This Got Personal
Sean Crump, Universal Access
I like to think of physical disability, not as a variance in an individual’s ability, but how individuals differently interact with their environment. Allow me to elaborate.
(As I am an individual who utilizes a wheelchair to optimize my independence, let’s use this as the catalyst for providing this example.)
Situation 1: My friend and I decide to visit our local public library. As we pedest our way there we have curb cut outs at the corners (where we need to cross the street), we have easily approachable intersection crossing buttons (for the lights), and the path of travel is smooth and well lit the entire way. Once we arrive there is no barrier to entry, no steps (or ramp adjacent), no threshold, and automatic doors to get in. As we navigate through the library, we are easily able to access our items of interest and both of us independently check out our items before leaving.
Situation 2: The path chosen has an intersection without a curb cut, I then double back and make my way onto the street - utilizing an alley cut out. Once arriving back at the intersection (still on the street), I am no longer able to hit the button to indicate our intention to cross, so I request my friend do it on our behalf. Once we cross, we then come to a rough pathway that is uneven and has debris strewn about, at which point I decide to continue utilizing the road. Because of this my friend also chooses to walk along the street side with me as the path would not allow us to pedest alongside one another and continue our conversation. Upon arrival the ramp is located on a side entrance, and we were only able to identify this because the friend went in and inquired about an accessible entrance. After finding the items of interest we go to check out to find, again, my friend will have to aid me through the process.
In situation one, I was able to enjoy the entire engagement from start to finish without experiencing a point in which my “disability” was considered. Throughout the second situation there were many points that occurred where a barrier limited my independence and brought to light a discrepancy between my experience and my friends, highlighting the “disability” that limits my equal participation and the variation between our respective experiences.
I chose to incorporate an example of a hypothetical experience to illustrate how a tool like this helps eliminate barriers for individuals on a daily basis. Pedesting™ is not only a navigational app but a tool that ensures dignity and independence! Knowing how far we have come as a society, implementing barrier free design and ensuring the equality of opportunity for all people, there is still a long way to go before we fully achieve that goal. That being said, my expectation isn’t to get there overnight and understanding this is a process that requires buy-in from many different parties and organizations with a reasonable timeline in order to fulfil the vision of a barrier free environment. Pedesting™ is the bridge to that distant vision. By providing insight on where the barrier free paths of travel exist, and where accessible environments are located, I can further maximize my independence (supported through the utilization of my wheelchair). This is done simply by ensuring that I am pedesting my way through unfamiliar communities confidently, knowing the ideal path of travel has been identified and mapped out for me.
Getting from A to B and making on-the-fly adjustments based on the upcoming environmental barriers, is something many people (including myself before my accident) take for granted and never give a second thought towards. This isn’t the case for many individuals who, without this tool, elect to just stay home, or go to the same places and do the same things over and over. because it is the “safety net” they are forced to live within, that allows them to maintain some level of confidence in their daily activities. Pedesting™ has the ability to change that, this provides an assurance that I will get where I need to go, and I will do so like anybody else… Confidently and independently.