Tuesday, September 9, 2014

City's 'Accessibility Symposium' registration deadline Sept. 15

The City of Knoxville's third annual Accessibility Symposium is set for Oct. 3, but the deadline to register is Sept. 15.

The symposium aims to help professionals in the design industry - architects, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, facility managers, construction project managers, plans reviewers, inspectors and others - to better understand what true site and facility accessibility means to people with disabilities and senior, according to a city release.

It will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 3, at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum.  For more information, click RIGHT SMACK HERE.

"This is a perfect opportunity to provide some real-life examples on what really good accessible design is," says City ADA Coordinator Stephanie Cook.  "People just think of accessibility issues as affecting those with visually obvious disabilities. But 1 in every 5 Americans has some sort of disability, and there's a lack of recognition or understanding that the majority of those are hidden disabilities.

"Design professionals know that our building codes require accessibility, but they don't always understand the reason behind the requirements. They don't always recognize how the smallest details they add or take away from a design can affect the end user in a big way. I hope these professionals take advantage of this symposium, and I want them to leave with a genuine understanding of how seemingly minor details can make a world of difference for someone with a disability."

One of the experts who will be leading a seminar is architect Bill Hecker of Birmingham, Ala., owner of Hecker Design. He's an accessibility consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice, whose specialty lies in the Standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.

"For those in the design and construction industry, to be able to hear from nationally recognized experts like Bill Hecker on the relationship between the International Building Code and the ADA, that's just icing on the cake," Cook says.

What's a "hidden disability"? With 10,000 Americans hitting their 65th birthday every day, Cook considers mobility issues affecting seniors to be a good example.

"As the population ages and we live longer, our agility and mobility will continue to decrease, and we will all require a more user-friendly environment in order to enjoy the same lifestyle we always have," she says. "When everyone - regardless of their ability level - can participate in the social, recreational, educational, employment and other activities of their choice, then our entire community benefits."

And, Cook argues, it's in the best interest of someone building a house, an apartment building, a restaurant or a shopping center to design it in a way that maximizes accessibility. Such a strategy is smart, because it means more potential customers or buyers.

The Oct. 3 Accessibility Symposium offers something for everyone. Participants will have the opportunity to experience an accessible restroom and kitchen, as well as understand the impact that certain types of flooring or ground surfaces have on one's ability to maneuver into and through a space, whether inside or outdoors.

Accessible vehicles also will be on hand to give attendees a chance to see how the technology works and how a proper form of transportation can mean the difference between being unable to leave one's home and having true independence.

Vendors and agencies that offer products and services specifically intended to improve the lives of people with disabilities, as well as seniors, will be available to showcase their products and services and network with symposium attendees.

Accessibility-improving products and gadgetry will be available to demonstrate to business owners how certain additions or changes can greatly increase their accessibility to all of their potential customers. 

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