Designing Beyond the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): Creating an Autism-Friendly Vocational Center

Joslin R. Clouse, Jeanneane Wood-Nartker, Franklyn A. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been effective in establishing building standards that create accessible spaces for people with physical impairments. These guidelines have not addressed the needs of people with mental, emotional, and/or developmental disabilities. With the increase in autism diagnosis, designers/architects need to expand their planning to include more universal solutions. The purpose is to demonstrate ways of designing beyond ADA to address needs of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To design effectively, designers/architects must identify sensory issues that influence these children in establishing a regulatory state enabling effective interaction with neurotypical peers. Design is also important for teachers, therapists, and parents of children with ASD to enable more successful interactions. If the environment is overstimulating for a child with ASD, then a parent/caregiver/therapist will struggle to achieve their goals. Mostafa recommended seven design criteria known as ASPECTSS™: Acoustics, Spatial sequencing, Escape spaces, Compartmentalization, Transition spaces, Sensory zoning, and Safety, when designing for people with ASD. These classifications lay the groundwork for the established guidelines. As designers/architects, we have a responsibility to create inclusive environments. To help, the authors highlighted a vocational center showing one plan that meets ADA guidelines and another that illustrates additional environmental features addressing the needs of people with ASD. These criteria originated from evidence-based solutions derived from a literature review and personal interview. These recommendations demonstrate that sensitivity to the needs of people with autism creates a solution that is better for all people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-229
Number of pages15
JournalHealth Environments Research and Design Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • ADA
  • ASD
  • architecture
  • autism
  • design
  • disability
  • environment
  • guidelines
  • sensory


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