National Architecture Week, the American Institute of Architect’s campaign to showcase the talented architects who’ve made positive contributions to society, kicked off April 7, 2013.
During this event, we recognize the positive contributions the Paralyzed Veterans of America Architecture Department has made over several decades to make spaces more accessible for veterans and all Americans. Paralyzed Veterans is the only veterans organization with on-staff architects who provide design assistance to disabled veterans, including helping them with their home accessibility needs.
The history of Paralyzed Veteran’s Architecture Department dates back to 1946, when the organization collaborated with the New York Chapter of the AIA to make housing more accessible for paralyzed WWII veterans. In 1986, the Paralyzed Veterans added the oversight of the design and construction of VA medical centers to its mission as part of the “Barrier-Free Design Program.”
Mark Goeller, associate director of Paralyzed Veterans Architecture Department, said the department is currently working on a number of spinal cord injury projects around the country, including a Veterans Administration project in Dallas that includes the construction of a long-term care unit for spinal cord injury patients.
“For spinal cord injury outpatient clinics, we have a standard program that we ensure is adhered to, and we make sure it meets all accessibility codes,” Goeller said. “We also go out to all existing facilities on a regular basis to determine what is not up to standard and make recommendations for improvements.”
The department also continuously works to get more dedicated parking spaces for spinal cord patients at the 25 VA spinal cord injury hubs, and continues to consult on accessible design for projects like stadiums and other public places, including the construction of the Eisenhower Memorial project in Washington, D.C., Goeller said.
Paralyzed Veterans also works to spread the word about the importance of accessible design through lectures to educate architects, students, building owners and other decision makers. The department also has written books on accessibility, including the popular Accessible Home Design, 2nd ed., as well as numerous magazine articles.
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America's Architecture Department
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.