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Dec. 19, 2016

Universal Design at The Mary Free Bed YMCA

This month marks the one-year, grand-opening anniversary of the new Mary Free Bed YMCA in Grand Rapids, MI. The 36-acre, LEED-certified complex is home to a wide range of fully-accessible health and wellness spaces including swimming pools, basketball courts, soccer and baseball fields, a 1/5 mile track, 12,500 sq. ft. of fitness equipment, a teen center and childcare area, and a healthy living center with a farm and greenhouse. The facility is most unique in that it incorporates the principles of Universal Design to be inclusive of every member of the community, regardless of age or physical ability. As the first Universally Designed building in the world, the Mary Free Bed YMCA helps reveal the ways in which design can increase diversity and participation, while decreasing the stigma and segregation of traditional fitness centers.

An evolution of Accessible Design, which addresses the needs of people with disabilities, Universal Design embraces an even wider spectrum of human abilities – children and adults with special needs, people with temporary sports injuries, the elderly, and those with challenges related to sight or hearing. The all-encompassing design takes everything from lighting and language into consideration to allow everyone an equal opportunity to participate in activities that enhance their well-being. 

Helping achieve this project was exciting for Rockford’s entire team. As builders of a changing world, our greatest contributions are those that help build a better future for us and those we work with. Together with Mary Free Bed, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, Progressive AE and others, we were able to help improve the lives of our community members with a space that is easier and more enjoyable for all people to use.