As we celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I was thinking about the great work our team does to foster a culture of diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging both within our firm and with the people we serve. One great example of putting people first is our work with the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport (BRD). Here, our thoughtful and innovative use of tactile floor plans brings projects to life for their Airport Commission Chairperson, Jeff Czeczok, who is blind.
Rachel Usher, Mead & Hunt’s lead Project Architect for the new Snow Removal Equipment and Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting facility at BRD, tapped into the services of Robert Feyereisen at Humble Hound Models. Bob is an architect and a model builder with experience building tactile models for the visually impaired. The result was a multidimensional communication tool that made this complex design easy to understand for Commissioner Czeczok and the rest of the team. A dense chipboard was laser-cut to form walls, a thin, glossy cardstock was used for fixture and furniture, and sandpaper was used to indicate paths and direction of equipment circulation. Additional tactile symbols were used to indicate site orientation and proximity. This work followed a previous project for BRD where Mitch Walker, Project Designer with Mead & Hunt, 3-D printed the floorplan for the Arrivals/Departures Building.
According to Commissioner Czeczok,
“As a blind Airport Commission member, having the responsibility of approving physical structures has been made far easier and has provided me a comfort level by Mead & Hunt, primarily due in part by Mead & Hunt producing detailed tactile displays of the projects Mead & Hunt has worked on for the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission over the past several years. Their tactile maps have proven invaluable, and I am very grateful for their expertise and consideration as it pertains to assisting me through the design process.”
As designers of the built environment, we know that accessibility and the principles of universal design are imperative to the success of the spaces we produce. Our work with BRD is a beautiful reminder that equal access includes everything we do throughout our process: our communications, our actions, and our deliverables. As ambassadors of our people-first values, our commitment to fostering diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging calls us to act for people with disabilities. We do this by authentically meeting people where they are, bringing our whole selves to each interaction, and being open to new ways of doing things to bring us all just a little closer.