We need inclusive communities now

In this report, JSA principal Todd Hanson, FAIA explains why communities benefit from diversity, including people with disabilities.

26% of us live with disabilities. Do you?

Inclusive CommunitiesLet’s start with the numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 26 percent of us live with one or more disabilities, the most common being mobility impairments. Nearly 14 percent of us are unable or would have great difficulty walking any distance or climbing steps. That’s over 46 million Americans. The United States, and the entire world for that matter, is experiencing an unprecedented demographic shift. We’re aging dramatically and in a few short years, the old will outnumber the young. Baby boomers will all be over 65 and will outnumber those eighteen and under. The good news is that we’re healthier and will live longer than the generations before us. But that’s a double-edged sword — longevity doesn’t mean we’ll remain nimble and able-bodied. As our population ages, the number of us with mobility impairments will escalate and have profound implications for our communities.

No place like home

The social issues of living with a disability are obvious but that never keeps me from talking about them. Most of us don’t want age or impairments to force us out of our homes. Most people would prefer not to move into a senior living facility, but staying at home can lead to social isolation, loneliness and depression. Physical impairments can make it challenging to venture out; many people decide that it’s safer to stay home. That’s the easy course to take and it becomes a hard habit to break. I speak from experience as I’ve used a walker and now I use a wheelchair.

But if you go...

Moving to a senior living facility can lead to age-based segregation and a loss of autonomy. For me, my home is my identity. It’s mine and it’s where I feel a sense of belonging. It’s filled with my memories and my history. All of that is painful to relinquish. Senior living facilities offer safety, socialization and peace of mind. Many provide everything anyone could need without ever having to leave, and that’s another double-edged sword. Never having to set foot in the surrounding community is not necessarily good for the individual and it certainly isn’t good for the community, which could benefit from the demographic diversity and the economic impact.

Follow the money

Speaking of the economic impact, let’s look at who has money. Adults over 50 own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth, have incomes 26 percent higher than the national average and spend more than one trillion dollars each year on goods and services. If seniors don’t feel welcome and invited to participate in their neighborhoods, the local communities will suffer financial repercussions from the loss of this essential consumer group. Extrapolated out over a decade, the economic impact will be huge.

Better communities

Besides the somewhat obvious social, emotional and physical benefits for the person aging and/or living with impairments, communities benefit from diversity. Studies have shown that children who have participated in multigenerational daycare programs have much more favorable opinions of older adults. The same is true for children who are exposed to people with any type of disability. Young people who grow up aware of people’s differences and different abilities are more likely to be accepting of age differences and behaviors as adults. Diversity — when differences including race, ethnicity, religion, gender, economic, age and ability are all represented — makes our communities richer.

Todd Hanson, FAIA is a principal at JSA Inc headquartered in Portsmouth, NH. In 2016, he founded Access Navigators, an online resource helping people with disabilities plan ahead for visiting historic New England. Questions? Get in touch: thanson@jsainc.com.

Where does it all go?

In a new white paper, Anne Weidman describes how JSA helped out sixteen local nonprofits and saved loads of furniture and office supplies from the landfill.


So much furniture...

When JSA moved to a new space in the spring of 2019, office furnishings and supplies, some of it 30+ years old, had outlived its usefulness. Office renovations and upgrades typically utilize a combination of dumpsters and furniture liquidators for disposal of retired furniture. JSA looked for a more community-centered approach.

Social media for the win!

We turned to social media for a solution. As we approached moving day, we began posting pictures and descriptions on local Facebook groups: "Sixty-five two-drawer file cabinets!" "Reception desk with lighting!" "Fifty-five magazine organizers!" "Dozens of chairs!" We gave priority to nonprofits. The response was fast, pick-ups started within minutes. 

How much furniture did we give away? Read about it here.

Anne Weidman, CPSM is Director of BizDev / Community Engagement and Associate at both JSA Inc, a Portsmouth, NH-based architecture firm and Access Navigators, an online resource for people who live with disabilities.

When you are your client

In a new white paper, JSA Principal Sandra Hodge tells the back story of JSA's new office design.

WELL buildings

We're moving?

When JSA’s architects and designers began to plan a move to a new office space, every employee had their own vision of how the space should look and feel: innovative, cutting edge, healthy, collaborative, inspiring, universally designed...and more.

Design has evolved.

We opted for low panels to provide some acoustic and seated privacy. Motorized adjustable height workstations give the option to sit or stand throughout the day. The goal was to keep our employees happy, healthy and more productive!

We talk and talk and talk...

A collaborative gathering space runs through the spine of our office and features a sculptural, perforated metal pin-up wall adjacent to soft seating and a multi-height community table. This gathering place has become a popular spot for pin-up design reviews, office meetings and happy hour! 

How did it all work out? Read about it here.

Sandra Hodge, IIDA is a principal at JSA Inc and leads the Interior Design department in Portsmouth, NH. Sandra knows how to transform institutional settings into efficient and inspiring workplaces. Her team's expertise in efficient planning, lighting and finish selections results in designs that stand the test of time while remaining mindful of the target budgets.

Healthy Buildings | Healthy People

In a new white paper, JSA interior designer Alyssa Garvey explores the development of the International Well Building Institute (WELL) and the impact WELL design can have on future projects.

WELL buildings

Wellness trends are everywhere...

The current trend towards sustainability and wellness has been making an appearance in industries all over the globe. Wellness buzzwords have become woven into our daily culture and wellness is easily acknowledged as both desirable and marketable.

There are guidelines.

In the architectural field, the development of the International Well Building Institute(WELL) is a response to this culture shift. The goal of WELL is to create healthy spaces by designing, constructing and operating buildings to maximize occupant health and productivity.

What does this all mean?

What will the next generation of buildings look like? Will you have a say about it? Read more here.

Alyssa Garvey is an interior designer at JSA Inc, headquartered in Portsmouth NH. Her understanding of the human impacts of lighting, materials, and programming results in healthier spaces for all.

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