Not so Universal Design Fails (guest post)

ADA ramp problems

Today we have a guest post from Carla Williams, who works in customer service for the Williams Brothers Corporation of America.   Carla humorously brings light to a serious problem– the intent behind ADA and Universal Design is very often not met with poorly-thought out applications in the real world.  Enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment for Carla below. 

Universal design is the idea that architecture should be inherently accessible to everyone. The growing number of architects adopting universal design is great news for people with accessibility needs. Instead of having separate entrances and walkways to make a building accessible, universal design allows people of all abilities to move together.

Unfortunately, many buildings are stuck back in 1990 right after the Americans with Disabilities Act was made law. These buildings may be technically “accessible,” but they aren’t spaces people with accessibility needs can maneuver very easily.  Until all building designers come to understand and implement the beauty and functionality of universal design, the world is left with less than ideal accessibility. “Less than ideal” is a bit of an understatement. Many times full-on “accessibility fails” take place.

We’ve taken the liberty of rounding up some of the most hilarious accessibility fails on the internet. These places are not only clueless about universal design, but they completely miss the whole accessibility thing by a long shot. Enjoy!

1.     A very useful ramp completely blocked by a giant flower pot. A very useful ramp indeed.

ADA ramp fail

Here we see a lack of understanding on the part of whoever dragged that flower pot out onto the ramp. Someone in a wheelchair might be able to use the ramp otherwise, but with the huge barrel of flowers sitting in the middle of it? Good luck trying to navigate around that thing into the building.

(Image source)




2.  The only requirement to use the ramp is the ability to climb stairs.

Ramp fail 3

Here is an example of something you may have thought impossible: a non-accessible accessible entrance. There is actually a ramp there, which is the accessible entrance into the building. The only problem is the ramp begins with a set of stairs. Stairs, according to the ADA and anyone with common sense, are non-accessible. So the ramp itself is non-accessible, making it a non-accessible accessible entrance.

(Image source)



3.     Sure, you can reach 8 feet away for toilet paper, right?

Toilet roll fail

This accessible stall is nice and wide for easy maneuvering. There is a great big spot to park your chair or walker, if that’s what you use. It’s just that the great big parking space is between you and the toilet paper once you are… situated. Let’s hope the owner of this building realizes the problem and bothers to install a TP dispenser anywhere within arm’s reach of the toilet like a considerate human being.

(Image source)



4.     Is this a wheelchair ramp or a roller coaster?Ramp roller coaster

That’s a very steep staircase and definitely not accessible, so it makes sense someone would see the need for an alternative entrance into the building. Maybe whoever installed it thought painting this “ramp” blue and slapping on an accessibility sign would make it useful to someone who needed an alternative to the stairs. The only problem is no one could even safely walk down this super slide, let alone take on the slope in a wheelchair.

(Image source)





5.     “Please ask at counter.” You know, the counter you can’t get to.

Ramp available ask at counter

Not all buildings were able or even required to meet ADA standards before 1990, and so the owners of these buildings try to accommodate their guests with accessibility needs in other ways. Yet in this case, despite good intentions, someone just wasn’t thinking it through. Great, you offer a ramp. A ramp which is only available at the counter… which is beyond the stairs. The stairs that someone with accessibility needs can’t ascend without a ramp.

(Image source)



Friends Don’t Let Friends Have Accessibility Fails

Cobbling together an accessibility solution is never as good as making a building permanently and sensibly accessible to all people. Even better, planning out a building with universal design in mind allows for better integration of accessibility needs while maintaining the design concept of a given space. Mandatory universal design would at least make ramps with stairs and stairwell superslides far less common.

Thanks Carla for your light-hearted, education post.  Thoughts/comments?  Have your own photo of an ADA or Universal Design fail?  Share below.

Quick Favor: Legal Blog contest

smilesA quick favor?  My goal on this blog has been to educate you to risks and give you strategies on how to manage the legal minefield that is part of being a practicing design professional.  I hope that you have found information, news, and tips that have helped your practice.

If so, I’d welcome a vote in the “Best Legal Blogs” contest being run right now by The Expert Institute.  Apparently, they had over 2,000 nominations, so to be one of the 250 selected to participate is an honor.  There are some massively famous/popular blogs among the nominees, and right now I have a total of 19 votes (ahem!), but then again, so do many other fine blogs.  While I don’t expect to win, it would be nice to place. (or is it show? I’m not much into horse racing).

If you are short on time, go here and you can vote directly for my blog   If you have more time, and want to explore other fine blogs, go here to check out some of the “competition” in the “niche and specialty” category.  You can vote for more than one blog, so have had it!

The vote counting is by IP, so even though my whole office, of COURSE, loves them some Construction Law in NC, they could not stuff the ballot box  all vote here at Ragsdale Liggett.

The competition ends Thursday night (actually, 12:00 AM this Friday, October 9th), so do it now before you forget.  THANKS!


5 Amazing Ancient Engineering Feats (infographic)

I was cruisin’ around the ‘Net recently and came across this fun info graphic listing their “Top” 5 Ancient Engineering Feats. What say you? Agree? Disagree? Anything they left out that they shouldn’t have? Share in the comment section, below.

Top 5 Most Amazing Feats of Ancient Engineering

Please pardon our dust…. (blog update in progress; back to your construction law posts shortly!)




Pardon for the interruption you may have gotten today in your RSS feed.  I’ve been working on some behind-the-scenes housekeeping matters, and inadvertently published a not-ready-for-prime-time post.  Please disregard.

I’ll be back with good construction law issues and questions shortly…..


Construction Communication Done Right!

thumbs upGreetings all!  Today, I have the honor of writing a guest post on Chris Hill’s blog, Construction Law Musings, on the topic of how to communicate– and how not to miscommunicate–on a construction project.

I know that I talk a lot about communication on this blog– and with good reason.  One of the number one reasons complaints turn into lawsuits against architects and engineers (and contractors, and others) is a failure of the parties to understand– really, truly understand– one another.

Check out my post, and pass it on.

 Photo courtesy

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