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A program in Sarasota County, Fla., attempting to incentivize universal design in new construction and renovation projects has been unsuccessful in its four years of existence, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. The Universal Design and Visibility Program, which allows builders and contractors to fast-track the permitting process for popular elements in accessible designs, has not received a single application since its inception in 2015. The resolution was modeled after similar efforts across the U.S. and aimed to encourage builders and remodelers to incorporate wider doorways, stepless entryways, and other ease-of-access elements in their projects.

Universal design is not built into most school programs, and few contractors know or specialize in it, said Nick Dilorenzo, a building and construction teacher at Suncoast Technical College. Others, such as John King, the president of Rampart Homes Inc., who is also a certified aging-in-place specialist, said that he implements wider doorways and other universal design elements in the design of the home and doesn’t think about or need the incentive program.

Also, until recently developers and contractors did not need to use the program because permits didn’t take long to be approved. Because of the growth demands in Sarasota County, residential building permits have been backed up for the last year, said Jon Mast, the president of the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association. Builders are waiting for an average of eight weeks for building permits. Typically it takes three weeks, he said.

“If you are supposed to get expedited permits, but the county is so backed up that every permitting project is delayed, no one is getting fast-tracked,” he said.

While contractors have not taken advantage of the 2015 Sarasota County resolution, one positive outcome was that it also created educational programs and seminars to educate the public about universal design principles.

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