Vanity for Humanity: How the ZeroThreshold Contest is Changing Ability Architecture

Having an Accessible Home Doesn’t Mean It Has to Look Like a Hospital.

The Zero Threshold is Changing the Face of Ability Architecture. 

In 1984, North Coast Community Homes (NCCH) was created with a mission to develop and maintain safe, high-quality homes in Northeast Ohio for individuals with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and other disabilities. Unfortunately, safe and high-quality came at a premium – they often meant that style and panache were sacrificed. The accessibility industry was always high on function and low on form.  

Eventually, as the industry began to figure out the types of equipment people needed for better mobility, form followed, and style became a little more accessible itself. Wheelchair accessible vehicles became beautiful vans and cars rather than generic cargo vehicles. Accessories started to become available in different colors with customization. And then, one particular (albeit unlikely) event changed the way we would look at functional housing for those with disabilities forever. 

Kent State University held a (dis)Abled Beauty Exhibition, showcasing breathtaking and artistic solutions for prosthetics, hearing loss, and more. These aesthetically astounding and fully functional pieces left the team at NCCH floored. If this kind of beauty was going to exist in the mobility field, then why couldn’t it exist in the homes of those who need these tools to survive? Why does it need to stop at accessories when it can become a lifestyle? 

With that idea in mind, NCCH moved forward with the ZeroThreshold competition to find the best designs in the world that incorporate mobility design with beauty, all with an eye towards budget-friendly solutions. The entries came in from all over the world, over 120 countries to be exact. The contest featured over 40 bold new designs that change the way we look at mobility architecture. But, this initiative goes beyond the contest; at some point in the near future, one of these concepts will be constructed and tested right here in Cleveland. The city will truly become ground zero for outside-the-box mobility architecture. 

The McGregor Foundation was honored to be involved with this innovative campaign, and on Fri., Aug. 23 and 24, The McGregor Community Center was proud to play host to a sneak peek at some of the designs. For more information on ZeroThreshold, please visit their website.