EtMM talks “Universal Design” w/ Mrs. Karen Braitmayer

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Interview: w/ Mrs. Karen Braitmayer  June 12, 2012  

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About KAREN L. BRAITMAYER, FAIAKaren Braitmayer

Our conversation with Mrs. Braitmayer was exciting and enlightening.  She’s an amazing lady and a wonderful resource for all things “Accessibility” and “Universal Design”.  She has a unique awareness of her surroundings as it relates to ‘ease of use’ as a lifetime wheelchair user, and an architect as well.

She started her firm in the early ’90’s and were immediately providing accessibility consulting.  Over the years it has evolved to 100% of her practice, proving how much the NEED for this information is there, on how to better design for an ease of use in the built environment that is best for everyone, not just those that are perfect in height, weight, eyesight, hearing, mobility, and the like (what a typical “spec home” is designed for, in reality, whether we realize it or not).  The benefits, even for those with temporary disabilities, are immeasurable in the ways that good design can better your life… everyone’s life.

It’s more than just a discussion about installing a grab bar, that much is clear!  Spatial layout, lighting, traffic flow, materials, transitions, textures, products, equipment, & technology, etc. all matter in good design that is best for use by not just a client with a change in ability.  It’s better for use by an occupational therapist, caregiver, family members, and visitors alike!  Karen mentions that in Atlanta, GA. where she’d recently visited, there is a big push in “Visit-ability”, and that it’s not just the 89% of those (per AARP studies / polls) that want to stay home and “age in place”, but also for those of your family and friends that may VISIT your house.  Everyone needs to be considered, and the built environment should be equally accessible by all.  This neighborhood she visited in Atlanta all had houses that were site planned consciously so that at least one of the entries to the home was a “zero clearance” or “no threshold” entry (flush with the exterior grade of the ground outside at the entry door).

Karen made sure that when she remodeled her own home & specifically the kitchen, she got it published in some magazines (Dwell magazine), newspapers, and now even in an

upcoming book, titled “The Accessible Home“.  She didn’t do this for personal gratification, but rather for the message of the greater good.  She shows how for herself (a wheelchair user and of a shorter stature), as well as her teenage daughter (also a wheelchair user, but of more standard stature), and her husband, who is of normal abilities and without any limitations to ability, there are heights that can work for their own counter heights that allow them all to use the kitchen for entertaining, preparation, and cooking.  She’s extremely pleased with the results, and has learned to love cooking again as a result!  The FOUR counter heights in her own kitchen, proves that a professional and a thoughtful design are the result of getting to know the client, and creating a specific and individualized solution for each of our clients.  NOT just a grab bar installed by a General Contractor… it’s SO MUCH MORE!

As we like to say at EtMM, “It takes $1 to move a ‘line’ (in a drawing), it takes $1000 to move a wall (already constructed in the field, when you realize it’s not what you wanted).  A professional architect can bring your dreams to reality, and the cost of their services can save you 10x the $$ in potential mistakes in the field if you decide to “short cut” the process, and go straight to a Contractor that tells you “I can install a grab bar, what do you need an architect for?”

The demographics of the U.S. are changing rapidly.  Our environments need to catch up and get ahead, or be left behind.  That’s exactly why EtMM is out sharing the message, and interviewing the experts!  Here at EtMM, we want to be your “Aging In Place” coach and mentor, for the client, the family, the caregiver, and the U.S. Public at large.  From the individual, to the Federal Government, and all the levels in between, WE, the population of this great U.S.A. need to plan ahead, think ahead, and be proactive… We’re running out of time to be ready for the inevitable.  Don’t wait… Contact us today!

Listen now:

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WEB:    Twitter: @krnbrtmyr

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One thought on “EtMM talks “Universal Design” w/ Mrs. Karen Braitmayer
  • EtMM, thank you for posting this fascinating discussion between two acclaimed northwest architects who are shining a much needed light on designing residential spaces for accessibility and visitability. Having met Karen myself, I am again struck by her insight and passion for smart, universal design. We are all a part of the collaborative team of CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) professionals, who each have training, experience, and a true heart for this type of client. Architect, Contractor, Interior Designer, Occupational Therapist, and others. Looking forward to the book Karen mentioned, The Accessible Home–am pre-ordering my copy today!

    Tom & Jeannine Dealy, CAPS
    Owners of Your Total Renovation, Inc.
    Kitchen & Bath Remodeling Professionals

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