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Beacon Hill Village

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The video above describes the community started by a group of determined residents in Boston, MA. They have organized what AARP describes as “a livable community”. It’s a framework that has worked well in the city of Boston, but what is perhaps most admirable, is that the community evolves thanks to the initiatives of the members. As one of the founders explains, “Thats perhaps one of the geniuses in the way the village movement has been set up because it takes into account that we are all aging in different ways with different needs at different times.”

No subtitles are available but you can read more on: Beacon Hill Village

Technology, Everyday

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After watching Ron McCallum’s speech I was intrigued to look into other technologies. I came across a video featuring Lynda Jones, where she explains the products she uses everyday. It’s filmed well and is very informative, I hope you enjoy it.

Ron McCallum: How technology allowed me to read

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Ron McCallum explains the technology changes of his youth though a brilliantly crafted speech and presentation. The video is available on youtube as well. Must see for anyone in computer science, software development, industrial design and web development/design. As McCallum notes, there are still legislative and technological barriers that must be overcome, but we have come a long way.

To see the transcript please click on the title above. more

Website Changes

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Later this week ill be making some changes to the website which will hopefully allow it to load faster. Some visual changes and errors may occur while I’m working on it. It should, hopefully, only be a few days. Thank you for your patience!

*Update: I’ve made a few minor changes/updates. I’ll be making bigger changes in the spring.

Door Knobs in Vancouver

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Starting next month, the doors of new buildings in Vancouver, Canada will be equipped with “more ergonomically friendly, easier-to-use lever handles” (Slate). Even the city hall will be replacing its door knobs, first placed 78 years ago. The law is intended to promote inclusive environments, making the surroundings better for everyone. Although it may seem like a small detail to some, accessible door levers are necessary for people of all ages. As noted by Slate, the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility requirements often do not transcend into private housing, making an increasing number of homes inaccessible. By promoting more thoughtful designs, a city’s urban planning and architectural investments can be sustained for a longer period of time-regardless of population shifts. Read more on: “seeing” things differently, see the original city hall door knob

Inclusive Play

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Turtle Lake Elementary school in Shoreview, MN aims to build an inclusive playground to meet the needs of over 1,000 students and 720 families. It’s a playground that seeks the enjoyment of all “…people regardless of social, cognitive or mobility challenges”. The design relies on various sensory stimuli and the availability of group and individual play. “Some of the playground’s many features include ramping throughout, even to the highest point where a slide will be built; a rock’n ship with treasure map that gently sways side to side; multiple slides, including a large steel slide designed for kids with cochlear implants that cannot use plastic ones due to static electricity that can short the implants out; a rock climbing wall and “infinity climber;” hoopla bridge and team swing; music and Braille panels as well as a telescope. The playground will also include independent events such as a stand-n-spin, solo spinner, teeter-totter and jack hammer where children who may be overwhelmed by a crowd can play in smaller groups.” (Lillie News)

The project was undertaken by a group of local residents wanting to increase learning, activity and communication among toddlers, children and their caregivers. Their goal is to fundraise $280,000 by the summer of 2014.. and they’re about half-way there!

Read/view more at: Vimeo-Shoreview, Turtle Lake Elementary-Donate, 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design

Disability

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In the past I’ve been asked about my thoughts on the word “disability” and I think its something that I should address here. Synonyms for disability have evolved over time, making some less politically correct. Today, disability is often divided and perceived in two models, the social and medical model.

I’m over simplifying this, but the social model accounts for all external factors that classify a disability. It is seen as “…the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a society which takes little or no account of people who have impairments and thus excludes them from mainstream activity” (University of Leeds). The social model sees disability as an intermingled group of players- spatial barriers, legislature, social initiatives, cultural values/beliefs, traditions, and more. As Henri-Jaques Derrida explains, “There is no disability, no disabled, outside precise social and cultural constructions; there is no attitude toward disability outside a series of societal references and constructs. Disability has not always been seen in the same way” (A History of Disability, p14)

The medical model is centered around the exploration and diagnosis of a person’s state. The goal in the medical model is to ameliorate the person’s state so that they may live better within their enviorment. It may be a stretch, but I think of the medical model almost as an aim to obtain cultural assimilation. Within the medical model, there is a push for surgical, prosthetic, and medication interventions as an aim for a “cure”.

Some believe that in order to progress any further, we must forget about disability as a whole: “When we insist on describing people as either “young” or “old,” “able-bodied” or “disabled,” we create conflicting camps for attention and action… Unless we change our attitudes and perceptions of the “norm,” we will continue to create safe passages for some and roadblocks for others” (Patricia “Pattie” Moore).

Colloquially I refrain from using the word disability. For me, the word is meaningless when describing anything beyond the current cultural context. I’ll give you a quick example which will hopefully explain my viewpoint: not too long ago, a loss of visual acuity was accepted as a disability. Those who experienced visual loss had difficulty living day-to-day, often seen as a hazard if allowed to work. Today, those who wear glasses are very rarely discriminated, in fact in most countries one who wears glasses is seen as “intellectual“. Glasses are now worn by individuals who have no prescription at all. Athletes, actors, and people all over the world can be found wearing glasses without any lenses.

In my short lifespan I have witnessed many changes in meaning of the term “disability”.

I don’t believe that prosthetics are bad. I think that the design of any object, if wanted, should be guided by the user’s desires and needs. That may mean that a prosthetic will not resemble an organic, anatomical arm or leg. I think in order to move forward, we must understand that nothing is “perfect” that “disability” is actually completely natural and inevitable. I believe we should aim to build communities where no one is excluded. Most importantly, no change(s) should be universally prescriptive and that is why a dialogue is critically needed. In order to build withstanding change, we must be respectful of cultures, providing communities the opportunity to be active in the changes of their future.

As a result of this blog’s medium, the current search tools of the internet, and commonly used vocabulary, I do use the word disability. Hopefully in a few years, this website will no longer be relevant.

Thank you for reading, and also, for your e-mails and comments!

Aging in Place

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In the United States, the “baby boomer” generation is beginning to transform the context of aging away from traditional, nursing home and assisted living communities to “Aging in Place”. There are various aspects which will accelerate changes in the way we understand aging today:

1. According to a new article by the Milwaukee Business News, “Almost 90 percent of those ages 50 and older want to remain in their homes indefinitely (AARP)”. It’s no surprise “Aging in Place” has become popularized as it provides homeowners greater flexibility and freedom. Although the solution seems enticing, there are many challenges that need to be addressed. For home owners, planning ahead for these changes is a challenge as there are not many resources available besides hiring a Certified Aging-in-Place specialists to help them though the process (US News). The approval process of remodeling alongside the associated costs, dissuade some homeowners from taking active steps towards their future. Finding homes/apartments to rent that are suitable for specific accessibility needs is a challenge as well. Aging in Place has the possibility of delivering many advantages in the United States but the model needs to be developed.

2. Simultaneously, the number of caregivers is decreasing from 7.2 middle-age caregivers for every eighty year old in 2010, to a projected 2.9 by 2050 (USA Today). Today nearly 1 in 5 Americans care for their relatives but this availability is quickly diminishing as the income needed for families to live self-sufficiently increases. Aside from income, the rise in work related relocation distances families from providing full care. Affordable, skilled and educated caregivers are hard to come by. Educated caregivers are necessary especially when the need to operate point of care or other medical technologies becomes present.

3. The aging population is expected to increase in many parts of the world-in some places quadrupling by 2050 (World Health Organization). A break-down of the population change in the US can be read on the US Census Report. This population shift will provide new perspectives, enhancing our ability to serve all generations. Innovative changes must be made as the fluctuation in generations will shift again, limiting the effectiveness of providing more housing infrastructure under traditional paradigms.

Architecture: Designing with the Blind in Mind

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A wonderfully inspiring speech by Chris Downey. His speech is concluded with this:

“So my final takeaway for you is that not only is the city good for the blind, but the city needs us. And I’m so sure of that that I want to propose to you today that the blind be taken as the prototypical city dwellers when imagining new and wonderful cities, and not the people that are thought about after the mold has already been cast. It’s too late then. So if you design a city with the blind in mind, you’ll have a rich, walkable network of sidewalks with a dense array of options and choices all available at the street level. If you design a city with the blind in mind, sidewalks will be predictable and will be generous. The space between buildings will be well-balanced between people and cars… If you design a city with the blind in mind, you design a city with a robust, accessible, well-connected mass transit system that connects all parts of the city and the region all around…

So, in designing a city for the blind, I hope you start to realize that it actually would be a more inclusive, a more equitable, a more just city for all. And based on my prior sighted experience, it sounds like a pretty cool city, whether you’re blind, whether you have a disability, or you haven’t quite found yours yet.”

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