Guest Blog

Access is Human: Let's change the conversation around accessibility back to people.

11 Jul 2019 by Kendra J. Muller

Many times, buildings are created without thought to the actual accessibility of the design and layout for an individual. A construction worker with no prior background in how accessibility could make or break the equal access of a building. Workers that are neither disabled nor have a deep familiarity of accessibility use a literal checklist to make sure the correct features are installed. 

They do not think about the effectiveness of the design.

Unfortunately, this checklist means that as long as the construction workers can check off a box, they do not need to think about the effectiveness of the design. Many millions of dollars have been wasted in buildings that have the accessible features but rendered them useless by putting them in an inaccessible spot or simply not thinking about how the design would actually flow if a disabled individual used the building. A vague checklist means as long as there's a ramp, it doesn’t matter where or how it is installed. Well-meaning abled-bodied people simply do not often think of the ramifications of their design for a disabled body. This is not their fault, as it can be hard to understand equal access without experiencing inequality. 

Consult with individuals who would be using the access features.

An easy solution is to consult with individuals who would be using the access features, thus intimately understanding their need and importance. The disabled community would love for new buildings to go above and beyond in universal design, but we realize budgeting constraints. Therefore, we realize there will continue to be construction checklist items. We advocate for a simple tweak, consult with a knowledgeable disabled individual while deciding on access features. This cost-effective solution will save money by making sure construction is done the right way, the first time. It costs much more money and time to redo something that could have been corrected easily. The same items that need to be installed to meet minimum requirements will be used and benefit the community they were supposed to. 

Accessible features are not extras but are built for the beautiful diversity of human beings.

The difference between simply “checking off a box” and empathizing with the real individuals who need these features to maintain their access becomes jumbled. We recommend that disability is not seen as a set of rules that must be done because of a law, to discuss it as an issue of equal access for real people. When we stop seeing access as an undue burden on society, we will free up space in our hearts for the humans who use them. These accessible features are not extras but are built for the beautiful diversity of human beings. Access for humans should be in our schools, our homes, our religious entities, our communities and anywhere others go. Access is for everyone.


Kendra J. Muller is a law student at the University of San Diego. Her undergraduate capstone research of truth commissions inspired her to create the Equal Access and Disability Rights Commission. As Chief Commissioner of the project, she is dedicated to gathering truth and presenting transparent research regarding unequal access. Visit EqualAccessCommission.org to view her research on disability rights in higher education.