Offices, parks, health care facilities, schools, or any other public spaces should be built to meet the needs of all of the people who will use the space. For people with disabilities, getting health care can be difficult because of lack of access.6 One way to increase accessibility for people with disabilities is through universal design. The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the physical environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities.6
Example: Iowa’s public health department is responsible for providing appropriate shelter during an emergency situation for all its residents, including those with disabilities. For the safety of people with disabilities, it is critical to consider the accessibility of designated refuge centers, such as schools. Until recently, the City of Des Moines had only one elementary school, one middle school and one high school that met Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements. In 2011, the Disability and Health Program of the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) partnered with Polk County Emergency Management (PCEM) to evaluate disaster shelters for ADA accessibility compliance. IDPH surveyed each property and recommended temporary and long-term modifications to improve accessibility. As a result, the Des Moines Public Schools System committed to upgrading 62 of 63 district schools to make the facilities accessible for people with disabilities.
Example: The South Carolina Interagency Office of Disability and Health (SCIODH) partnered with the S.C. Office of Rural Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) breast and cervical cancer program, Best Chance Network, to conduct an accessibility assessment of facilities, educate facility staff on how to provide equitable services, and acquired funding for facility modifications. Response has been positive with all 46 counties in South Carolina having been assessed with specific modification recommendations for medical facilities for American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.