Neat! But…whenever I see something like this, I have to ask The Big Question:
Have they taken disabilities that go beyond mobility impairment into account?
The web site for The Treehouse Guys features plenty of photos of the treehouses they’ve built in public parks and private camps, so I took a look around, and sadly, the answer to The Big Question is No.
True, the access ramps to these treehouses are fabulous. The ramps are not steep, making the climbs up easy. With spacious interiors, it’s easy for the owners of the treehouses to furnish them comfortably for people with a variety of needs. But most of those owners seem to be falling down on the job after the treehouse is built, and the interior design seems less important to the Treehouse Guys than the access ramps.
I don’t see any benches or places to sit to rest on the climb up those ramps. Oops.
Nor does there seem to be much in the way of comfortable seating inside the treehouses. True, this may be the responsibility of the camp or park. But why couldn’t there be built-in backed bench seating for treehouse visitors who need seating with lumbar support? How about window seat? I love a good window seat.
Don’t forget the footstools either. People with chronic pain and back problems can have a lot of trouble sitting comfortably in stiff, unupholstered chairs with a 90-degree back pitch and no place to put their feet up. For that matter, those kinds of chairs can cause back pain in otherwise fairly healthy folks.
Perhaps I’m asking the moon, but I’d also like to see some sort of basic bathroom facility, especially in the camp treehouses. It’s a long climb up and down those ramps, and in camps like that, activities can often run long. If somebody was having some trouble walking, walked slowly, *and* had an illness that required frequent trips to the restroom, those treehouses might not seem so friendly. It wouldn’t have to be fully plumbed–just a closed cubicle with a composting toilet and grab bars would get the job done.
I want to see water available too, but I could bring my own water bottle for that.
It’s not possible to tell from the web site whether the treehouses can accommodate heaters or cooling fans. This wouldn’t be such a big deal unless I was attending an event inside one of these treehouses that lasted more than an hour. Yes, I can dress appropriately and bring my own sweater or even my own blanket. But cold hurts me, literally. I can’t stay for hours in cold places, no matter how many sweaters I’m wearing.
Universal design encompasses more than just access to a building, because many disabilities affect more than/other than a person’s mobility.
The Treehouse Guys are doing wonderful work, as far as it goes. But I’d love to see more architects take the next step towards true universal usability in their structures, not just (literal) accessibility.