A Principle in Practice

Reprinted from PN October 2007

Accessible design benefits everyone—and the Barrier-Free America Award honors an inspiring new facility.

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At 115 West Chicago Avenue, between North LaSalle and North Clark streets in Chicago, rises Access Living's new state-of-the-art headquarters. On this prime site, just a few short blocks from world renowned North Michigan Avenue (the "Magnificent Mile"), a four-story, 50,000-square-foot office opened its doors on March 5. This facility, unlike countless others, was planned according to the principles of accessible design and incorporates sustainable design features that will lead to a silver LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) rating, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance "green" (environmentally friendly) buildings.

Access Living's extra-large elevator cabs easily hold four wheelchair users and have doors at both ends to reduce loading and unloading times.
Access Living is a cross-disability independent living center governed and staffed by a majority of people with disabilities. It aims to foster the dignity, pride, and self-esteem of people with disabilities and enhance options available to them so they may choose and maintain individualized and satisfying lifestyles.

Access Living's new headquarters opened its doors four years after the launch of an $18-million initiative, "Living the Vision: The Campaign to Build a Permanent Home for Access Living." Under the leadership of Marca Bristo, Access Living's president and CEO, the vision to create the organization's new home was fulfilled with the help of John H. Catlin, FAIA, and LCM Architects. Today, Access Living has the much needed space not just to house the programs and services necessary to serve people with disabilities—but to continue to grow them.

"Our new permanent Access Living Headquarters will enable us to build our services and activities as we continue to create an inclusive, integrated, and independent disability community in Chicago and the nation," Bristo says.

Due to its accessible and sustainable design features, Access Living Headquarters succeeds where other office buildings fail. This facility doesn't state one design philosophy is more important than others but instead highlights the intersection between accessible and "green" design.

"With Access Living's new building, everything from the lighting to the surface of the floors was deliberately chosen to effectively accommodate the widest range of disabilities in ways that are not noticeable and work for everyone," Catlin says.

Read more about PVA's 2007 Barrier-Free America Award winner.


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A Principle in Practice


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