Element of the Month: Rasheera Dopson | May | 2024

The Inclusive Design Standards equip designers, builders, and developers with guidelines and frameworks for disability-forward housing creation. It highlights cross-disability accessibility and design decisions that are anchored in inclusion. Each month we feature one of our partners and the Element they’re most excited about.

Rasheera Dopson | Disability Justice Advocate | Dopson Foundation

Black woman with medium-dark brown hair. She is wearing a sleeveless blue and white checkered top, with a silver necklace, wearing red lipstick smiling. 

Rasheera Dopson started out as someone we followed on Twitter, before we struck up a relationship with her after we reached out to her directly. Rasheera Dopson is an accomplished speaker, thought leader and fierce disability advocate. Her expertise covers topics including disability, equity, public health, diversity, and inclusion. Her featured element, Filtration, thoughtfully links issues of disability, public health and environmental sustainability. She recently founded the Dopson Foundation which describes itself as “Creating Spaces for Women with Disabilities.” Her design recommendation for a new development suggests putting an air filtration system in every unit as a way to ensure “(a resident’s) living environment is compatible with their health needs.”

Name of Element:  Air Quality or HVAC | Filtration (3.3)

Description: Include HEPA filtration for mechanical equipment.

  • Building-wide and dwelling unit HVAC filters protect users against outdoor and recirculated pollutants.
  • Protects people with chemical and pollutant sensitivities or seasonal allergies.
  • Helps people with dog allergies cope with service dogs in a building.

Design Category: Building Components

Impact Area(s):  Health and Wellness

Additional Benefit(s): Environmental Sustainability, Safety, Beauty and Better Design

Why is this element important to you, personally or for the project?

This element is important to me as a person who lives with chronic illness and as a long COVID survivor. Having clean and quality air to breathe in my personal living space is critical to my overall health and emotional well-being. Since contracting COVID-19 multiple times, my lung capacity has not been the same. I am now dependent on personal air filtration devices and humidifiers to make breathing more accessible to me.

How would you explain this element to a 2nd grader?

When we eat, work, play, or learn in a space that keeps the air clean,  this makes it easier to breathe. Clean air helps us breathe better and think clearly. 

What recommendations would you make to someone designing a disability-forward housing project (related to the design standards)?

I recommend that an air filtration system be automatically installed in the central HVAC system. That way, persons with disabilities don’t have to bear the burden of taking on additional expenses in making sure their living environment is compatible with their health needs. Persons of color with disabilities who live in condensed urban areas are more at risk of being exposed to toxins in the air that can negatively impact their respiratory system.