Lighthouse International headquarters is one of the only buildings in the United States specifically planned to integrate the needs of people of all ages who have a broad range of vision, hearing and mobility impairments. A model of universal design and accessibility, this 170,000 square foot building is designed to satisfy, and in many cases exceed, the recommendations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The building is a "working laboratory" where many design features are tested for the first time. In creating the building, architects and designers were guided, every step of the way, with information from Lighthouse vision researchers and other staff experts. Lighthouse consumers provided their input regarding lighting, signage, color contrast, audible communications, safety and orientation and mobility issues.
Adding Vision to Universal Design
Lighthouse International headquarters was built to serve a diverse population who represent every step along the continuum of vision impairment, from partial sight to blindness, as well as people with other physical impairments, people who use wheelchairs, and people with full sight. Comfort and ease of use for Lighthouse employees was also a key consideration in designing the new structure.
The building's design features include:
Architect: Mitchell/Giurgola, New York City
Lighting: H.M. Brandston & Partners, New York City
Building Graphics: Roger Whitehouse, Whitehouse & Company, New York City
Drawings by Mitchell/Giurgola Architects
The functional entryway is divided by a railing, separating people who enter and leave the building (A). At the main reception desk tactile and large-print maps of the public floors help consumers plan their routes (B) within the building. The recessed waiting area in the lobby has space below the bench seating for guide dogs (C). All these features are designed to increase the smooth flow of foot traffic in the lobby.
Lots of Light
Bright natural light from oversized windows and custom-designed, non-glare artificial light fixtures throughout the building produce a soft light that avoids dramatic changes in level or intensity.
Colors That Contrast
Since loss of the ability to perceive color contrast is one of the most common effects of vision impairment, strong contrasting colors -- warm white walls with magenta door trim -- are used throughout the building. Floor tiles, in shades of dark purple and mauve, point out elevators and safe travel paths (A), and color and texture contrast between walls and floor (B), on stair treads and along the edges of desks (C) also help maximize ease-of-use.
Finding the Way
An integrated wayfinding system includes large-print white on black signage; tactile signs identifying locations in raised letters and braille, positioned at an angle to optimize readability; and "talking signs" that identify conference rooms, restrooms and stairways out loud to consumers carrying special hand-held receivers. The elevators feature a special enunciation system that identifies each floor and directs people toward the reception desks where floor-specific tactile maps are located.