Absolutely Accessible Kent

Absolutely Accessible Kent

What does the future look like to you? Imagine what our cities and spaces could look like during the fifth annual Absolutely Accessible Kent!


AIA Gran Rapids


Keynote Address | Randy Lewis


In 2004, as Senior Vice President of Logistics and Supply Chain at Walgreens, Randy Lewis initiated a new generation of large-scale distribution centers like no others in the world. The work – acknowledged by the White House – has been called the “gold standard of disability employment” by the National Governors Association (NGA).

After retiring from Walgreen’s in 2013, Lewis launched the NOGWOG Disability Initiative in 2014 to assist businesses and communities in developing and launching similar disability hiring initiatives. His efforts have influenced major global corporations like Lowe’s, P&G, Best Buy, UPS, Marks & Spencer (UK), and Ica (Sweden) in launching their own such initiatives.

Additionally, Lewis is the author of No Greatness Without Goodness, which was released in 2014 and was named by Fast Company as one of its “10 New Books You Need To Read This Year”. 

Urban Planning Track | Steve Wright


Steve Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist who has nearly four decades of experience in urban design, planning, architecture, mobility, and universal design. His work appears frequently in Planning Magazine, and he has published more than 5,000 articles on best practices for creating inclusive places. Wright has presented at the American Planning Association’s national conference as well as the International Making Cities Livable conference series in Paris. He has also exhibited photographs from his urban work worldwide in cities such as Istanbul, Paris, Barcelona, Marrakech, Cairo, Lisbon, London, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Medellin, and countless major cities in North America. His storytelling has advised corporate clients, architecture students, and community officials alike on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility—with a focus on creating a better built environment for people with disabilities.


Participants in this passionate presentation will learn about Universal Design as a powerful approach to creating places that are welcoming and accessible to all. Too often, accessibility is considered only through a lens of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. Thus, accessibility morphs into an onerous, “check the box”-style undertaking. This produces technically compliant but still largely inaccessible and uninviting space designs. As just one example, often hidden, narrow, and separate access ramps are used to justify grand staircases into a brand-new buildings. Whether intended or unintended, arrangements like these segregate, isolate, and humiliate individuals with mobility disabilities by dividing them from the mainstream.

This highly visual session promotes awareness of the principles of equitable and inclusive placemaking while reminding attendees that the ADA is not a building code that can be waived by variance. Rather, it is federal civil rights law. Attendees will learn from concrete examples of good, bad, and ugly accessible design in neighborhoods, parks, plazas, sidewalks, crosswalks, transit stops, buildings, and other elements of the built environment.

A 15-minute open, candid Q&A will follow.

Architecture Track | Noam Platt


Noam Platt is a certified healthcare architect via the American College of Healthcare Architects and the founder of MakeGood Inc, a 501c3 organization that designs and fabricates assistive technology for people globally. He is an award-winning specialist in designing and producing novel technology for the disability community. His goal is to bring people together to engage in curiosity and adaptive design to create a flourishing community of makers and need-knowers. He is inspired by the families and friends who reach out to MakeGood for help bringing independence into their lives.


Drawing on his expertise as a healthcare architect, Noam Platt will show attendees how evidence-based design (EBD) in healthcare can inform the broader design field via EBD’s consumer-centered approach. This approach challenges practitioners to innovate beyond base-level regulatory compliance by instead striving toward best practices that promote patient well-being and human flourishing.

Additionally, sharing from a personal passion, Platt will detail how architects can play exciting and important roles in new realms of adaptive product design fueled by transformative technologies within maker communities and makerspaces.

About Absolutely accessible kent

The fifth annual Absolutely Accessible Kent event takes place as part of a larger program aimed at making West Michigan a more accessible community. Our team provides accessibility reviews for organizations and workplaces. Volunteer test pilots examine spaces and provide feedback on user-friendliness. By joining us on June 14, you can be part of making Kent County absolutely accessible!

Volunteer Test Pilots

We have partnered with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. to make downtown increasingly accessible. Our volunteer test pilots – people with disabilities – have covered miles of downtown routes, advocating for improved accessibility.

Community Education

Community Education Specialist Jon Cauchi is available for presentations on understanding and accommodating disability as simply a natural part of human diversity – adding accessibility to your DEIA efforts.

Accessibility Reviews

Accessibility Specialist Jackson Botsford is available to perform accessibility reviews to make your workplace go beyond mere ADA compliance and benefit from Universal Design principles. Recent partnerships include the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Calvin University, and Gazelle Sports.

Ongoing Education

From Ileana Rodriguez, a Paralympian, to Chris Downey, an architect who maintained his practice after becoming blind, nationally recognized speakers have joined us each year to discuss Universal Design. Most recently, Sara Hendren, an author and design researcher, led participants in a hands-on design exercise exploring iterative design concepts.