The Sustaining Access Project focuses on design as it manifests in architectural, urban, digital and academic spaces. We ask: What alliances and frictions become apparent when we study the wide range of definitions of “sustainable design” that emerge through architecture, social geographies, and history? How can we use our collective knowledge to build and sustain better spaces?

Core Principles

1) Accessible interactivity. We foster conversation in oral/aural and written spaces, in synchronous and asynchronous formats, through digital and face-to-face formats. We recognize that not everyone is able to converse in small- or large-group oral / aural settings. So our approach to “sustaining access” includes building access as we go, in the spaces we inhabit and create. This also involves consistent revision and feedback loops; access is never “fixed,” nor is it fully achieved through standards. It’s a human-centered aspiration and practice.

2) Centering intersectional experiences. As Aimi writes in their book Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability, the process of creating spaces for “all” is shaped by designers’ understanding of users. In other words, if the designers aren’t aware of the knowledges brought by diverse users, the spaces they create will reflect only normative bodies. (For example, curb cuts were developed after curbs, when disabled activists called attention to the fact that curbs may be barriers.) The design of buildings and spaces can’t be divorced from the intertwined histories and present-day experiences of race, gender, class, and disability.

3) Bringing together industry professionals, researchers, and activists to discuss ideologies, shared goals, and potential conflicts when considering sustainable design. We do not assume that these roles are mutually exclusive; that is, any person may inhabit all or some of the roles listed above.

4) Rethinking “inclusivity.” We are committed to re-thinking and re-designing the processes of inclusivity. We encourage questions like these: How are “users” understood within the context of a project or space? Are any of the users also designers of the project or space? When users are asked to provide feedback, is that process iterative and easy to access? How do we react when faced with an “access issue” we are not familiar with, and need help navigating? What does “listening to users” really mean, in various contexts?