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GSA Launches “Access for All” Student Design Competition

The student competition seeks to engage architecture and design students to discover innovative opportunities to create barrier-free federal spaces

WASHINGTON – Today, as part of their commitment to ensuring federal spaces are accessible, equitable, and inclusive, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and Challenge.Gov are launching Access for All, a student design competition for barrier-free spaces in federal buildings.

Federal facilities are typically designed with a compliance-based approach in mind. That can create barriers to common access and equal experience, which can impact individuals’ ability to fully participate in public life. As one example, restroom facilities follow and comply with all pertinent building codes, but might not consider access for all. Other examples that could benefit from integrating universal design include using ramps versus elevators-only and innovative new options for low-light energy requirements that consider those with low-vision. These and other disparities can disproportionately burden members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities (short-term, long-term, visible or not visible, mobility), women, and parents or caretakers of dependents. Finding innovative solutions that reduce disparity for all communities is a goal for GSA’s Office of Design and Construction.

The Access for All design competition will support GSA’s commitment to advancing accessibility and providing an equitable experience in federal buildings owned and operated by GSA. The Challenge.Gov competition will stimulate innovation among America’s architecture students by rewarding universal design ideas that improve inclusivity for federal workers and members of the public, while optimizing government resources and adding value to taxpayers. These ideas could include a broad range of modification solutions, including design and configuration that support the broadest set of needs for users while creating accessible facilities.

This design competition will:

  • Invest in a framework that will advance accessibility and improve inclusivity for federal employees and the general public.
  • Engage students from across the academic spectrum to include community college architecture programs and professional schools.
  • Engage students from architecture and interior design, construction science, and facilities management.
  • Serve as a stepping stone to accommodate and include a more diverse federal workforce.

“Whether you work in a federal building or visit one to get the services you need, you should find a space that allows you to fully participate in public life,” said GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan. “GSA continues to strive toward that ideal, and we want the next generation of designers to bring their great ideas to the table.”

“Federal buildings play an important role for communities and for the people who occupy and visit them,” said Nina Albert, Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service at the General Services Administration. “The Access for All Challenge.Gov competition is part of an ongoing effort to generate new ideas about how we address universal design and accessibility issues in federal facilities and provide positive examples of what is achievable.” 

Accessibility, the foundation on which to build diversity, equity and inclusion, is a key ingredient to providing barrier-free facilities and equal opportunities for the public and the entire federal workforce. Strengthening accessibility to and within buildings will also enhance the federal government’s ability to recruit and retain diverse talent from across our nation by providing resources and opportunities open to all.

As the nation’s largest employer, the federal government - through the U.S. General Services Administration and the buildings it manages - is the public face for many government services. As such, the federal government strives to be a model of convenience, fairness, and safety for its workforce and for the people who are using their services. Through recent Presidential Executive Orders, achieving equitable outcomes for people from historically and socially underserved communities is a priority alongside ensuring that the federal government's workforce and mission delivery reflects the diversity of the American people. This challenge facilitates and expands upon the model the federal government strives to maintain and enhance.


About GSA: GSA provides centralized procurement and shared services for the federal government, managing a nationwide real estate portfolio of nearly 370 million rentable square feet, overseeing approximately $75 billion in annual contracts, and delivering technology services that serve millions of people across dozens of federal agencies. GSA’s mission is to deliver the best customer experience and value in real estate, acquisition, and technology services to the government and the American people. For more information, visit and follow us at @USGSA.