A workshop on train station design and the building is not accessible…..

July 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm 2 comments



On June 24th at the Newark municipal building there was a workshop and display of the proposed changes to the current Newark train station (the future Newark Regional Transportation Center).  I was excited to attend this workshop, as well as the Newark city council meeting to be held thereafter, as I am very interested both personally and professional in this project.  My husband, a manual and power wheelchair user, is also very interested in this project.  I was hopeful that he could attend the meeting with me, but due to work responsibilities, this was not feasible.  Upon entering the room within the Newark municipal building to view the displays and attend the later city council meeting, it became very apparent that it did not matter if my husband attended this workshop–he would have been met with steps and unable to view the proposed train station display (see inset photo). 

During the workshop I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with the professionals on the project and ask questions regarding the design of the building, with the hope that  they will think beyond the minimum guidelines of accessible design and design to meet the needs of all users of this new station.  It was easy enough to provide them with an example, as the steps that would have been a barrier to my husband’s entrance were only a few feet away.  Please note: I was informed that next to the steps there were cones in place to alert persons of the steep drop-off on the other side, but also that a lift would be placed there to allow those persons who cannot manage steps to still be able to access the space.  My question:  but why does it have to be a retrofit?  Why was this not thought of in the beginning of the design?  Thus my reason for being at the train station workshop to begin with—-the station is in the design phase—this is the perfect time to ensure that certain features are considered before anything is built so that another retrofit does not have to occur!  Not only is the retrofit costly, it does not look nearly as seamless or aesthetically pleasing.  Sure, you can add a lift next to the steps in the municipal building and it will provide access to the room, but does that mean that when a person needs to use the lift they need to locate the person who is responsible for the key to operate the lift?  What if you can’t find that person? Or that key? That does not lead to independence, AND it still is separate, but equal.  A retrofit is just that; a retrofit.  Sometimes it is difficult to retrofit a space using universal design principles and you need to use accessible design to fix what was not considered in the first place.  BUT, when you have an opportunity to start from scratch………a universal design approach should be considered.  


This situation certainly did not need me as the universal design cheerleader; the room supported the need for universal design by virtue of the many common needs of the local residents and council members that attended the meeting.  This included persons along a wide spectrum of ages and ability levels including persons who arrived with their bicycles, persons who ambulate without assistive devices along with those who walked slowly, used canes, and even one resident who used a platform walker–this resident ended up having to sit separate from the rest of the group due to the barrier (steps) to access the main seating area.  Oh the irony……
Penny for your thoughts????

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Gerontechnology versus Multigenerational Technology Universal Design and Health

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. madge  |  July 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    A lift? Hmmmm. What if the power goes out? Is there a backup battery? What if the battery is not working? Did anyone say someone could carry a wheelchair user up those three steps and down again? The liability involved in doing that—should anyone be injured—- could cost the city way more than building it right in the first place or doing a lift-free retrofit. I can’t believe that the only railing in sight is on one side of the steps, not on both sides and not around that drop off. And it looks like a lousy railing for gripping.

  • 2. Scott  |  July 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Preach it! Yeah, I hear you loud and clear on this. I think it’s time for designers to get the idea of social sustainability stuck in their heads.


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