Early Accessibility Pioneer Selwyn Goldsmith Dies

Posted on - Monday, April 11th, 2011

This announcement was from the Universal Design Newsletter

 Early Accessibility Pioneer Selwyn Goldsmith Dies, Leaves Rich Legacy

Selwyn Goldsmith, whose work on behalf of people with disabilities influenced the
development of the Universal Design (UD) field, died April 3, 2011, after a battle
with Alzheimer’s disease. Goldsmith’s Designing for the Disabled, first published in
1963, has been considered a “bible” for practicing architects around the world, and
served as a model on which the ANSI A117.1 standard, and thus, all other US
accessibility standards are based.

“If Ron Mace was the ‘Father of Universal Design,’ Selwyn was the ‘Grandfather of
UD,’” remarked John Salmen, president of Universal Designers & Consultants, Inc.,
and publisher of Universal Design Newsletter. “He led the way in establishing
analytical descriptions of how people with disabilities interact with the environment,
which grew into the accessibility criteria we know today as the 2010 ADA

Goldsmith studied architecture at Cambridge University and University College
London. In 1956, shortly completing his studies at age 23, he contracted polio, which
left him with a permanent physical disability. In 1961, he was appointed to conduct
the research which led to his authoring Designing for the Disabled, which was
subsequently updated in 1967 and 1976. In 1972, he joined the social research branch
of the Housing Development Directorate of the Department of the Environment, to
advise on housing and other services for people with disabilities. He later published
Designing for the Disabled: A New Paradigm (1997) and Universal Design (2000).
“I know of no person, beyond Selwyn, whose work, energies and spirit touched the
lives of so many people around the world who now have a better environment in
which to move, to live in more accommodating homes, to be able to go to work, to
visit friends, etc.,” said Jake Pauls, of Jake Pauls Consulting Services in Building Use
and Safety. “I have been inspired by how [he dealt] with uncaring bureaucracies and
officials who were not doing right for the people they were supposed to serve through
the provision of decent, usable and reasonably safe homes and other buildings.
Selwyn was, and will always be, a great influence on how I address similar problems
in the built environment.”

He is survived by his wife, Becky, and two sons, David and Ben. A memorial service
for Goldsmith will be held April 26, 2011, in London.