On the 32nd Anniversary of the ADA

Reflections by Margaret Drew, Mayer/Reed Designer 

I’m 3’6”. Life at this altitude has given me a unique perspective on the built world and inspired me as both a designer and an advocate for disability rights. For those of us in the design world, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a familiar standard; the civil rights law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and guarantees access to public and private places that are open to the general public. On July 26, 2022, the ADA celebrated its 32nd anniversary. This year, I turned 33. It’s humbling to know that I am the last generation born before this groundbreaking act was signed into law.  

I was born with a rare form of Dwarfism called Kniest Syndrome – a type of skeletal dysplasia that affects stature, joints, hearing and sight. In a single moment, my parent’s perspective on societal norms, healthcare and infrastructure shifted as they came to the stark realization that my life would undoubtedly contain physical barriers and discrimination. Fortunately for me, my family, and the 43 million Americans with disabilities at the time, the ADA was passed in the summer of 1990. With the stroke of a pen, my life and the built world around me began to change. For the first time ever, doors were figuratively and literally being opened for people with disabilities.  

The signing of the ADA was a historical declaration of equity and equality – a request by millions to be seen, heard and respected. It was a national reckoning led by advocates with disabilities and allies who could no longer stand the injustice of discrimination. Real change is much more than a single act – it is the sum of many parts – and on this anniversary, I find myself thinking about the years of personal moments, countless conversations, interactions and relationships that paved the way for this significant milestone and that continue to inspire change today. The effects of the ADA are still rippling through our country and beyond. Since 2000, 181 countries have passed disability civil rights laws inspired by the ADA. Currently, designers and advocates are beginning to look beyond ADA requirements to develop new design concepts and details that consider a broader definition of disability. 

Don’t get me wrong, life with a disability and the ADA is still fraught with challenges and oppression, both physically and socially. My mobility scooter and I are met with countless stairs, a lack of neighborhood curb cuts and gravel trails too deep for wheels; I still cannot reach parking meters and public restroom sinks or attain reliable accessible transportation. While access is legally guaranteed by the ADA, the built world is slow to change, and all too often those of us in the disability community are left to advocate for such change ourselves. It is not always straightforward or easy to get things done, yet we persist! 

My life experience, the support of my family and friends and my career at Mayer/Reed have instilled in me a passion for design and the accessibility it can provide. I live each day with the hope that even the smallest change will lead to more, and the ripples from the ADA will continue expanding in new directions. Disability touches all of our lives in one way or another and I encourage designers to see their role in creating more thoughtful and inclusive spaces and to embrace each opportunity to make an impact. Design can be the driving force of change, and with that in mind, anything is possible! 

Posted: Jul 27, 2022
Written by: Margaret Drew
Posted July 27, 2022
Written by: Margaret Drew
Categories: DIALOGUE 

Meet Our Newest Designers

Mayer/Reed welcomes landscape architect, Michael O’Brien and industrial designer, Fred Stiber.

Senior landscape architect and project manager, Michael O’Brien, ASLA brings over 30 years of experience in the Portland area, focusing on public open space, mixed-use and municipal projects. His current work includes Errol Heights Park (Portland, OR), Cascades Academy Expansion (Bend, OR) and Multiple Pathways to Graduation (Portland, OR). Active in the design community and committed to the future of the region, Michael serves on the Metro Technical Advisory Committee and is a former chair of the Oregon State Landscape Architect Board.

Fred Stiber, SEGD joins the visual communications team with a focus on industrial design. With a background in exhibit design and wayfinding, he supports project development through thoughtful programming and structure design. His current work at Mayer/Reed includes signage and wayfinding for Nike World Headquarters (Beaverton, OR) and SeaTac Airport’s C1 Building Expansion (Seattle, WA).

Posted July 07, 2022
Written by: Mayer/Reed
Categories: IN THE STUDIO 

“Dine & Design” With a View

Join Mayer/Reed and SRG Partnership for a Dine & Design event on the 6th floor terrace of the OHSU Knight Cancer Research Building. The August 18 event is part of the Architecture Foundation of Oregon’s (AFO) series that brings people together to experience exceptional designed spaces. Dine & Design raises money to support AFO’s programs, including Architects in Schools.

The Mayer/Reed-designed outdoor terrace of the LEED platinum, state-of-the-art building in Portland’s South Waterfront District extends the social gathering space of the building’s adjacent “intellectual lounge” and captures stunning views to the east. You won’t want to miss this dinner with a view!

We look forward to sharing the design story, amazing views, good food and camaraderie with colleagues and design enthusiasts. Visit afo-oregon.org for more information.

Posted: Jul 05, 2022
Written by: Mayer/Reed
Posted July 05, 2022
Written by: Mayer/Reed
Categories: EVENTS 

Get Ready For Paseo, a New Portland Festival

Mayer/Reed is proud to sponsor “Paseo” – a new festival and community gathering in Downtown Portland July 15-17, presented by The Portland Parks Foundation.

Join us in the South Park Blocks for music, art, food vendors, performances, family activities and more. Paseo is a free event inspired by strolls through the streets of Spain and is conceived and curated by a committee of BIPOC social justice and arts leaders. See you in the park!

Posted July 01, 2022
Written by: Mayer/Reed