When Urbanism and Accessibility Aren’t in Step

BY MARY DAVIS
May 13, 2009

Accessibility for persons with disabilities, New Urbanist planners and architects will tell you, is an important principle. Still, other New Urbanist principles can come into conflict with accessibility; or, at least, they often clash with interpretations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, or with accessibility as defined by disability-rights advocates. Take February’s “Lifelong Communities” charette in Atlanta, at which Congress for the New Urbanism co-founder Andres Duany and Eleanor Smith, of the organization Concrete Change, were able to agree on the removal of requirements for elevated entries from the Duany Plater-Zyberk SmartCode—prized by New Urbanists for the privacy they enable, but a barrier for wheelchairs—but had to agree to disagree on issues including the utility of walk-up apartments located above retail.