2 bicyclists on country road

Recreation, Sport & Tourism

Planning and Designing Facilities for Inclusion

On November 5th, 2020, as part of the Sapora Symposium, a panel of architects and designers met to discuss the process of designing facilities for people of all abilities. You can play the recording below.

Click here to see the full transcript.

NATASHA FERRERO: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the 2020 Sapora Symposium. My name is Natasha Ferrero, and I'm a senior in the recreation sport and tourism department with a concentration in sports management. I'm really excited to hear from our panelists tonight as they speak about inclusive design.

I have been involved with Special Olympics and other disability-centered recreation and sport programs throughout most of my life-- shout out to my brother, Mason. So I have seen the need for inclusive design firsthand, as well as experiencing the benefits of inclusive design here at the University of Illinois.

I'm also honored to introduce Robin Deterding. Robin is an instructor here at the University of Illinois. Many of you may have had her in 340, 460, or 465. And if you have had the privilege of working with Robin, I'm sure you'd agree with me that she is some of the best that U of I has to offer.

Robin also has an extensive background in campus recreation, where she was involved with inclusive design as it is implemented in many of our campus recreation facilities. So without further ado, I'm going to go ahead and hand it off to Robin. I hope everyone enjoys tonight, and go Illini.

ROBIN DETERDING: Thank you, Natasha. Good evening and welcome, everybody, to the Sapora Symposium, where tonight we'll focus on planning and designing facilities for inclusion. Before I introduce the panel, I'd like to share that I will be monitoring the Q&A for questions.

So please go ahead and put them there. If they seem pertinent to the speaker, we may take some questions in between speakers. If not, we'll wait until the panel concludes, in case your question might be answered by one of the speakers. But please go ahead and put questions in as you have them.

I'm so excited and thankful for the three panelists we have this evening. We're going to be talking about designing and planning for inclusion in our facilities. And before you can even get to the design and construction phase, you have to spend time with your stakeholders.

They could be students with fees. They could be taxpayers. They could be those administrators who you have to make sure support your project. So that's where we'll start with our first presenter, who is Kim Martin. I'll tell you a little bit about her. She is the director with Brailsford & Dunlavey, where she leads the Midwest cluster, including the Chicago office for the firm.

She joined the Washington DC office of Brailsford & Dunlavey in 2000. And in 2011, she assisted in the opening of B&D's office in Ohio where she is currently located. During her tenure, she has led over 100 advisory projects across the country, including the University of Illinois ARC and CRCE renovation and expansion project and also the university housing master plan.

Her focus is on market and financial analysis for quality of life facilities. Her professional background is in facility management and student affairs. And prior to joining B&D, she worked for the University of Minnesota, which was where I first met Kim.

Our second presenter is Tom Salzer. Tom is a 1991 graduate of Ball State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Architecture and Environmental Sciences, with an emphasis on design for those with disabilities. Tom founded Bona Vita Architecture in 2014 and serves as its president.

His nearly three-decade design career has included work in cancer treatment design, inpatient hospital design, and recreational facility design. Recent notable projects include the Jackson R. Lehman YMCA, the Kokomo Family YMCA, the Miami County YMCA, the Goshen Health patient pavilion, and the world headquarters for Do it Best Corporation.

Tom currently serves on the board of directors for the Greater Fort Wayne YMCA, Ronald McDonald House of Northeast Indiana, the YWCA of Northeast Indiana, and Heartland Sings. Tom is married to Laura and has three beautiful children-- William, Hope, and Grace.

And our third presenter works for Aquatic Design, and his name is Justin Caron. He's worked on over 400 projects with municipalities, park and recreation districts, colleges, high schools, hotels, resorts, and water parks, as they studied, planned, programmed, designed, and constructed new or renovated aquatic centers.

He has been particularly active in assisting clients with feasibility, needs assessment, and master planning studies, especially in the early stages of their projects, so that they would have proper size, program, and a plan for a facility that is fiscally responsible. Justin has been a project manager for over 300 completed aquatic facilities in 39 states around the country and seven countries around the world.

Justin is also a recognized leader in the aquatics industry in regards to helping aquatic facilities be more inclusive and welcoming to anyone who wants to use them. I am so thankful to have these three. And I am so excited to hear what they have to share with us tonight. I'm going to turn it over to Kim to get us started. Thank you.

KIM MARTIN: Thanks, Robin. Let's share my screen here. Robin, can I get a thumbs up if you can see my screen? Awesome.

Thanks, everyone. It's an honor to be here tonight to join your Sapora Symposium today. Exciting that you're able to have this really relevant topic and focus during these times. But what I'm going to initiate is really at the beginning of a project, all the things you should be thinking of before really you get to design. And so just a pun on words, but really just laying that groundwork for a slam dunk project.

And so as Robin mentioned, she's asked me to talk about, really, how do you get all your key stakeholders together. And I'll do a little bit of an introduction about our experience and my involvement in this area. And then I want to focus on two different pieces of it-- leadership alignment and then participant engagement.

Two very different, but also critically important, stakeholders along any type of project. And then we'll make a segue right into planning and implementation.

Brailsford & Dunlavey, or we like to call ourselves B&D, the reason why Robin asked me to talk to you guys today is we have planned over 250 recreational and sports projects throughout the areas of college and university-- she mentioned the University of Illinois projects, which, obviously, are personal favorite of mine-- projects at K-12 schools, government and municipalities, and sports and venues.

And our goal is to make our owners the strongest throughout a development project. And that's really knowing your target markets and your leadership goals, so that you can get a project funded, approved, and built.

So these are just three goals that we like to think of at the outset of projects. So typically, this is really before you hire an architect and start to draw plans and pick out a site and shovel-ready a project. The first thing is getting the asset right. And that's really defining your overall parameters of what your project's going to be.

Second, is how are you going to fund it? So the capital, the one time-- how many dollars, $5 million, $10 million, $30 million projects-- how are you going to fund it, finance it? Are there going to be donors involved, participant fees?

And then thirdly, once the project actually becomes live, how are you going to operate it so that the asset is beneficial for the organization? And so those are the three things we talk about and think of early on, really, before you get to design.

So this is the exciting part. And Tom and Justin are going to talk a lot about how we get to the physical pieces of the building, how are you going to approach concept design, and progress through design phase into construction, all the things you need to consider for your constituents.

But before you get here to building plans and actual construction materials, you have to define a successful project. And we think it all begins in, really, setting strategic and realistic objectives. And part of that is looking at your asset as a strategic asset for your organization. And that involves really at the highest point of leadership involvement about what it would take to move the organization to move forward, whether it's a university or a municipality.

I'll talk a little bit about that more on the next slide. And then we move into more definitive initiatives that you want to test. And that really creates broad project concepts that you then develop the plans for in your architectural and design plans. And then they progress to projects and programs that you then fund and put into reality.

So really, the whole point from a leadership, whether you are a university president or on the cabinet of the University Illinois or a board of trustees member-- Or on the flip side, maybe a mayor or a city council or special projects committee for a non-profit, a Y, or another organization.

There are intrinsic reasons why you want to initiate a project and dedicate funds to it and really recruit stakeholders and get a common vision. And that is, you're at a common starting point, and your needs are taking you to a new level. So that's your targeted new reality.

And so, really, from the outset of any project, you need to understand from a leadership perspective what that targeted new reality is and what is that trajectory. And so just an example, you can apply this box that I've got here to any organization. And this really empowers you to have that leadership-level discussion.

For the mission and purpose-- I'm just making this a university example. But what difference must the university make in the world for whom? And on the right side, the targeted new reality, so identifying for the organization as a whole, what are the overall outcomes and capacities of attributes that the university must achieve to support the mission and purpose?

And then on the left side, what is the reason? Is there a competitive reason? Is it to reinforce mission and purpose? Or are there evolving market forces, such as demographic changes, changes in economic realities, or just overall trajectory of mission and purpose?

And then on the bottom is that strategic asset value. So that's that rec or sports project, and how does that fit into alignment with the overall goals of the organization. And that's typically how we approach anything, before we get to how many gym spaces do we need? How many lockers are we going to put? Are we going to sell membership fees or is it going to be open access for the community? Really, how does this align with the goals and objectives of the organization?

That's where we start. And then next, we get into really true engagement of what people probably typically think of as stakeholders. And that might be your user groups, non-profits, if your university students, communities, potential members and rental groups, other organizations that you might partner with.

And what we typically do to shape a project is we start with focus groups. And I'm going to get into a little more detail about interviews in a moment. We also combine that with intercept interviews that then lead to testing in a data methodology approach through surveys and understanding your demand for your product, which, in this case, is a facility, and programs and services.

And then you then refine that concept and move on to approvals phase that they can lead you to funding of a project and that construction and design phase.

So starting with the engagement on the interview level, focus groups and intercept interviews. The goal here is qualitative. So it doesn't matter how many people you're going to interview, you're typically going to sit around the room, or area or outside or on a Zoom meeting, in a general perspective and just try to understand major trends and issues with the groups.

So whether these are organizations that space constraints or users, but the buildings and the programs just are not meeting their needs. But the goal here is develop themes and qualitative information you're collecting that then you can test in a reliable survey format.

It is important, though, that these groups are representative of the population, so that you can really understand if there's any underlying issues that maybe the leadership are not aware of. So for example, on a college campus you want to make sure you include all groups that are potential, all different class levels, on-campus, off-campus students.

For example, in a community you want to include all different age levels, people with families, and people that are single, and just all of the demographics. That's important so that you can then broach those issues and move them forward. On more of a technical perspective, the numbers in the groups, typically you'll have someone lead it. So B&D, we actually lead our own focus groups.

And it's probably good to have the groups less than 20. You want to invite a few more and take reservations. We typically offer a little carrot by offering free food-- that always gets people to show up-- and a time that works for people, whether it's at dinner time or at lunch time or a weekend time. It's always good to have personal invitations. So have someone that's connected to the user groups and that checks in with them and sends them an RSVP.

The next phase here that I've mentioned are the surveys. And that really sets you up for collecting data that is usable for projections, whether it's for business plan or the actual design of the facility and the demand for the spaces themselves. So it's an excellent opportunity and platform for testing activity preferences and really demand patterns.

Surveys can be done in a number of ways. We typically do them online these days, but you still can do phone surveys or even written surveys. These are just slightly more cumbersome to actually crank the data out. The goal here is to have a reliable sample. And typically, in the survey world, plus or minus 5% margin of error using a 95% confidence level is typically accepted.

In order to get that you typically need at least 500 or more respondents. And so surveys, online surveys these days, you typically get 10% to 20%. So you want to at least invite 5,000 people to participate as an initial sample in your survey.

This is just an example of things that we typically test, different rec components. So what are the most critical spaces and what are the least critical spaces? That allows you to start to build out your program of your building.

And I always recommend to go back to your user groups and your stakeholders after you have initial concepts, and just to check in. Perhaps, sometimes targeted issues come up that you want to test again. And it really helps you prioritize because at the end of the day, sometimes you need to phase and revisit based on funding or other space constraint issues.

And really, at the end of the day it helps you itemize concepts. And you can say, hey, we've got three scenarios, for example, three concepts. What is the one that most aligns with your user preferences? And a final thing here about stakeholder input, because it is very relevant to the world that you guys live in, whether you're on a campus or you're going to work in a municipality.

Referendums sometimes come into play. I pulled out the referendum that was passed for the ARC and CRCE projects, back in 2001. 75% of the University of Illinois students voted to add additional student fees to support the projects. But these really should be not a discovery process and really should be stakeholder-led. But there's a lot more about getting out the vote, but you want to make sure that you're mitigating risks along the way.

And that's just about all I have to say about getting your stakeholders together that then can lead to a really exciting time, implementation, ribbon cutting, and grand opening. I'm going to stop sharing and check in with Robin--

ROBIN DETERDING: Thank you, Kim.

KIM MARTIN: --before we kick it over to Tom.

ROBIN DETERDING: Yep. We don't have any questions. So I'm going to let Tom get set up. And I will note that that 75% student vote was, and still stands, as the highest number of votes the campus has ever had during any of their referendums. So yes. So Kim and B&D did an excellent job at selling the ARC and CRCE renovation construction and getting that message out and getting the student vote out. So thank you, Kim.

KIM MARTIN: I think that's an excellent point, but we also had a very strong student referendum committee--


KIM MARTIN: -- that was taking the part. And we propped them up, the staff, the leadership at Illinois, and us as a private group who have seen this done on hundreds of campuses. But the students were leading it because, really, they needed to be on the inside of not a discovery process, but what the support level and what the questions are about itself.

ROBIN DETERDING: Yes. And we also took those student groups all over the country to see what the possibilities were. We went to A&M. We went to James Madison. We went all over and showed them what they could have so that they could come back and share it with the students. So, OK. Tom are you ready?

TOM SALZER: I am ready.

ROBIN DETERDING: OK. You were born ready.

TOM SALZER: Heck yeah! Let's get going.

ROBIN DETERDING: I'll let you know when your screen is sharing.

TOM SALZER: All right. I should be screen sharing.

ROBIN DETERDING: Yup. You're good to go.

TOM SALZER: All right. Well, Kim did an excellent job explaining that whole feasibility, analysis, and pre-design function. And often, we are engaged right at the end of that. And so some of what I'm going to talk about is a little bit of overlap as we go out into the marketplace and meet with potential donors and what we learn from those meetings.

As I said, Tom Salzer, Bona Vita Architecture. Bona vita means the good life. We chose that name because that's what we wanted for ourselves, and that's what we wanted for the communities that we serve and the people that experience the spaces that we design. There's nothing better than creating happiness in a community.

And so that's really what we try to do day in and day out. We're an architectural firm in Indiana. We do health and wellness architecture-- southern Michigan, Ohio, all the way down to southern Indiana-- hospitals, recreation facilities, and anything that overlaps between the two.

And here are just some brief examples of some of the things that we've done recently. YMCAs, I think we mentioned in the bio, the Do it Best world headquarters, cancer treatment facilities. This is actually a new type of project that's taken off almost everywhere, these pop-up cafes. Everybody seems to want these, and we've done six of these recently.

But really what we do day in and day out is recreational design. And I would love to say that our path to inclusive design was well thought out and strategic, and we thought about it and decided as a group that's what we wanted to do. But that would not be true.

What really happened was, as the feasibility analysis component for the new Jackson R. Lehman YMCA was finishing and they determined they were going to build a new facility, and we were going out in the community trying to find donors and people to support the project, we were quickly met with some aggressive no thank you's.

And one of those was a very dear friend of mine. We're still dear friends. This story has a happy ending. I'm actually designing she and her husband's house right now. But her comment to me was, I will never support the YMCA. My sister is married to her wife. They have two adopted children. They have their mother-in-law living with them, and they were told they don't qualify for a family membership. That's not how the Y currently defines family. And they found that very offensive.

And so I Googled stereotypical American family, and that's apparently how the Greater Fort Wayne YMCA was identifying it. And as I brought this forward to the Board, the fact that we were denied the donation, we heard from other board members they were experiencing the same kind of thing in the community, that our family policies were not meant to be restricted. Frankly, they just weren't examined.

We took the work for granted. And we had to go through a process where we allowed people to tell us what their family was. People now can identify their own family. Nobody is circumventing the rules. It all seems to be working out great. So that was one component that struck us that we're not doing a good job engaging people.

The other one was a very similar kind of meeting. We met with the AWS Foundation. AWS is Anthony Wayne Services. And they're a large organization that helps people with developmental disabilities. They do education. They do job training. They do facility funding.

And same kind of conversation-- would you like to be a part of the new JRL YMCA? And they said, no, you don't do enough for the people in our community. You don't understand the needs of the people in our community. And so we don't feel the need to fund you.

Luckily for us, their CEO, wonderful lady, Patti Hays, said, what we will do is we will fund a program writer-- someone to come in and create programming-- for the YMCA, so they can learn about the things that our community needs. And so the AWS Foundation funded that for two years.

We were able to work with the individual to tweak some of the programs that we were currently offering and put new programs in place and really have great conversations about how a facility would respond to people with developmental disorders and challenges. And so this became a broader conversation. And we realized there was a whole segment of our community that we were not serving very well. And that was not a reasonable outcome.

It became a question of dignity. And the question was very simple-- what would we want for ourselves and those that we love? It wasn't about the ADA. All architects know where to put the grab bar. And we think we're doing an amazing job when we get the code right. It's really about creating spaces that everybody feels very, very comfortable using.

One of the things that we instituted in our design process was the idea of a cardboard city. So we like to build with our owners' help, with our users' help, everything for facility life-size out of cardboard. And this quick video is we're trying to capture the breadth of one of these projects.

This allows us to bring people from the community in and get their feedback because we don't know what we don't know. And we don't know what the struggles are that some people are having with the facilities that we design. We allow the owners and the different staff members to present the designs that we've created. And in the middle of the night, we make any changes that are left on the comment.

We have a Likes and a Please Consider comments at different junctures during the tours. And the people are allowed, or encouraged, to give us feedback. And then we work like elves in the middle of the night and move the walls around and change the heights of things and try to make it so that it meets everyone's needs.

The reason that you see chalk on all of it is, oftentimes the notes and some of the things we draw are incorrect, and so this allows us to take a wet rag and wipe it all off and start again and make some changes. So this is something that's been very, very helpful in getting the community involved in what we're doing and getting their feedback.

So what did we do with all of this? Well, we did build the YMCA. We built the Jackson Lehman YMCA, very nice, mid-century, modern design. It's got all of the typical features that you would see in a YMCA. It's got a wellness center. It's got group exercise rooms. It's got places for kids to play. There's some nice lounge spaces just like you'd see in the YMCA.

But it does have a few interesting items. The wellness center is universally designed. It has adaptable equipment so that people can come up and move the seating out of the way. And in whatever device they're in, whether it be a motorized device or a wheelchair, they can still use much of the equipment.

We also installed harnesses. Some are fixed. Some are completely mobile. There's one giant one that can go over the top of treadmills. And this allows people that have weight-bearing issues-- maybe it's from a surgery, maybe it's something they were born with-- to participate with everything inside the facility.

And those seem very popular. Actually, these images are from the internet. I went out to JRL to get pictures for this presentation and people were using the equipment, and they were not wild about me taking pictures of them. So I had to get some stuff from Google. Thank you, Google.

These rooms-- this little glass room is something that came out of our cardboard city. These are called Welcome Rooms. Oftentimes, new members, new visitors to the Y, have conversations that they want to have with Y staff in private. It might be about where they are in their fitness journey. It might be a financial conversation. It might be some issue that they're having or that they would like help dealing with.

And we don't want to have that at the front desk, and we don't want to make anyone feel ostracized having those conversations. So these little glass rooms, all new members go through these. And if you don't have anything to talk about, awesome. But if you do, you could do it in a dignified way.

We changed what we would normally do in a chapel. It doesn't look like a chapel anymore. It's a quiet space for people to have a conversation, maybe reflect, maybe be alone with their thoughts. Non-denominational-- we don't want anyone to feel excluded.

This is a picture of a bench. One of the things that came from the cardboard city, a mother came to me and said, my son is 18. He weighs 250 pounds. I have to help him get into his swimming suit. How do you suggest I do that on one of your little Koala fold-down diaper changing stations?

And I thought that was an excellent point. That seemed nearly impossible. So this was our first attempt at designing something that would be appropriate for that kind of use. In later designs, we've actually incorporated an electric bench that goes up and down, so it adjusts to the user's height and makes it much easier to transfer from a chair or other device onto the bench. This was an early attempt to meet that need.

I hope you can see this OK. This is our running, walking track on the second floor of the YMCA. And you'll see the little dashed lines as they go around the corner. We found some research that told us that people with Parkinson's often get stuck, if you will, while they're walking.

The tremors build, and they can't keep going. And if they see a repetitive dashed line like this, it will keep them from having that hesitation, and they can get out and make complete laps. And so we decided to give that a try. It seems to be working great. It really does make a big difference.

I know we're going to talk about pools more later, so I won't go into the pool design. But one thing that I'll say about our natatorium is, we were told in no uncertain terms by the folks at the AWS foundation that people on the autism spectrum really struggle with echoes and acoustics in general. It can be a distraction. It can be quite overwhelming.

And so we brought in an acoustical engineer to help us with pool environment, calculate the reverberation times of the sound in the space, so that we could adjust it down to something that was very appropriate. We also installed LED lighting in the pool, so we can dim the overall natatorium lights, create a color beneath the water's surface, trying to put people at ease.

And this is our sensory room at the Y. There wasn't much architecture here. We just built a room. The people that provide the equipment did the layout, and they selected the equipment for us. This room is open to anyone in the community, not just YMCA members.

So if a family is having a rough day, and they want to come in and use the room for half an hour to help them relax and get back to a level playing field, they're more than welcome to do that.

So now that we've done that, what's the next level of design? What are we wrestling with? Well, there's a couple of things. The idea of privacy and/or versus supervision as we create more and more private spaces for people to have dignity when they change their clothes or get ready to participate in a sport.

How do we supervise those spaces so everyone is safe? And so we're wrestling with new concepts of laying out private locker rooms and private changing rooms, so that both of those needs can be addressed. If anybody has a good idea, please send it to me. I will be happy to take credit for it.

Creating a welcoming environment. On Kim's slide, she had sort of a needs assessment of all the different spaces. And you'll see that lounges were kind of towards the bottom. We're forcing things like lounges towards the top. We know that the community doesn't often say, oh, we need a lounge more than we need anything. They want gym space, and they want workout space.

But we're seeing that if people have a place to decompress and have a conversation, they build bonds. They become more accountable to one another. They stay with their classes. They show up at the same time. They create a group of friends. They share ideas. It's just good for the community at large to have those kinds of spaces where people can get together.

Integration of service animals. This is something that we're seeing more of and, frankly, buildings just always said, well, leave the animals outside and people will go inside. And that's not what we're going to do anymore. And so how do we help with that?

And then finally, inclusion equals the bottom line. We have several clients that are financially driven. And that's fine if someone wants to be fiscally responsible. What we tell people is, why would we want to alienate 10% to 15% of our potential members? Let's do the kinds of things that for-profit gym and swims can't do. Let's have everyone patronize our facility and feel comfortable there.

So we really think inclusion can be sold to anyone-- the people that want to do it because they want to do it and the people that will want to do it because it'll help make them successful.

So with that, my time is done, and I will stop sharing.

ROBIN DETERDING: And we did have a question. Back on one of the slides-- and I saw it too-- it said universal locker room.


ROBIN DETERDING: What is that? That was the question.

TOM SALZER: That's a great question. And that is something that sort of is modified on each project. So we started out with separate, what we called, family locker rooms. And the initial idea was a mom has a son and where can she go to help him change clothes. And so this would be a private room that would have a shower, a sink, a toilet, and some locker facilities in it.

Those have really morphed. What we found is no one is particularly excited about a gang shower or a gang locker room. It's something that everyone tolerated because that was the only choice. No one really wants to go in them. People would much prefer to have a space to themselves for a few minutes to get ready to do what they want to do. They feel safer, and they feel much more comfortable.

So the idea of a universal locker room is a small area-- probably the size of a dining room, by the time it's all said and done-- that has toilet facilities, sink facilities, has mirror facilities. It has the locker rooms in it. It has benches. And it's all set up so you can go in one person or four people.

We know a lot of moms that have a lot of little kids, and before swim lessons they can hurdle them all into this little space, lock the door, kids can't get away, and keep an eye on them. So that's really what we're talking about when we say universal locker room.

ROBIN DETERDING: OK, thank you. And on our campus they're all gender.


ROBIN DETERDING: Yes, and that's a conversation that I've had with others-- what is it that you call it, because there's no definite term on any campus or wherever. So--

TOM SALZER: Yeah, I agree. And I do think the naming of them is getting better.


TOM SALZER: I think, initially, they were named poorly, and I will say that on behalf of all my clients, I don't think they were done that way intentionally. I think it was like, oh, that makes sense, and then we glue the sign up, and we offend 10% of the people. And we said, oh, we did that wrong. And we take the signs down, and we figured it out. So I do think there's been an evolution of that naming convention.

ROBIN DETERDING: Yes, I agree. Thank you, Tom. That was great. That was great. Justin, are you ready to--

JUSTIN CARON: Yes, ma'am.

ROBIN DETERDING: We'll get you on and share. And then I will tell you when your PowerPoint is up and--

JUSTIN CARON: How are we looking?

ROBIN DETERDING: Yep, you're good. You're good to go.

JUSTIN CARON: OK. Well, thanks so much, Robin. It's always fun following talented professionals like Kim and Tom. As was mentioned earlier, I work for an aquatic design and architecture firm. So all we do is aquatics-- swimming pools and therapy pools and just really spaces where people can come together.

One of the great things about aquatics is it brings people together. It's inclusive by nature. We don't have individual swimming pools. We have swimming pools that are designed for between a minimum of two people and probably a maximum of several thousand. And so this topic has been very near and dear to my heart from when I first started with aquatic design way back in 2005.

A couple of learning objectives today, I want to talk about some things geared towards facilities that are inclusive in terms of emotional, cognitive, and physical elements. And then at the end, we'll talk about other special interest groups. And I don't like the term special interest group. So maybe just other users is a better term there that we'll talk about.

So ADA, when it came to fruition and started to become very prominent, it was all about inclusion. Unfortunately, when things were codified, that inclusion started with a bar and everyone just had to meet that bar. And I think in some ways that held back facilities from gaining, what Kim and Tom talked about, that universal access, the universal accessibility.

And so now, especially on college campuses, but also in community centers, military facilities, high schools-- and this is becoming more and more inclusive across the board. We're looking at gender identity, looking at ethnicities, religions, age, and ability in addition to some of those just physical limitations where ADA used to start.

We were very optimistic about four years ago, that ADA was going to include some of those gender and identity issues as a part of that protective space. Hopefully, we can get back on track and that'll happen again. I think that'll be excellent for the entire industry.

A couple just quick graphics up here. Talking about recreation and wellness centers-- used to be recreation centers. So where you went and you were active, and you competed, or you, at least, worked out. Now we're really focused on that wellness subset angle of things.

And so in some cases, wellness is leading the cart, where in the past, it would always be recreation with maybe a little bit of wellness thing. Now wellness is actively pulling spaces away that used to be those active recreation spaces, and creating places where people can feel comfortable.

Several things Tom talked about, the spiritual and emotional elements where people can just get centered and recent have safe social zones and really those safe spaces. And that's becoming more and more important. And it's somewhat counter-intuitive when you talk about trying to do that with aquatics.

I thought the point Tom made was terrific in terms of sound attenuation and in many ways really to connect to people and help them to feel comfortable in the space. We'll talk about that in a little bit as well.

The most important thing, no matter how we design something-- and we reiterate this on every project-- is we have to train our staff. It doesn't matter how great the facility is, how many spaces we create. We have to train our staff. This is just part of that process. You don't mention disabilities.

We don't say, hey, we have someone at the front who needs a wheelchair. No, you say, Pat needs assistance. Pat needs something. Also we don't try to label people. We avoid segregatory and grouping language. And that's very important these days with pronouns and getting those right to help people feel not included and welcomed and not trying to, even if intentionally, ostracize certain groups or individuals.

So this a thing we go through when we're working, especially, with student groups. And I love student rec projects because it gives us a chance to work directly with students and to enfranchise them. This is a legacy that they're going to be able to pass down and show their kids many years down the road. Hey, I worked on this project. I took part of it.

And so when we talk about disability, what image comes to mind? Is it hearing? Is it vision, cognitive, emotional, mobility, whatever that may be? And then we start to help them understand how these spaces need to react and be set up for inclusion.

Looking at US population projections, just real quick. Obviously, we're getting more and more people, and we're living longer and longer. And that helps inform how we design these spaces as the active senior citizens become more and more-- and senior citizens is one of those terms I don't really love. But it's still, kind of, considered the proper term. But looking at those spaces and looking at those groups and how we need to design spaces to accommodate everyone.

When we're talking about disabilities, roughly 20% of adults have some form of disability. And that translates to around 66 million individuals over the age of 18 here in the United States of America. 2.7 million, age 15 or older, use a wheelchair. 9.1 million have some other form of ambulatory aid. And this is a large population. And we really need to design things, again, universally for everyone.

And the universal design, very simply, is an approach to creating environments and products that are usable by all people to the greatest extent possible. We don't have to provide assistance. This is something they can use on their own without needing anyone else.

And there's another difference with designs that comply. As I talked about earlier today, that minimum bar where ADA really set it, to what we all strive for now as that universal design.

Principles of universal design-- equitable use, flexible use, simple and intuitive use, low physical effort, low mental effort to be able to use these spaces. Those automatic doors is a great example of that. No matter who you are, whatever your situation may be, those doors open for you as soon as there's movement.

Don't need to spend a whole lot of time on ADA. I think just one important point here. ADA requires that newly constructed and altered places of accommodation be accessible.

Another key thing here, when talking about aquatics, is certain amenities are exempt from ADA-- so things like climbing walls and diving boards and platforms and water slides. We're working on what hopes to be the world's first universal water park in Orlando right now. It's a project called Stirring Waters. And we have water slides and tubes where basically anyone-- no matter if they're para, a quad, whatever, a burn victim-- can go in, can use those facilities to the greatest extent possible, just like anyone else could.

And that's a very passion project of ours, and we're really excited to be a part of it. And that's to get around that, again, minimum bar and to provide something that's truly accessible.

There's a difference between Title II and Title III facilities. Not that important to this topic, but there are some facilities, like HOAs, that don't have to comply with ADA. They do have to, if a member of the community wants to do something and brings it up, but it's not something that has to be planted in most locations.

There's no grandfathering for aquatics. So if you have a pool, you have to be ADA compliant.

Two means of access for larger pools. One means of access for smaller pools. There's basically two means of primary access-- sloped entries and lifts, and that has to be provided at every single body of water, with the exception of a spa that has somewhat different regulations.

This is an example of another exercise we go through when we're programming things-- going through the different means of access and helping people understand how these are actually used. So if you're in a wheelchair, you have to transfer from your device into a facility-provided device and then into that lift, versus being able to just go from your device to a facility-provided device and then use the elevator to go in. So it saves a step.

And so looking at that versus things that aren't compliant.

Same kind of deal with sloped entries. There's a lot of minutia here that we don't really need to get into. Long story short, sloped entries have to have a double handrail, unless they're 1 in 20, which is about a 2% slope. Things without that double handrail, even a 1 in 12, which is the standard of about an 8% slope, have to have the dual handrails. Again, so if they don't, they're not compliant.

If you ever really want experience how that relates in able-bodied people, I've seen Marines-- big, strong Marines-- sit in a wheelchair and try to get out of a pool. The buoyancy and the resistance of the water makes it a fairly comical experience and very humbling, so really to help people understand what other people have to deal with in their everyday life.

Dual handrails, again, are required for stairs. So single handrails, like these shown, are not ADA compliant.

Transfer tiers are secondary means of access on everything but a spa, where they can be a primary means of access because it's hard to get an accessible lift over that bench. One thing to consider here, dips are hard. It's hard to do dip. It's harder to do a dip when you don't have any control over your lower extremities. And so we always do a secondary or a raised bench inside the spa to help add access.

Non-compliant there because there's no handrails.

There are transfer systems. Frankly, they don't really work well in pools. Here's some attempts to do that, and it just doesn't really work as well. But it's a nice tertiary means for people to be able to gain access.

As I mentioned earlier, spas do allow for those accessible lifts. Another thing we talk about during programming a lot-- and this is something, I'm sure, that Kim and Tom talked about as well-- is we really want to provide equipment for patrons, so things to allow them to use the equipment.

A great example, when I first moved out to Carlsbad, I moved in with an individual I swam with in college who was recently paralyzed. And to try to get both of us back in better shape in the water, we went to the local pool. I pushed him right into the water in his chair, and I spent the next three days drying it out with a hairdryer because I had no idea that it would take on that much water. And so that's something that, again, facility should provide so that people can care and take care of their own very expensive equipment.

Other patrons. Switching gears now. Some other key groups-- obese, people with mental and emotional challenges, and vision and hearing impaired.

On the obese, 30.6% of Americans-- now, that translates to-- It's a huge number we're talking about. And it's a group that, really, can excel in water. The buoyancy effect of water reduces your weight by about 2/3. And so to be able to do that, a 300-pound individual on land is a 200-pound individual in water. And it's really a great way to improve your circulation, your cardiovascular strength, and also to get back in shape.

I love this image. I think it's one that just shows how the water can just make anyone Superman.

Water therapy is a huge, growing segment of our industry. Again, lots of benefits with water. And when we're talking about designs, we need to incorporate ways for the instructors to interact safely with everyone in the water, even more important here in COVID days where, in many cases, they're not allowed within a certain distance.

Learn to swim classes. This is another passion of mine. USA Swimming did a study a few years ago. And basically, 31% of whites can't swim, 58% of African-Americans, 56% of Hispanics, and 40% of Asians. So there's a huge difference there between different backgrounds and demographics.

What it translates to is drowning deaths in African-Americans are, across the age group, 5.5% higher. But in the key demographic where we're drownings occur most, at 10 to 12, is 10 times higher. So designing spaces that are welcoming to all members of your community, and that's siting, that's location, that's staffing. All those things really factor in and really can create a very impactful opportunity across all campuses.

We're doing a facility right now at Compton College, and we actually just had a kickoff meeting this afternoon. And one of the things that came up was talking about another group here, the homeless. There's a lot of homeless students at the community college. And to provide showers for those people, to provide a quality of life and a dignity of life that they can use is something, again, that we're seeing more and more here in design.

Emotional disorders. Sensory calming of waters is very powerful and effective. I think Tom covered that a little bit earlier. But designing spaces that can be, again, very comforting and very reassuring for no matter what your level of comfort may be.

There's a lot of devices out there for vision and hearing impaired, including lights. Another thing we can see on pool decks is different textures, so that people can tell when they're getting close to the water, and then these guides, so people can hold onto things as they walk to and from the locker room.

We're seeing a lot of the sign language, ASL, being used on these video boards that are becoming more and more affordable. I think it's a great way to integrate that into your facility.

Again, competitive devices that have those same capabilities.

Service animals was touched on earlier. Service animals are not allowed in pools by every single health code in the country, but they are mandated to be allowed on the deck. So providing a safe space where that animal can sit and watch and communicate with, basically, their owner, friend, family member is very important.

And this was a picture I took on a Southwest Airlines flight where there was a comfort pony sitting next to me. Very, very well-trained animal, but there are lots of other things out there that we really do need to accommodate.

Transgendered persons. The actual population, of course, very hard to quantify. Again, this is something that we see as the next great civil rights struggle and something that's, I think, making great progress to be more inclusive.

What that relates to is very similar to single gender use. So the Muslim population-- here's a picture of those burkinis that are becoming more and more popular and, I'm proud to say, are not prohibited in any jurisdiction here in the States, although some overseas areas have prohibited them.

And also strong requests, primarily among females and transgendered persons, for single sex, single gender, single group atmospheres. And that gets complicated with pools because pools are, quote unquote, "sexy." And we want to design the rec spaces to look down into them. We really want to design, as you can see in the picture on the left, ways to block those views so that people can recreate there safely and comfortably.

Finally, I love this image. This is one of Dave's-- my roommate, Dave Denniston. He was the head coach at the Paralympic team. And this is one of his athletes, amazing athlete, Jessica Long, climbing a rope above a pool while everyone watched. And really just to me, it speaks to the need to just really be compliant and step, leap, jump way over that bar. And that's all, Robin.

ROBIN DETERDING: So a story for you. Everybody knows I always have a story. Our campus trains service dogs and we have a student RSO that takes them and works with them. And at Campus Rec, we always allowed the dogs on the deck. And one of the things that we found out was they weren't trained to be in pool areas.

And so when their person that they were working with would get in the pool, they would get very agitated and anxious. And so that was one of the things that was added to the training, was getting them comfortable with being separated from their person and their person was OK.

So kind of an interesting piece. So let me see if we've got any questions. This has been great. I've got no questions.

AUDIENCE: Robin, there are no questions in the chat box.

ROBIN DETERDING: Oh, do I have to do something else?

AUDIENCE: So it's OK. I can read the question.


ROBIN DETERDING: Oh, excellent.

AUDIENCE: OK, so the question is, you spoke a lot about design and accommodation in relation to disability and social inclusion. How did you say signage design and other aspects of inclusion in your field changing with the coronavirus precaution and the safety concerns moving forward?

ROBIN DETERDING: So we're asking about signage design, other aspects of inclusion changing in relation to coronavirus precautions and safety concerns.

TOM SALZER: That's been really interesting. I'll jump in, if no one else has anything. Now, obviously, the recreation facilities were shut down for a while. And then when they opened back up, they opened, sort of, partially. And all of our clients are asking us about what can be done for the next outbreak.

Can we have more exhaust put into the buildings? Can we compartmentalize the buildings more? Can we have surfaces that are easier to clean? Can we have larger spaces? People are really starting to put pressure on square footage because we used to right-size a room to put 30 people in for an aerobic class. Well, if everybody has to maintain social distance and we're worried about the super-spreading effects of an aerobic class, how can that be affected.

In terms of signage, I haven't seen a ton yet, although there was an effort in the Fort Wayne Ys in our eight facilities. They built a welcome sign with the word welcome in the most 20 most prominent languages used here in Fort Wayne. We have a wide variety of populations.

So that was kind of a neat thing that they did on their own that I wasn't a part of. But I remember walking into the Y, and I could actually read three of them, so I felt very good.

JUSTIN CARON: I think if I could jump in, one other thing we've seen is a focus on air quality, especially in aquatics, but in gym spaces and in those recreation spaces as well. So getting the returns low, getting that bad air out at the source, where head height or foot height, as many those things are heavier than oxygen, and they tend to go down. Versus the old design where your returns and supply were both high. You're trying to create a flow of that.

Air scrubbers, plasma systems, are becoming more and more popular. HEPA filters in rec centers in those public spaces are becoming more popular. And I think that that's a very important thing and something that adds dollars to these facilities. Those systems are not cheap.

And so part of the conversations we're having at current designs that are, say, at 50% construction documents is, what spaces are we giving up? What things are we taking away so that we can accommodate these safety precautions? We're also seeing, lastly-- I know Kim has something to say here-- we're seeing a lot of those indoor, outdoor spaces. So designing spaces so you can open them up to create that fresh air.

KIM MARTIN: Thanks, Justin. I just wanted to comment on the operation side. There's obviously a lot of lessons learned here from COVID. And some of them, I think, was the direction we were going to. And COVID has just expedited that. So things like using reservation system and electronic technologies to reserve spaces, whether it's your spot in your fitness class or your training spot or just managing capacity overall in the gymnasium and other spaces.

And then also just more incorporating in ordering in the cafe from your wireless, hands-free when you're entering the building, kind of less exchange, and obviously at a much higher rate of cleaning and operation from that side. I think some of these things will not go away after we're in a different world than an active COVID right now. And I don't want to predict when that will be.

But some things we're learning that will just be here to stay. Maybe not bad things.

ROBIN DETERDING: And we're seeing those in our athletic facilities too. I toured the Smith Center a couple of weeks ago, which is our football practice area, and they're cleaning at least twice a day. They have the HEPA filters going, locker rooms, weight rooms, everywhere. The way they're gathering up their equipment or their uniforms or their practice equipment. Seeing a lot of different things.

And they have the machines that look like the Ghostbuster-- that they go and fog the places. So yeah. Any other questions?

TOM SALZER: I've got a question for Justin. I was just reading that the Ann Arbor Y, in their natatorium, is going to do special hours for people in the LGBTQ community so they feel more comfortable. Are you seeing that across the board, that people are reserving the natatoriums for groups?

JUSTIN CARON: Yes, we are. We see a lot of it with LGBTQ. We see a lot of it with the Muslim population, where you just have different expectations and realities. But also, there's a lot of female groups that don't like to be leered at or may not feel comfortable in the environment.

We also see it in therapy centers with people who have been prescribed water therapy and water recreation, but they haven't been in a swimsuit in 30 years. And they really don't feel comfortable being out in public with all those eyes on them. So I think, again, the most important thing there is designing a space away to cordon off that because you're not going to clear the entire facility.

And a lot of those spaces are designed right at the entrance or above with stacked exercise equipment. So whether that's really expensive operable glass or just a curtain system, just some way to provide those safe spaces. We've actually worked on our facilities as well with multiple pools where they designed a system that can do it-- just like a basketball gym would be split up or mat court-- to be able to draw a curtain across one of the pools on the deck to provide access without disrupting the entire program.

ROBIN DETERDING: Any other questions? I'm not seeing any. I want to thank Kim, Justin, and Tom for spending time with us. It's so important for our students to be able to see and hear what's happening in the world that they're going to be going to work in, whether it's rec sports or tourism.

And inclusion is something that is very important for us. As I tell my students, we serve everyone. And if you're not, you need to figure out why and how. And the other piece is, we're chameleons, and we have to be able to adjust and change all the time. And you all have shown us how our field is adjusting as new things happen, because we still need to serve whether it's COVID or different identities or whatever comes our way.

We need to be ready to take that on. So I want to thank you all. I'm going to close the session. And it's been a great session. We really appreciate you taking the time and sharing with us.

JUSTIN CARON: Thank you, Robin.


KIM MARTIN: Thanks. Buh-bye.


Get Started with AHS

It’s a great time to join AHS. Build your career making a difference.