Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Iowa Clinical Law on Accessibility and Universal Design in Affordable Housing
The University of Iowa Clinical Law Program has The Washignton Court Housing Survey: A Study of Accessibility and Universal Design in Affordable Housing--Executive Summary, published in the Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law Winter, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 191-204, 2010. The survey and research was completed by student interns supervised by Leonard A. Sandler. The abstract:
The Washington Court Housing Survey: A Study of Accessibility and Universal Design in Affordable Housing is one of many community-based and systems reform initiatives the University of Iowa Clinical Law Program has designed and implemented in the last decade. The continuing mission of this project is to increase mainstream housing opportunities for persons with disabilities and promote universal design and sustainable, multigenerational housing of all types. The article is a report about tenant awareness, use, and benefits of accessibility and universal design features in Washington Court, an affordable housing complex in Dubuque, Iowa. The overarching goal was to determine if universal design makes sense in the twenty-first century and enhances quality of life, safety, comfort, and convenience. We hope to add to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that universal design is valued by individuals, communities, and the public and private sectors. We had several specific objectives. The first objective was to learn about residents’ experiences, including what motivated residents to move to Washington Court, whether the universal design features have added to residents’ quality of life, and what the residents would change about the building or apartments. The second objective was to test our survey instrument’s effectiveness in gathering information on accessibility and universal housing design more generally. We also developed a survey and checklist that others could use to plan, design, build and evaluate sustainable housing. The third objective was to encourage builders, developers, and funding agencies to use the survey results and recommendations and voluntarily incorporate universal design into residential, business, and commercial facilities. The fourth objective was to persuade state and local lawmakers and agencies to require minimum universal design features in publicly funded or privately built housing of all types or to provide incentives for builders, developers, and consumers to do so.
This looks like a great example not only of the kind of field research that can really add to the body of useful knowledge for both theorists and practitioners, but also of a fascinating clinical teaching project.