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Ruth Lusher

At a Glance

Class Year: 1978

Award Year: 2020

Degree: Bachelor of Environmental Design

Profession: Architect


Graduating with honors in 1978, Ruth was accepted into the Doctoral Program in Architecture at the University of Michigan, receiving the Seabury Fellowship.

While researching State accessibility codes in Washington, DC in 1982, Ruth was offered a Design Research Associate position at the National Center for a Barrier Free Environment. She would work twenty-five years in DC, researching and writing about accessible design, and assisting Architects and designers to make their buildings accessible to millions of people with disabilities. Ruth began writing newsletters and trade journal articles, and speaking at conferences, requests to write sections for the “Encyclopedia of Architecture” and “Architecture Graphic Standards” followed. She received a Progressive Architecture award for her work on a design education project, and an “Award of Excellence” for Building in Accessibility, published in ”Construction Specifier.” She became a key speaker at Universal Design Seminars held in Novosibirsk, Siberia, and Moscow.

Directing Research and Technical Services, Ruth worked closely with the Presidentially appointed Access Board to craft new Accessibility Guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When published in the Federal Register with the Department of Justice on July 26, 1991, they became “enforceable” Standards guiding the design of buildings nationwide.

Ruth transferred to DOJ, becoming ADA Technical Assistance Program Manager. Believing people will voluntarily comply with ADA, if they understand the regulations and the reasons for its requirements, Ruth expanded the “ADA Information Line,” to serve 100,000 callers/year. She produced illustrated design guides and handbooks, and a searchable, hyperlinked website. ADA.GOV became the destination for people searching for ADA legal ‘settlement agreements’, ADA regulations/standards, design guides, and more from DOJ and other agencies. Attorney General Janet Reno recognized Ruth with an “Attorney General’s Award.” Honored as a Hamilton County “Torchbearer,” Ruth participated in Indiana’s 2016 Bicentennial “Torch Relay”.