Workshop to Focus on Universal Design in Charleston
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Create West Virginia and Partnerships in Assistive Technologies (PATHS) are partnering with the RL Mace Universal Design Institute to host a two-day workshop on how Charleston and residents can benefit from adopting universal design concepts in construction and renovation projects. 

Universal design is outlined in seven broad concepts that encourage infrastructure, buildings and environments that are accessible to everyone, including aging populations and those with disabilities.
Those principles include equitable use of facilities (curb ramps), flexible use (accommodating right- and left-handed users), and low physical effort (door handles instead of door knobs). The idea was first coined by architect Ronald Mace, describing it as making all products and the built environment aesthetic and usable “to the greatest extent by everyone, regardless of their age, ability or status in life.”

Sarah Halstead, co-founder of Create WV, said those principles can be used in Charleston and across West Virginia “to guide us as we prepare places, people and products for 21st century markets. “That will keep us authentic in our development and keep us from making mistakes other places have made,” she said.

The free workshops will run from 9:30 a.m. to about 5 p.m. on Aug. 30 and 31 at Taylor Books.

But the main goal of the sessions is to prepare Charleston for a collaborative conference at the Civic Center in May 2017 called Universal Design: Live and Learn. City Manager David Molgaard, who plays a major administrative role in many of Charleston’s construction and infrastructure projects, is among those who will attend the workshop. Molgaard said when he first read about universal design, “I was intrigued and struck with how similar it is to the things we’ve been moving toward with our vision for the city.” Molgaard used City Hall as a prime example of where universal design could be used.

To get to Molgaard’s first-floor office via walker or wheelchair, a person must go around to the back of the building near the police department and take an elevator to the third floor to gain access to another elevator back down to the first floor. But universal design goes beyond Americans with Disabilities (ADA) compliance.

“It also takes into consideration the adaptability of environments ... it’s not just designing for one group of people, it’s designing for everyone,” she said.

Registration is required to attend the workshop by emailing Halstead at

For more information about the upcoming conference in May, visit <URL destination="">

Reach Elaina Sauber at,

304-348-3051 or follow

@ElainaSauber on Twitter.

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