Sun, Feb 22, 2009 - Page 9 News List

Universal design makes homes adaptable — except in France

By Elaine Sciolino  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LAMORLAYE, FRANCE

But in the professional realm, at least, he does seem like a man with a mission. He has put together a computer presentation that opens with bugles and drums and the words, “Conception Universelle,” the French translation of universal design. It includes some of his picks for the least-accessible “accessible” places in France — places he believes are ideal candidates for universal design: the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel Hotel, formerly the Hilton (“I thought I was in a hospital room of 40 years ago,” he said of a wheelchair-accessible room); handicapped parking places in Paris that are framed by poles that would be easy to crash into; certain train ramps that allow for four-wheel but not three-wheel scooters; the Gare Montparnasse in Paris, where the elevator is broken much of the time.

So far he has only two institutional clients: the City of Compiegne, 48km northeast of here, and its regional government. He said he was advising them on how to make a new bridge project comply with universal design principles.

In addition to spreading universal design in France, he has more modest goals.

“Oh, if I could take the train on my own to Paris, I would,” he said. “Oh, it’s too complicated. But that would be so nice.”

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