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Are people with disabilities part of your calculus?

When you design for the disabled population, you design for every population.

Photo of Shayla Maas
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The very basic parts of accessibility that should be the default in any planning endeavor, given that the passage of the ADA was over a quarter century ago, are often sadly lacking. This includes things like sidewalks in good repair, with smooth curb cuts at every corner, but even that doesn't go far enough. Are the sidewalks wide enough, with no obstacles or obstructions in the pathway? No tree roots pushing the concrete up, or grass overgrowing onto the pathway? Are the curb cuts a good, gradual angle, with no significant lip between them and the road surface?

In a city built into a mountain, as Pittsburgh is, there are a lot of hills and a lot of staircases. Those stairs make for a convenient shortcut for the able-bodied folks who can use them, but present an insurmountable barrier for people with all kinds of disabilities, not just those in wheelchairs. When the only access to a location is via one of those tall sets of steps, it excludes the disabled by design.

When planning a City of Tomorrow, start with accessibility. Assume that people with disabilities will be present, and account for their needs from the start. Pay attention to the little details, because that can make or break your accessible design. 1 in 5 people have a disability, and we deserve to be at the table from the beginning. Whether it is public transit options, bike trails, or autonomous vehicles, make the City of Tomorrow for 100% of the people, not just the able-bodied 80%.

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Photo of Aly Stone

Hi Shayla, welcome and thanks for such an important post! Good point about the necessity of being especially thoughtful about accessibility considering the unique and extremely hilly topography of Pittsburgh. It would be wonderful if you could chime in with your thoughts in the Propose Phase of the challenge, as we are starting to make headway on ideas there. I hope to see you there.
-Aly, community facilitator