Interior Design Program


Date of this Version



Drummy, E. (2018). Challenging the Norm of Minimums: A Case Study of ADA Design Standards on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Campus (master's thesis). University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Architecture, Under the Supervision of Professor Lindsey Bahe, Lincoln, NE: May 2018

Copyright 2018 Emily Drummy


In the United States, over 30 million people have difficulties climbing stairs and require the use of a walker, cane, or wheelchair to move around (United States Census Bureau, 2012). All people interact with the built environment around them, including the some thirty million who deal with physical difficulties. While some can navigate the space around them easily, others have more difficulty due to certain barriers. Often, interior environments are designed with the able bodied in mind, not accommodating properly for the disabled even in the most basic of ways. Despite the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 and the subsequent accessibility standards that accompanied it, there is still a disconnect between the application of ADA compliance of a building and true accessibility (Department of Justice, 2010). Although many buildings legally comply, the common norm of meeting the minimum requirements of accessible design standards leaves many people unable to use certain spaces and unable to participate fully in many activities that their able-bodied peers can. This thesis examines buildings on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus and their accessibility applications. In a case study of ten buildings across the campus, an accessibility audit provides a measurement tool for the primary investigator and several research participants to measure quantitative and qualitative elements of accessibility. This audit asks the participants to measure elements of the built environment and compare them to the minimum ADA standards. The objective of this research is to identify how often minimums are just met or exceeded in the built environment to provide commentary on the current state of accessible design and the ethics surrounding it.

Advisor: Lindsey Bahe