We as designers disable people when we don’t get it right.
Tucked away in a wooded area of Michigan is a Frank Lloyd Wright home unlike any other—it’s the only one he designed for a family who used a wheelchair. Wright would ultimately select this home from more than 500 structures he built to represent his life’s work, which shows the significance that designing with extreme users can have on your career and impact.
The full story of how clients Kenneth Laurent, a veteran, and his wife Phyllis reached out to Wright is fascinating in and of itself. Even more interesting for designers to know, however, is that Frank Lloyd Wright designed this home decades before the Americans with Disabilities Act established standards for accessible building practices. Instead, he used the core creative skills he already developed to design for people who weren’t in the dominant majority of his clients.
The house is in his signature aesthetic—just as beautiful as his other projects. But the single, spralling level also features clearance for wheelchairs under the custom-designed furniture and wide pathways. Collaborating with people outside of the dominant majority makes our design solutions more robust, but no less beautiful.
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