Accessibility: ADA Compliance through the Professional Practice of Interior Design to Accommodate Americans with Hidden Disabilities
AffiliationUniversity of Southern Indiana
TitleAccessibility: ADA Compliance through the Professional Practice of Interior Design to Accommodate Americans with Hidden Disabilities
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The professional practice of Interior Design encompasses the integration of functional building systems with the aesthetic application of materials. It often requires significant research and the understanding of all facets of human interaction and needs. One key aspect of such functionality relates to the concept of the physical accessibility of building spaces. A major component of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA 1990) existed in an inclusive approach to provide for the populous possessing physical limitations by removing barriers to those disabilities. More recently, a rise in the prevalence of conditions, although considered more hidden and often possessing less-physical limitations, yet still pose accessibility challenges has forced the development of an extensive list of disabilities to be covered under the ADA umbrella. Many of these conditions were included in the updated ADA Amendments Act (2008). Separately, as licensing requirements for the professional practice of Interior Designers has also grown, the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications developed a more expanded definition of the professional practice in 2018. Specifically, as shown on the organization’s website, Interior Designers are tasked with not only addressing code-compliance and physical accessibility but also should consider the mental and emotional needs of people. These expansions blow open the limited understanding of accessibility as previously addressed simply by removing physical barriers towards inclusivity. Many reasonable accommodations for these hidden disabilities require specific boundaries and often fall under federal privacy protections presenting unique challenges to inclusivity. Examples of such conditions include Autism, PTSD, ADHD and food allergies. With such a complex list of more than 55 hidden conditions under the umbrella, the functional practice of Interior Design requires a new approach. Significant research should be conducted to understand the relationship between the protection of this continuously growing segment of the population and the numerous privacy issues that preclude precaution. An approach of identifying the interconnective requirements of the hidden disability population into sets could provide the means of constructing a balanced solution of inclusive sets of boundaries within the construction of public spaces.