Barrier-Free Architecture Recognized At Access Minnesota Dinner

MINNESOTA ACCESS ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS PRESENTED FOR OUTSTANDING BARRIER-FREE DESIGN “The Minnesota Access Achievement Awards recognize outstanding contributions toward making Minnesota’s […]

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“The Minnesota Access Achievement Awards recognize outstanding contributions toward making Minnesota’s great quality of life accessible to everyone,” says Wendy Brower, director of Access Minnesota.  “Public awareness of the need for and benefits of an accessible community will ensure a working partnership in removing both the physical and attitudinal barriers to creating a society open to all.”

Started in 1988 as a project of the Minnesota Multiple Sclerosis Society, Access Minnesota serves as a catalyst for improving community accessibility by providing expertise, information and resources throughout Minnesota for the more than 360,000 Minnesotans who have physical disabilities.

A total of 12 winners from around Minnesota were presented with the award at a recognition banquet held Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  Winners were selected for outstanding barrier-free design in three categories:  New Construction, Renovation/Rehabilitation, and Outdoor Landscape/Environment.

For more than a century, if you wanted to watch the Minnesota House and Senate in action at the Capitol, you had to get to the viewing chambers on your own two feet.  Today, all Minnesotans, including those with physical disabilities using a wheel chair or crutches, can watch the proceedings.

The recent passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, signed by President George Bush last July, will have a great impact on the architectural community and the buildings they design.  This civil rights law will serve as the basis for future laws that will protect the rights of all Americans, including those with disabilities.

Across Minnesota, a great number of buildings like the Minnesota Capitol are being renovated, and new buildings designed, to become handicap-accessible.  In recognition of these architectural achievements in the area of barrier-free design.  Access Minnesota, a project of the Minnesota Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Minnesota Society of the American Institute of Architects, recently sponsored the Access Achievement Awards.

Following is the complete list of winners and outstanding contributions of each in the area of barrier-free design:

New Construction

– The Target Center (Timberwolves arena) received its award for overall barrier-free design.  
– The  Minneapolis Convention Center was also an award winner for its overall barrier-free design.
– The Courage Center of St. Croix.
– Hamline Park Townhomes, a St. Paul housing development, has a total of 24 units, some of which are designed for handicapped residents.  The project was completed in 1990 and boasts 100 percent occupancy.  All units have accessible entrances and exits to promote greater integration between tenants with disabilities and those who are not disabled.
– Hibbing, Minnesota’s Festival Foods, is a grocery store designed to include many handicap accessible features including wider aisles,lower produce bins, and special adaptive shopping carts that clamp to wheelchairs.  In addition, a large resting area accommodates the needs of many customers.


– The House and Senate public viewing galleries at the Minnesota Capitol building were recently made accessible as part of an overall restoration project and also preserving the historic fabric of Cass Gilbert’s original design.
– St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Minneapolis.
– First Presbyterian Church, Hibbing, MN.
– The city of Nerstrand, MN, population 235 recently received funding from a small cities grant.  With that funding, the city added a ramp to its post office, making it accessible to residents with disabilities.  This project and others are helping to create an inclusive community.

Outdoor Landscape/environment

– The city of Bloomington has incorporated many accessible features into city park playstructures and shelter buildings including restrooms, showers, swimming pool, parking, paths, fishing docks, and courts for basketball, tennis and bocci-ball.  The city currently has 22 parks with accessible playstructures and 14 with accessible shelter buildings.
– Willie World, a sensory park at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind in Faribault, was designed to help the visually impaired and multiply-handicapped students at the academy develop orientation and mobility skills.  The park includes paths in a wide variety of materials (like cobblestone, wood chips, dirt, concrete, etc.) chosen for their different textures.  Students also exercise their senses in the park’s flower gardens, and sound boards.
– The U.S. Forest Service.  In the past year, three fishing piers in Superior National Forest, were made accessible to physically disabled individuals.  Twenty more piers are in the plans for the coming years, with four of those to be complete this summer.

For more information about Access Minnesota, contact project director Wendy Brower at the Minnesota MS Society, 612-870-1500.

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