Inclusive Architecture: MAF Scholarship Student Anticipates Needs of Disabled

For University of Michigan architecture student Ellis Wills-Begley, a classroom discussion on accessible design opened his eyes to understanding the needs of disabled people, and stimulated interest in learning more about how architecture serves as a catalyst for positive social change.

Wills-Begley, of Traverse City, recently received Michigan Architectural Foundation’s first Richard M. and Sidney K. Robinson Scholarship. The $3,500 scholarship is awarded to a University of Michigan student entering their fourth year of study, who aspires to an architectural career that combines imagination as a citizen/artist with responsibility to social, economic, and cultural context.

“By seeing design through the lens of disability, accessibility has the potential to be reframed as a creative opportunity,” said Wills-Begley.  “Truly inclusive design also enhances everyone’s experience in a space, regardless of their physical or psychological abilities.” With his student American Institute of Architects chapter, Wills-Begley helped start the group Initiative for Inclusive Design, whose goal is to increase awareness and dialogue on accessible design, and help influence the way designing for the disabled is currently approached.

“The scholarship jury was very impressed with Ellis’ portfolio of work, as well as his desire to explore how architecture can better anticipate the needs of the disabled community,” said Tim Casai, MAF scholarship committee chair. “He embodies the Robinson’s vision to assist students who want to design buildings that are both creative and responsible in how they enhance, encourage, and enable our lives.

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Since 2001, MAF has awarded scholarships annually to architectural students completing their Bachelor’s Degree, or enrolled in a Master of Architecture degree program at a Michigan college or university. Scholarship information is available on the MAF website.