Spectrum Ability Accessibility Podcast – Ep. 01 – Intro to Accessbility

(upbeat music) – The Spectrum Ability
Accessibility Podcast is brought to you by Spectrum Ability. Spectrum Ability provides
accessibility consulting, assessments, and RHFAC certification for the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley and British Columbia area. If you would like to
become more accessible, contact us at SpectrumAbility.com. (upbeat music) Hello, welcome to episode one of the Spectrum Ability
Accessibility Podcast. This is Arnold coming to you from Vancouver, British Columbia. And in this opening episode,
we’re gonna go easy, we’re gonna ease into accessibility. We’re gonna talk about what
it is, and why it matters. And why is it still an issue today, in 2019, as of this recording. So, accessibility, it’s
such a very packed topic. And it can mean a lot of things. It can mean physically accessibility, it can mean technological accessibility. So, for example, physical accessibility is like how you came to a building, kind of like ramps and
elevators and all that. And technological accessibility has to do with like how do you access a website if you are blind or visually
impaired or low vision? How do you have access
to videos if you’re Deaf? Like how do you understand
the video and all that stuff. So we’re going to focus a lot on the physical accessibility part, because that’s what Spectrum
Ability does for the most part, but also it’s easiest
for people to understand. Because I find that if you
start getting into the more complex forms of accessibility, and you don’t have the basics, people don’t really seem to understand it. And that’s the thing, a lot
of people don’t understand what accessibility is because they’ve never had to deal with it. And when you haven’t had to deal with it, you tend to not know anything about it. So we’re gonna talk about what it is. So accessibility, in my
world, has to do a lot with universal design
in the physical space. So universal design, what
exactly is universal design? Well, it’s a term coined
by a guy named Ronald Mace. And he defines universal design as, “The design of products and environments “to be usable by all people to
the greatest extent possible, “without the need for adaptation
or specialized design.” So that’s a pretty long
sentence, but what does it mean? Let’s break it down. “The design of products and environments.” So obviously, products can
mean things like buildings, a building is a product, an environment is also
part of the product. And I will get into that
in a bit with an example. So “products and environments to be usable “by all people to the
greatest extent possible.” And it’s really not possible to make something 100% accessible because everyone has different needs. And this is true for the
able-bodied population as well. So in the able-bodied population, people without disabilities
might be a lot taller than other people, they might be shorter, they might be skinnier, they might have better eyesight, they might be more athletic. When you think about
the general population, there’s a huge range. And the same is true for
people with disabilities. There is a huge range
of abilities out there. So it’s not just black and white. It’s not like somebody can’t
walk and somebody can walk and there’s nothing in between. It’s not like somebody
can hear and can’t hear and there’s nothing in between. Or someone can see and
can’t see and so on. And really when it comes to ability, it is always going to be a range. So that is why it says in the
definition by Ronald Mace, “To the greatest extent possible.” And the last part of it, of
that quote from Ronald Mace, is, “without the need for
adaptation or specialized design.” And that is the toughest one in a way because sometimes you have to adapt something for it to be used. But what he means is that, you don’t need to specialize
anything in the building, or in the space, I should
say, in order for it to work. So like it should work to an extent, like it shouldn’t be,
for example, microwaves that are way above the counter. Well, if you’re short, anyone
who’s under a certain height, is not going to be able to use it unless they have an adaptation. But if you have the
microwave further down, that means that most people
would be able to reach it, including tall people,
including short people, and you don’t need to adapt
anything to make it work. So that’s kind of the
example I use sometimes to explain that part. So now let’s bring about an example. There’s a building in downtown Vancouver, it’s a condo building. And it’s brand new, built
within the past 10 years, I would say. And the front entrance
has a flight of steps. And they decided to build what’s called a platform
lift right next to it. And what a platform
lift is, it’s a platform that can fold out and you
can roll a mobility device like a wheelchair or a scooter onto it. And then you press a button and it will lift you up
the stairs to the top. Now, that is technically accessible. But that is not universal design. So what do I mean by that in this example? So let’s go back to the definition. It is “a product that’s
designed to be usable “by all people to the
greatest extent possible.” A platform lift looks like it can be used by people to the greatest extent possible. But is it? Because what happens to those things is that you probably
need a key to operate it. And if you don’t have a
key, you can’t operate it, it’s already restricting
people from using it. And when it comes to keys,
a key can be an issue for people who don’t have finger function or people who don’t have
fingers, such as amputees. So if you need your
fingers to manipulate a key to operate it, it’s already
locking out a lot of people. And you might be thinking, well, when you’re in a wheelchair, you have an issue with your
legs not your arms, right? Well, not necessarily just the legs, because a lot of people
who are in wheelchairs, they might have finger dexterity issues, because they might have
a spinal cord injury that affects how their fingers work, or they might have had a stroke. Because strokes can often
affect your fine motor skills. Or you might be someone who was born with cerebral palsy. And that affects your
fine motor skills, too. So this is where it starts
getting a little mucky. So you can start seeing this
platform lift being an issue. And then you look at the last part is, “without the need for adaptation
or specialized design.” That’s what the quote
says, by Ronald Mace. Well, if you have a flight of stairs, that requires a platform lift to get up it if you’re on wheels, that’s not really “without the need “for adaptation or specialized design” because you need something
specialized to go up the stairs. So that’s kind of the gist of that. So that example of that new building is not universal design, it’s just not. That’s kind of where we’re
trying to head towards. We’re trying to head
towards universal design. Because when you think about
accessibility just by itself, it doesn’t always
include universal design. So that’s kind of where our goal is. Why do we have situations
where it’s like that? Part of the issue is whenever
I approach business owners, sometimes they seem to think
of accessibility as two things. One is that it is an optional,
nice-to-have luxury item. Or it is an add-on,
something that’s added on top of something that’s existing. When it comes to being a luxury item, part of that has to do with like, some legitimate reasons and
also some misconceptions. So the legitimate reason is sometimes it has to do with money. And granted, things do
cost a lot sometimes. But sometimes they don’t. There’s a stat out there
saying most adaptations cost about $500 or less,
which is not a lot of money. But people don’t realize it, they think that any
adaptation is gonna cost into the thousands of dollars,
which is not always the case. And if it is the case, there are often grant programs out there that can help with that,
it is a pressing need. And there are groups out there that are trying to improve this, just go and do some research. And the other aspect of it is an add-on. And this is true for that
building I just mentioned. Is that when they built it, they didn’t think about accessibility when they were designing it,
they thought of it afterwards. And that happens a lot,
even to newer buildings, they would design the building, and then they would think
about accessibility afterwards and see, well, “How can
we force accessibility “into the building?” Which is actually kind of
doubling your workload, because if you had designed it from the start to be accessible, you would have saved
yourself a lot of time. So as soon as people start
thinking of accessibility as a luxury, nice-to-have,
and also as an add-on, things will start changing. People also don’t think of accessibility as a human rights issue sometimes, because it’s not really
framed as such sometimes when we’re talking about
accessibility planning. So I’ll give you an example of this. There is a place locally
here in the Vancouver area, I’m not gonna name which one, they are currently in trouble
for accessibility reasons. And the complaint went through the Human Rights Tribunal of Canada. Because accessibility is
technically a human rights issue. Because if you are someone
who has a disability, and you’re prevented from doing what everyone else is able to do, through no fault of your own,
and through either neglect or through violations of
bylaws or anything like that, then it is a human rights issue because they’re effectively
discriminating against, they’re discriminating against who can use their services and who cannot. So accessibility is a human rights issue. It’s not a nice luxury item
as people tend to think. All right, so we know now a
little bit about accessibility. But why is it important,
why is it so pressing, so dire that we need to know about it? Well, I’m gonna throw some numbers that you might or might not know. And it might blow your mind
if you do not know them. Actually, it might blow your
mind even if you do know them. Okay, so about one in five
to one in seven people in the world has a disability. This is the largest
minority group in the world. And you might be going like, “Well, I don’t really
believe you in my country, “I live in Canada or the
USA or some other country,” “we don’t have that many
people with disabilities.” Well, hold on there because
when I say the word disability, it means a lot of things. It means people who might use wheelchairs, people who might use crutches,
canes, walkers, scooters, people who are blind,
Deaf, hard of hearing, includes people who have
a multitude of these. It can include people with
learning disabilities, cognitive issues, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t matter which
country you look at. That ratio is going to be
more or less consistent. Bear in mind that ratio is only applicable to people who identify
as having a disability. One group that often doesn’t identify as having a disability: seniors. Think about it. Do you have
a grandmother or grandfather, who will never admit
to having a disability despite having knee
problems, hip problems, vision problems, hearing
problems, all that stuff? Because if you think they’re disabled, they’re gonna yell at you or
they are not gonna admit it. There is a stigma around
disability that prevents them from admitting that they
might have a disability. And also, the word disability
is very multifaceted. Because it also depends on
what time and where you live. So what I mean by time is things change. Adaptations are made,
and things get invented. Medical advancements also come into play. Think about people who wear glasses. If you are living in a
day and age and a place where glasses are not normal,
or not readily available, if you’re nearsighted or farsighted, you’re going to have a disability because you will not be able to function in the society where you live. However, in this day and
age, in a place like Canada, if you have glasses, it
might not be a disability. So, some places are
still not in a situation to have readily available eyewear. So that might be a disability there. Now think about accessibility. A lot of people would be
like, “Well, big deal, “one in five, one in seven,” “I’m only catering to one
in seven people, forget it.” Right? Well, not
necessarily because people who use accessibility
features are not always people with disabilities or physical issues. It might be someone with a baby stroller. If you have a baby stroller and you have a flight of
stairs and ramp next to it, guess what, they’re gonna use a ramp. If you are in a shopping mall
with escalators and elevators, and you have a bigger baby stroller, you’re going to use the elevator. If you are someone who is carrying luggage or carrying cargo, you’re probably gonna use a
ramp and elevator as well. The list goes on, because
it’s not just people with physical issues that would need the accessibility features
that are available. So there are a lot of reasons, there are many, many, many reasons why accessibility is important. And when you factor those situations in, suddenly, you’re not catering
to one in five anymore, you’re not catering to one in seven, you’re catering to a lot more than that. And once people wrap their
heads around the demand of accessibility, it starts
to become not only something that’ll keep you out of
the Human Rights Tribunal, but it also becomes something that is a lot more important
than previously realized. So this is something
that I try to get across in my line of work. But also, it’s something that I hope more people will start thinking about. Because once you start
thinking about something, you’re gonna start solving problems. There’s a quote that I
use for many of my clients that quote is, “The first step “towards solving a
problem is giving a damn.” Because if you start to
care about something, it doesn’t really matter whether you know how to
do it correctly or not. The fact that you care means that you’re going to start
subconsciously improving stuff. Because if you don’t care, then nothing will ever get improved. “The first step towards solving
a problem is giving a damn.” So that is episode one of the Spectrum Ability
Accessibility Podcast. I hope that was an adequate introduction to accessibility and why it’s important. We will talk about why it’s
important over and over again. Because there are so many situations where you would think that it would already be an issue of the past, we probably would have solved it by now. But the answer is often
no, we haven’t solved it. And you might be shocked in
more ways than one at why. So in the next episode, we’re gonna be talking a little bit about
what accessibility entails and some common misconceptions
about accessibility and also couple more
things to blow your mind. So until next time, this
is Arnold from Vancouver. This has been the Spectrum
Ability Accessibility Podcast. Stay accessible. (upbeat music) The Spectrum Ability Accessibility Podcast is brought to you by Spectrum Ability. Spectrum Ability provides
accessibility consulting, assessments, and RHFAC certification for the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley and British Columbia area. If you would like to
become more accessible, contact us at SpectrumAbility.com (upbeat music)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *