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United Ability cuts ribbon on reimagined classrooms

November 20, 2023 · Announcements, Community

Cutting the ribbon on new classrooms at United Ability

United Ability cut the ribbon on two newly renovated spaces to serve its LINCPoint adult program. Goodwyn Mills Cawood (GMC) spearheaded the renovations, which included a new library and a redesign of their life skills studio. United Ability and GMC have had a philanthropic relationship for over a year, so when the need arose for these two spaces to become more useful, the pairing could not have been better.

United Ability chose 10 of their participants to be part of the design committee for this project. Since that committee was decided, GMC worked side-by-side with United Ability to listen to their needs for these spaces. One main goal was to make the spaces inclusive for people of all abilities. Another goal was to allow not only the committee, but all of the participants who would be using the space, to dream big and make this space their own.

“Part of our mission is to fully integrate the participants with their community,” CEO of United Ability, Susan E. Sellers said. “The committee was given an opportunity to go to GMC’s office to see what it would be like if they were a client because they were clients. Empowering them to make those decisions is such a huge part of who we are and what we do. GMC was so willing for that to be part of this experience. It was never a question.”

The new library was transformed from what was previously a grooming room. United Ability found that the members of LINCPoint would benefit more from a library, which could be used for reading, as well as serve as a space to do art projects and other activities. Additionally, GMC gave the committee the task of naming the library of which they chose the Limitless Learning Library.

The room features a gallery wall that will rotate participants’ artwork, a television, two large bookshelves filled with donated books and small reading nooks for private space. There are also fold down desks that serve as a landing spot for guests to read or write, but fold into the wall to save space when not in use. The committee has had a creative impact on the space with the addition of a large handmade mobile as an art instillation that will be displayed in the room.

The renovated studio serves as a life skills room, designed to teach the residents how to do tasks such as putting sheets on a bed or cleaning. The new studio includes a sofa, murphy bed, faux fireplace and faux window. The committee had a hand in selecting some of the decoration such as the area rug and the view shown in the faux window.

There was a large focus on accessibility to accommodate all participants within the facility. Some of those features include pull-down clothing racks to make it easier to reach hanging clothes, fold-down desks at varying heights and wide clearances.

“In the very beginning we realized we needed to have perfect placement for everything,” GMC Healthcare Designer Anne Kellerman said. “If somebody comes in here and wants to learn how to live in a studio apartment and they’re a wheelchair user, they need to be able to get around. That was something we were really adamant about when we were picking out everything regarding sizing.”

GMC found partnership with United Ability after a tour of the local facilities. Many employees were soon drawn to United Ability’s mission and wanted to use GMC’s talents to help this local nonprofit in the Birmingham community. GMC’s team treated the design of the two classrooms just like they would any other client, working hand-in-hand with the LINCPoint committee every step of the way to achieve the vision they had for their space.

“The way United Ability impacts lives from the little children learning and understanding to cope with what they’re dealing with all the way up to the adults learning how to thrive and have jobs, it’s just a special place in our community,” GMC Regional Vice President Gary Owen said. “There are so many layers of good that happen from something like this. It compounds the reason to get out and serve and to be a part of something bigger.”

Overall, GMC volunteered its architecture and interior design services, as well as providing skilled labor. Other project partners include Interface for flooring, Carpet Specialties for instillation, interior elements for nesting chairs, KI for flip nesting tables, Tucker-Jones Engineering gave monetarily as well as providing skilled labor, as did Vulcan Line Tools.