Barrier Free at the University of Illinois

Reprinted from PN December 2012

PVA presents 2012 Barrier-Free America Award to the University of Illinois.

View Forum | Print Article | Font Size + / - | Back

Adjustable dorm furniture and a proximity reader helped the Nugent Residence Hall and the Disability Resources & Educational Services (DRES) Program at the University of Illinois win this year’s Barrier-Free America Award from Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).

Established in 2001, the award honors and promotes leadership, innovation, and action in the architectural and design communities in advancing accessibility. This year’s award was presented during PVA’s 2012 Americana Gala in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2.

Setting a Standard

Tanya Gallagher, dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois, accepted the award on behalf of Brad Hedrick, PhD, the director of DRES, who was unable to attend.

“We are so proud and honored to be recognized by Paralyzed Veterans of America,” Gallagher said during her acceptance speech.

She recognized Tim Nugent, who pioneered the accessibility changes at the university, and for whom Nugent Residence Hall is named. Gallagher also spoke about the university’s future plans to continue its commitment to disability empowerment by establishing a National Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education.

Nugent Residence Hall rooms include adjustable desks and other pieces of accessible furniture.

“The DRES Program and the design of Nugent Residence Hall have set a standard for buildings and structures that are accessible to all people,” says Mark Lichter, AIA, PVA director of architecture. “Accessible design benefits not only people with disabilities but everyone in the community — something exemplified by the DRES Program and the University of Illinois.”

Awesome Amenities

Highlights of the award-winning Nugent Residence Hall and DRES Program include state-of-the-art amenities.

A proximity reader on the outside and inside of each Nugent Hall bedroom helps open doors. Residents use their student ID card as a proximity card to open and close their room door without physically having to use a key or swipe a card. Additionally, each room has Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) vertical auto operators that can be used to open bathroom and room doors from the inside.

A SureHands ceiling lift system extends from over the resident’s bed to the bathroom. There is the option of using the body support or sling for transferring.

Each room has  adjustable furniture, including but not limited to desks, night stands and a hospital bed in each room. All furniture, including the bed, is  similar in design and looks like other student rooms throughout the residence hall.

A wireless paging system will notify staff serving as the “floater” that assistance is needed.

Each unit also features push-button room-darkening blinds.

An adaptive computer station is available for those who want to use accessible software and hardware.

Residents looking to learn basic cooking skills can use the training kitchen with adaptive cooking equipment.

Benefiting Everyone

The Barrier-Free America Award recognizes architecture and design that advance and improve quality of life for everyone.

Through their work, architects and designers play an extremely important role in removing the barriers people with disabilities face everywhere, every day.

Previous recipients of the award include:

- Architect Cesar Pelli for his accessible design of Washington Reagan National Airport

- Bob Vila for educating the public about the importance of accessible design solutions through his television show

- Marca Bristo, president and CEO of Access Living, for the organization’s Chicago-based headquarters

- Architect Antoine Predock for Milwaukee’s Indian Community School

- CBT Architects for its work to make the John Adams Courthouse in Boston universally accessible

- James Roth of The Treehouse Guys, who builds accessible treehouses, and honorable mention winner John Connell, the architect behind the first prototype design, for the network of universally accessible treehouses built in private camps and public parks across the country (PN, December 2011)


PVA’s architecture program seeks to promote an accessible, barrier-free environment, advocating for accessible design in architecture and construction industries, helping to develop building codes and standards for the entire nation and serving on federal advisory committees to further define ADA guidelines. These standards and laws extend beyond veterans rights; they benefit everyone.

For more information, visit or   


To order the December 2012 PN, Click Here.
To Subscribe, Click Here.

Article Forum

PN Forum discussions are intended to provide a place for free-flowing exchange of information, opinions, and comments and are designed to provide an enjoyable and informative expression for all participants.
Please review our Forum Rules for complete details.

Login with username and password (Forgot Password?)
New Post

Barrier Free at the University of Illinois


Be the first to comment on this article.
(Register or login to add comments.)