Written by Joshua Rucker, FabCab Accessibility Consultant, San Francisco
“Shouldn’t every structure be built with such spirit and innovation?” I asked myself as I left the grand opening for the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, CA. The Ed Roberts Campus will be known by many as “that building that serves people with disabilities.” However, it’s much more than that. I would argue it’s more of an example of how good design can bring a community together, is the culmination of a forward thinking design process, and what the built environment should emulate. Call it accessible design, human-centered design, universal design, accessibility, whatever. I call it good design. Maybe even the word ‘design’ itself. It’s what to me architects, developers, engineers, contractors, people involved in the construction of physical environments have as a responsibility to fulfill and at least strive for as they imprint their work on a community.
The Ed Roberts Campus mission is to ensure that people with disabilities can live independently and without discrimination and commemorates the life of Edward Roberts, an early leader in the independent living movement. The building was designed by Bay Area Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects. Throughout the building there are architectural elements that incorporate Universal Design principles. Such elements include:
- An inviting helical ramp that provides access to the second level
- Comforting natural light throughout all the spaces of the building
- Push plates/buttons in the elevator located near the floor for foot operation
- Handrails seamlessly located along corridor walls
- A fountain that provides an acoustical cue for people with visual impairments
Such a building is inspiring and reminds us as communities made up of people of all abilities, ages, cultures, etc., that we should be able to gather naturally in a built space without any environmental barriers. The design of the Ed Roberts Campus isn’t so much the wave of the future, it’s what design should be, and what FabCab is all about.