Archive for October, 2010

Oh the places you’ll go….if you have a car

It’s a big world out there, but can you access it without a car? That sound you hear is a resounding “no!”   Without some sort of transportation, our local communities are feeling even bigger. As an Occupational Therapist that provides environmental modification services, I am passionate about accessibility.  In many instances I can create an accessible environment in someone’s home, workplace or even their favorite local spot, but how do they get from point A to point B?

I am talking about the issue of sprawl providing few or no options for a pedestrian or cyclist.  Limited public transportation creating a further disconnect from the community, unless you have a car or can be driven.  This national dilemma hit home for me this summer.  My parents, both in their 70s, live in a suburban neighborhood.  My father, being the primary transportation as my mother does not drive, had an unexpected six-week hospitalization.  My first reaction– drop everything and go help to set up my Mom with everything that she might need that requires a car– grocery shopping being at the top of the list.  Although I was being helpful, I could not help but continue to think how much she has to rely on someone else to be able to get around her community.  Sure, she could pay a taxi, but how many seniors on a fixed income would be able to afford such a service over a long period of time?  She could use the senior citizen bus (which she did) but this was only to go to and from medical appointments.  What if she wanted to go to the mall, go see a movie, visit a friend?  Another option might be for her to live in a 55+ community that offers a bus as an amenity, or, temporarily/permanently move in with me, but that would mean uprooting her from the community that she has lived in for almost 40 years.

Aging in Place has been talked about more and more, but the concept of “Aging in Community” is looking at the bigger picture.   The CDC Healthy Aging Research Network is focusing on just that—how the total environment is impacting a person’s ability to access community features and how this is subsequently impacting health and wellness.  It is a national issue that is gaining more press recently, with some areas of the country, such as Atlanta and Portland, moving further forward than others.

So how do we create livable communities?  One movement is Complete Streets. This is allowing for everyone (pedestrian of any age, motorist, bicyclist, wheelchair user, bus rider, etc) to safely utilize the streets.  “Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind.”  But, it is not just about the streets.  It is having a well-planned community where your housing is also near shops, green spaces, jobs and public transportation, to alleviate the need of having to jump in a car to access life outside your home.

More and more communities are talking with their state and local politicians advocating for the creation of a more livable environment.  Having access to grants and/or state and federal funding in combination with the support from your politicians to put policy change into effect is what is needed for the success of these initiatives.

How livable is your community?  What is happening on this front in your home-town?


October 24, 2010 at 9:46 am 2 comments

Take me out to the ballgame!

Buying tickets to go to the theatre, see a concert or catch a sporting event has always been a bit of a challenge.  The first obstacle we have run into is that when you need to buy accessible seating tickets, you cannot purchase them from TicketMaster or any other third-party source.  Accessible seating must be purchased from the venue itself.  In some instances, they must also be picked up at the Will-Call window, versus sent to you in the mail.

With the Department of Justice adopting the revisions to ADA Title II and Title III, the amended regulations provide guidance on the sale of tickets for accessible seating, the sale of season tickets, the hold and release of accessible seating to persons other that those who need accessible seating, ticket pricing, prevention of the fraudulent purchase of accessible seating, and the ability to purchase multiple tickets when buying accessible seating. It also requires a venue operator to accommodate an individual with a disability who acquired inaccessible seating on the secondary ticket market only when there is unsold accessible seating for that event.

Part of the regulation that I am excited about, is the ability to “Permit individuals who use wheelchairs to sit with family members or other companions.”  This is opposed to ” a companion seat must be provided next to each wheelchair seating location.  The companion seat is a conventional seat that accommodates a friend or companion”.  This was a good start, but what happens to a family of four?  What about when we go to events with friends or other family?  Previously, we would always try to arrange to sit near our friends or other family.  Now, we will actually be able to sit together!

Although this is a positive change to some, it is being viewed as a negative to others.  One question that has been asked is, does this decrease the amount of accessible seating?  No.  There is still the same amount of accessible seating, but it now becomes a design issue.  How can the layout of the venue be setup to allow for the seating of multiple family members next to a person with a disability, but still provide a reasonable amount of accessible seating dispersed throughout the venue, while still maintaining lines of sight?

Perhaps all of the areas that are designated as accessible seating can allot for either a wheelchair and/or a conventional seat to be placed.  This scenario would increase the number of areas that would need to be available as possible accessible seating within the venue, but would meet the need for dispersion of seats.   This scenario will also allow for the change to have family sit next to the person with a disability while still allowing for the reasonable amount of accessible seats overall.

What are your thoughts on this change?  How do you anticipate this will be implemented?

October 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm 1 comment

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