The Power of Inclusion: Universal Design in Landscape

Four outdoor photos show a man walking with a cane and grocery bag, an older person with a walker, a man with a guide dog, and a man in a wheelchair

What makes a home or commercial building “visitable?” A level entry is one thing but how do you get there in the first place? How we structure the built environment makes a difference, and that includes the exterior environment—from site preparation and size and approach for use by all ages and abilities—whether residential, commercial or in public open spaces. Already built? Sometimes landscape modifications accommodate independent living. By incorporating the principles of Universal Design into landscape design—especially from the start—people are encouraged to fully participate in the indoor and outdoor environment.

The Northwest Universal Design Council (NWUDC) will examine many aspects of Universal Design in the landscape, from site preparation to aging in place. On November 15, 2016, the NWUDC and Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities welcome landscape architect Debra Guenther, FASLA, LEED AP BD+C, from Mithun, and architect Karen Braitmayer, FAIA, Karen Braitmayer Accessible Design and Accessibility Consulting, who will discuss the role of landscape design in improving accessibility and “visitability.”
Debra Guenther is a partner at Mithun, a local firm that has won many awards for “green” architecture and design, including public spaces that support healthy living and healthier neighborhoods. As a landscape architect, Debra has developed a diverse set of projects, and maintains a keen focus on policy and practice related to equity and sustainability. Learn more at

Karen Braitmayer is an architect who currently owns her own accessibility consulting practice. She has presented at two NWUDC events in recent years as a U.S. Access Board member, a position she was appointed to by President Barack Obama. Read more about Karen at

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