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ISU architecture professor receives Ames Humanitarian Award

January 20, 2015

Arvid Osterberg, University Professor of architecture, with Ames Human Relations Commission chairwoman Amy Juhnke, left, and commission members Devita Harden and Nicole Facio.

AMES, Iowa — Arvid Osterberg, University Professor of architecture at Iowa State University, received the 2014 Ames Humanitarian Award from the Ames Human Relations Commission Monday, Jan. 19, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration.

Established in 1997, the annual award recognizes residents who help promote inclusiveness, fairness and equality for everyone in the Ames community.

Commission chairwoman Amy Juhnke presented Osterberg with this year's award during a program at Ames Middle School.

"Most of us don't realize the impact of discrimination, or the challenges of living in a world that does not take into account disabilities, because we may not have those personal experiences," Juhnke said.

"Award recipients like Dr. Osterberg help educate the public on the importance of accommodation, the real need for inclusion and tools to make our entire community accessible to everyone," she said.

Inclusive design
Osterberg is a strong advocate for inclusive design that meets the needs of all people regardless of physical, cognitive or cultural differences. He has devoted much of his career to helping design and planning professionals, government officials and students decipher and implement the accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines.

Since 1998 he has led ongoing research on accessibility for ISU's facilities planning and management department, including the "Campus-wide Site and Facilities Assessment for ADA Compliance," known throughout the US as one of the best and most comprehensive ADA surveys ever completed on a university campus. He has reviewed more than 200 Iowa State capital project designs and, in the process, established ISU as a leader in accessible campus design.

"Dr. Osterberg's efforts have forever changed the fabric of the ISU campus and Ames with improvements in parking, accessible routes, building entrances, restrooms and assembly-area seating," said Luis Rico-Gutierrez, dean of the ISU College of Design, in his letter nominating Osterberg for the award.

"Many of these improvements go unnoticed, but that is exactly the idea he promotes: that good design is always inclusive design, rather than 'special' design for people with disabilities or other differences," Rico-Gutierrez said. "It is sensitive design that considers the needs of all people—from wheelchair users to mothers with strollers, to those with hearing or vision loss, and many other concerns."

Accessibility guide
Osterberg is the author of  "Access for Everyone: A Guide to the Accessibility of Buildings and Sites with References to 2010 ADASAD" (now in its third edition), a book used nationwide by architects, landscape architects, planners, interior designers, building contractors, code officials, main street coordinators and university professors.

He teaches and conducts research in the areas of safety, accessibility, historic preservation and design, including an interdisciplinary graduate course on "Design for All People" that engages students in research and reporting on campus accessibility issues. He has completed accessibility reviews sponsored by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for group homes and low-income housing and conducted numerous pro bono assessments for churches and nonprofit organizations in Ames and throughout Iowa. And he has served as an expert witness in legal proceedings related to building and site design and construction.

"Thanks to Dr. Osterberg's sustained effort, improvements to buildings and sites can be found throughout campus, the state of Iowa and many other locations around the country that make it easier for all people, regardless of age or ability level, to use and navigate public facilities," Rico-Gutierrez said.

Osterberg joined the Iowa State architecture faculty as an assistant professor in 1977; he was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1981 and professor in 1995. In 2014 he was named a University Professor, a title bestowed on a faculty member who has acted as a change agent and demonstrated outstanding performance. He received a bachelor of architecture (1969) and master of architecture (1972) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a doctor of architecture with a certificate in gerontology (1980) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Amy Juhnke, Ames Human Relations Commission, (515) 817-0943
Arvid Osterberg, Architecture, (515) 294-8221,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,