting and well researched article on how discrimination can manifest itself in the design of our cities and neighborhoods. It also references another great article on attn that goes into greater depth on their analysis of how discrimination can manifest itself in planning and design.
While we do not agree with the reasons behind a few of their points are presented, there are many aspects of the article that we see as troubling and appreciate them bringing this to light.
It is easy for us to point out that a lot of these decisions appeared to have happened in the past, but some of these practices are still being done today. For example, the “poor door” that is a separate entrance for affordable housing tenants to use versus the regular door for the market rate tenants. We’re also surprised about how insidious some of these design practices appear to be.
As designers, we pride ourselves in our ability to really effect social, and economic changes for society. We must recognize that some of those changes can negatively effect certain populations. As an industry, there is a tendency to quietly roll our collective eyes when ADA issues arise on a project. The rules are strict can cost real dollars and heartache, and sometimes do not make sense within certain scenarios. The choice to err on the side of ADA patrons, however, we believe, is the right one. This article, and our own experience of people in our lives that benefit from ADA design makes all the trouble worth it.
Our impact as real world designers, contractors, architects and engineers is felt for years to come. We aren’t building apps or software that will be forgotten in a few weeks or next year, or that can be quickly revised at the click of a button. We are building institutions, structures, and buildings that will last for a long time. Brick and mortar, concrete, wood and glass. It is our job to make sure we are doing it responsibly and with the best intent for everyone.