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March 29, 2007

Designing Cities to be More 'Human'

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – A longtime leader in the field of human-centered design in urban settings will speak at Smith College on April 19 at 7 p.m. in the lower level of the Smith College Club. The event is free and open to the public.

Valerie Fletcher, the executive director of Adaptive Environments, will talk about her work with a growing international movement to promote designs that enhance the diverse experiences of people of all ages and abilities. She will talk about why this matters urgently now, offer examples of current projects around the world, and suggest ways for designers to partner with policymakers and scientists to create an expanded vision of sustainability.

Adaptive Environments is an international educational non-profit that balances expertise in legally required accessibility with promotion of best practices in human-centered or universal design. Toward that end, the organization leads projects, consults for public and private groups on accessible design and promotes the best practices in universal design.

Most recently, Fletcher worked with the United Nations on the development of the Treaty on the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was signed by 80 nations on March 30.

Fletcher is also spearheading the creation of the Institute for Human-Centered Design at the Boston-based Adaptive Environments, to serve as a hub of information for students, educators and the general public. She oversees projects ranging from universal design at the urban scale in public transit, in a public agency social welfare system, housing and schools.

Founded in 1978, Adaptive Environments has hosted or co-hosted five international conferences on universal design, held in New York City; Providence, R.I.; Yokohama, Japan; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Kyoto, Japan.

After earning her master’s degree in ethics in public policy from Harvard University, Fletcher began her career in public mental health. As a former Massachusetts Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health, she oversaw the participatory planning process that redirected $74 million from institutional care to community support systems.

A Boston resident, Fletcher won the Boston Society of Architects’ Women in Design Award in 2005.

Her visit to campus is sponsored by the Smith College Picker Engineering Program, the nation’s first engineering program at a women’s college, as well as the Landscape Studies Program and the Office of Disability Services.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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