March 2012 Archives

Universal Design in the News

The slow march of Universal Design thinking into the mainstream is displacing "compliance" and "mere accessibility" thinking:

Chris Palames will address the definition of Universal Design: the seamless integration of access features in the design of the built environment to benefit users of all ages and abilities. He will present four examples of best practices in Universal Design -- the Vietnam War Memorial, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the recently completed core building renovation at Greenfield Community College, and his own home designed by Bill Austin AIA.

George Balsley will speak more specifically about his experience designing for the deaf. He will outline his consulting work with various architects for their schools for the deaf projects and will discuss architecture and the deaf community. 


Universal Design Workshop held in Lake George

Recently, the Tri-County United Way, the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play initiative (funded by the NYS Department of Health), and theAdirondack Rural Health Network convened local realtors, builders, planners, human service professionals, and interested residents to learn about and discuss Universal Design.  Esther Greenhouse, MS, CAP - an environmental gerontologist - sought to increase attendees' awareness of Universal Design concepts and resources and the impact of implementing those principles in a community.  She noted that our environment has the power to fit or limit everyone and advocated for designing homes, buildings, and products to meet a diversity of ages, needs, and abilities.  Some examples of Universal Design include ergonomic handles on kitchen utensils, lever door handles and faucets, and multi-level counters in a kitchen. 

Many are familiar with the concept of accessibility, which typically refers to creating environments or products which are intended to addresses specific, individualized needs related to a disability and are often recognizable.  Environments and products incorporating Universal Design principles support equitable and flexible use and may not be easily identifiable.  For example, a ramp may increase accessibility for an individual in a wheelchair; whereas a zero-step entry into a home -- an example of Universal Design -- would equally accommodate an individual in a wheelchair, a person walking, an individual pushing a baby carriage, and a toddler.

Air travel by people with disabilities in India is the focus of this survey:

Refused travel unless accompanied by a carer?
Wheelchair broken due to negligent handling?
Restrictive airline policies on assistive aids?
Frustration because airline / airport staff couldn't or were unwilling to resolve a problem?
Felt humiliated or embarrassed by inadequate communication?
...or impressed by an outstanding response to a special request? Whether you're passenger, attendant, family member, observer, bystander,stakeholder, disabled, senior citizen - this is for you to fill if you'd like to share your air travel story where requiring something specific or out of the ordinary had unexpected consequences - they could be positive, but we're guessing mostly negative ;-) We welcome your feedback as this would bring about greater visibility of what is a daily occurrence to many of us.

Take the survey:

Here is some background on the issue which is service to PwD by Indian airlines:

Abundant Travel

According to the Center for Disease Control(CDC), 68% of Americans are either overweight or obese. But the width of an average coach-class seat on an airplane is just 17 inches, and with the economy picking up and airlines cutting back on flight schedules to stay competitive, empty seats are becoming a rare commodity.

The Canadian government passed a one person, one ticket law in 2008 that classified obesity as a disability and required major Canadian airlines to provide obese passengers with as many additional seats as needed at no extra charge. In the U.S., airline staff occasionally ask larger travelers to buy a second seat but the issue can be contentious. Two years ago, a flight attendant on a Southwest flight removed filmmaker Kevin Smith from an Oakland-Burbank flight because he couldn't fit into one seat and the flight was full. Smith had booked two seats but decided to go standby on an earlier flight. They allowed him to board but then asked him to leave once it was clear he couldn't fit into the one seat.

Smith was outraged and tweeted, "You [messed] with the wrong sedentary processed-foods eater!" among other things to his 1.6 million followers. But anecdotal evidence suggests that many airlines allow obese travelers to travel on one ticket, even if it's obvious they can't fit into one seat. In November, a traveler from Pennsylvania claimed that he had to stand for the duration of a seven-hour flight because his seatmate was too large for him to sit comfortably. The incident garnered widespread media attention, with many readers noting that they'd had similar experiences.

Spirit Airlines offers "big front" seats for an additional fee and other airlines also have new classes of service somewhere between business and coach, but most offer only additional legroom and not wider seats. According to the New York Times, at least three airlines do not allow obese passengers to sit in the emergency exit row. When it comes to airline travel, size clearly matters and the issue of weight and passenger comfort is likely to remain contentious.

Tony Harrell is a board member of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), and founder of Abundant Travel, a travel agency for "people of size" based in Alexandria, Virginia. In the interview below, I spoke to Harrell about a variety of issues pertaining to obesity and the travel industry.

How did you decide to start a travel agency specializing in overweight and obese travelers?

I started Abundant Travel two years ago, and my main inspiration was my then-girlfriend and now fiancée, who is a larger person. We were trying to find properties and destinations that would accommodate us and it got me to thinking there have to be other travelers who have similar concerns.

What type of concerns are you referring to specifically?
Read More:

DeafSpace Guidelines

Most cities aren't designed for deaf people. Sidewalks are frequently too narrow or too crowded for deaf persons engaged in a conversation that requires so-called "signing space." Public benches are often set in rows or squares, limiting the ability of the deaf to create the "conversation circles" and open sight lines that they require. Urban landscapes are so visually stimulating that they hinder communication among people who rely on visual cues. And light fixtures may be too dim or shine directly into signers' eyes.

These things don't just make a deaf person's life more challenging; they can make it dangerous. In January, three deaf people were struck by a vehicle and seriously injured in Olathe, Kansas*, as they left a deaf cultural event. The same thing happened to a deaf man last year in Sacramento.

In 2009, Deaf411, a public relations firm serving the deaf community, released a report on Deaf-Friendly Cities in the U.S., saluting places like Washington, D.C., Chicago, Seattle, Raleigh, and Denver for their efforts to accommodate the deaf or hard of hearing. But for every city on the list, countless others--including San Francisco, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Philadelphia--did not make the cut.

Now Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the nation's leading institution for the deaf and hard of hearing, has produced a set of so-called DeafSpace Guidelines that address those aspects of the urban environment that inhibit communication and mobility among those who communicate with their hands. In doing so, architects and design researchers have used technology to gather information on how deaf people use public spaces and modify them to meet their needs. Campus officials say that the guidelines have already begun a dialogue that they hope will have an impact on urban development nationwide.

"The clarity with which a deaf person communicates relates to the clarity and clutter of what's around them," says Hansel Bauman, director of campus design and planning at Gallaudet, who led the multiyear effort to create the DeafSpace Guidelines. "Space becomes an essential part of how you communicate."

Through a series of university courses, Bauman worked with Gallaudet faculty, students, staff, and others to research and codify how deaf and hard of hearing people use public spaces. The resulting document details five major elements involved in deaf interactions with the built environment, including space and proxemics (the study of how space is used in interpersonal communication), sensory reach, mobility and proximity, light and color, and acoustics and electromagnetic interferences.

In one experiment, the design team analyzed footage from video cameras to determine how students were using a campus dining hall. They soon realized that the chairs in the facility ought to be lighter, so that students could move them around easily to create conversation circles, as well as armless, to allow people ample elbow room for signing.

"We are codifying ideas that have existed for centuries," Bauman says. "Even when deaf people are renting an apartment, they may take the bold act of knocking down a wall, because having that clarity of vision is so critically important. We're building on an age-old sensibility that is deeply embedded in deaf culture."

Gallaudet has already applied the DeafSpace Guidelines to new buildings on campus, including the Sorenson Language and Communication Center, designed by SmithGroup, a D.C.-based architecture firm, which features long, open sight lines, visibility between floors, gently curving corners, and ample windows.  A new residence hall on campus is now under way using similar principles.


O Festival de Turismo das Cataratas do Iguaçu já prepara várias novidades para a 7ª edição, que acontecerá entre os dias 13 e 15 de junho. Presente no calendário oficial do Ministério do Turismo, o FIT Cataratas tem o objetivo de mostrar e falar do turismo de Foz do Iguaçu lançando tendências às organizações de eventos de turismo do País.

Para isso o idealizador do Festival, Paulo Angeli, e a coordenadora Cássia Ribeiro, fizeram uma releitura do turismo na cidade e enxergaram várias discussões que estão sendo implantadas na programação do festival.

"Estamos em constante busca para ampliar o profissionalismo tanto da parte de organização quanto de nossos participantes. Os eventos paralelos estão mais focados em estratégias de venda de cada nicho de mercado e em ambientes diferenciados dentro da feira. Este será o marco da edição 2012", revela Cássia.

Todo o festival surpreende ao incrementar um evento paralelo, este ano não poderia ser diferente. Com o maior fórum científico sobre turismo do País, este ano o FIT Cataratas ganha o Encontro Internacional de Blogueiros de Turismo, Fórum Internacional de Acessibilidade e Cidadania, Feira Internacional de Turismo de Compras do Iguassu, Mostra do Turismo Sustentável Regional do Iguaçu e a tradicional rodada de negócios.

"Queremos provocar os agentes de viagem,gestores públicos, estudantes e participantes do Festival a debaterem todos os aspectos envolventes sobre o turismo nacional", diz Angeli.


Synopsis: "A Story of Hope and Faith in Humanity Through the Eyes of a Pure Creative Soul." This fantasy drama short film will absorb and carry you into the world of Florentina's creative adventures allowing you to see life from a unique perspective. Staying true to the artist within; you will be captured by her innocence, sense of humor and vulnerability mixed with true in your face angst. Florentina is one of 1000's with special needs that has endured force, intimidation and seclusion at the hands of educators. She has also come face to face with discrimination and isolation from within her local community and society as a whole. Bringing the audience into her creative world as it "comes to life" on the screen, will allow an intimate experience in how she transcends and removes these society dictated barriers. Florentina is an amazing Artist who entered this world on a train in Romania. When she was 3 years old, she met her mom who brought her to the United States in August 2000. At 4/12 she was diagnosed with Immune System Dysfunction, Developmental Delay & Autism. Through her own personal experiences, the film's message will create opportunities to opening hearts, genuine smiles of understanding, and ultimately loving acceptance that people are people and are deserving of unconditional respect, understanding and compassion. Flipping the Switch to be seen for all the wonderful gifts we all have to offer as a person, beyond the differences.
Read more and support the project:

Objectives in English
View more documents from Scott Rains

El Manual de Accesibilidad Turistica Chile

A Big Jump

Lonnie "The Lonster' Bissonnette does the first double front flip bungee jump in his wheelchair in Whistler, BC with 9Lives Adventures. If you would like to support the 9Lives movement, please check out our online store and put your money towards something good! Check it here:

Beijing - A small group of disabled young people in China have made history by using social media to make parts of the ancient Forbidden City of Beijing accessible to people with disabilities for the first time.

Congcong Guo is a member of Young Voices China, a global advocacy campaign hosted by Leonard Cheshire Disability: "Like elsewhere in the world, people with disabilities in China are made to feel like a public inconvenience. Just going to the market or the shops can be difficult."

Improving accessibility is a core part of the Young Voices. Public transport and buildings across China are often poorly designed for people with physical disabilities, hindering every day movement around the country. But it wasn't until one meeting when a member suggested making the Forbidden City accessible that they were struck by the fact that the 83 million disabled people in China, and all international visitors with disabilities, were missing out on one of China's most important legacies.

The city is made up of a series of interconnected rooms, many with high thresholds which make wheelchair access impossible. The whole infrastructure is old and uneven, making movement around the city difficult.

During the Paralympics in Beijing, some provisions were made to make the famous site more accessible for tourists with disabilities. But the adaptations were seen as a temporary measure. The ambitions of the Young Voices to keep the adaptations were up against the strict rules of the administration, charged with conserving the character of the 15th century World Heritage Site.

The Young Voices used social media sites such as QQ to highlight the accessibility issues to the site. As a result, over 50 people with disabilities went on a group site-seeing trip to the Forbidden City. As they struggled to help the wheelchair users and people with sensory difficulties, the staff working at the site were faced with the reality of how many barriers there were. The staff passed on that message to the senior management who agreed to reinstall and develop the accessibility including ramps and lifts.

There is still a way to go. While there are now more provisions for accessibility, the administration often closes these accessible routes to the public, opening them only when there is a high profile visit. The Young Voices are committed to pushing for full, public access to the site for all.

Not satisfied with conquering the Forbidden City, the Young Voices are also working with the China Disabled Person Federation to tackle accessibility issues at the Great Wall of China, one step at a time.

Congcong said: "Sites like the Forbidden City are of great national and international importance. Everyone has the right to enjoy such beauty. The City is a historic building but now it is also a building of the future."

Congcong is one of 21 disabled young campaigners who joined people from across the disability and development fields to discuss Disability-Inclusive Millennium Development Goals and Aid Effectiveness as part of a conference organised by Leonard Cheshire Disability and the United Nations in Bangkok, Thailand from 14-16 March.


A Universal Design Poster

Universal Design from NC State
View more presentations from Scott Rains

Inclusive Tourism Marketing Kit

Forrester - Accommodation
View more documents from Scott Rains

Access Thailand  is the product of an ongoing collaboration between the University of North Carolina Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science Department, Chiang Mai University, and Disabled Peoples' International.

The authors write:

This website was developed to help individuals with disabilities, and their families or friends, plan a trip to Thailand.  We suggest using it in conjunction with another travel guide or internet research, where you will find more general information about the sites listed.  Currently, the majority of the information is on travel in Chiang Mai, but we hope to offer more information on other areas of Thailand in the years to come.

Fully Accessible Barbados

Word Talk

The Right Word for The Job
View more presentations from Scott Rains

Ubatuba itagua.jpgUbatuba is a beautiful tourist destination along the Brazilian coast in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. You can be sure they will want you to visit during World cup 2014 and the Olympics of 2016 - if not several times before that. 

They will want that. So why does it cost this man one Brazilian Real to use this public bathroom? Watch the video.


He has to crawl out of his wheelchair, mopping the floor of this public bathroom with his slacks as he heads into a totally inaccessible space. Logo of the City of Ubatuba

Lucky someone didn't steal his wheelchair - and all his possessions = while he had to leave them unattended in this bus station in Ubatuba, Brazil.

Ubatuba boasts "82 beautiful beaches." I wonder if this bit of important information on tourist amenities in the "Capital of Surfing" gets circulated by the city's Visitors and Convention Bureau (SETUR)? More to the point, how could they even let a situation like this come into existence let alone persist to be broadcast worldwide embarrassing the entire nation?

With this as an example of customer service one wonders if the marketing message being given to PwD might be,"Life's a beach" with that distinctive south-of-the-border accent that bends an "ea" into an "i."

It is hard to image that this seal on the city of Ubatuba's tourism web site is permits such disregard for travelers with disabilities:
embratur - 2.jpg
Once they get it together, visit Ubatuba:

LANCASTER -- An upcoming educational event at the Agriculture Center in Lancaster will help farmers learn how they can continue to do what they love despite a disabling condition or disability.

Residents are invited to attend the Agriculture for All Ages event, which is hosted by the Southeastern Ohio Center for Independent Living, or SOCIL.

The free event will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday and will feature guest speaker Kent McGuire, who serves as the education program coordinator for Ohio AgrAbility.

Ohio AgrAbility, based in Columbus, promotes success in agriculture for farmers or farm families who are coping with a disability or long-term health condition, such as arthritis or amputation.

"I will give an overview of what the program is and also will talk about some of the things we've done and the farmers we've worked with and provide specific examples of how assistive technology and universal design can make their daily tasks easier to do and less strenuous," McGuire said.

Assistive technology is any device, modification or service -- such as hand controls, lever extensions, outdoor mobility aids and motorized lifts -- that helps a person with a disability work and live more independently.

Universal design refers to a broad-spectrum solution that produces buildings, products and environments that are usable and effective for everyone, not just those with disabilities. Examples include lever handles for doors instead of knobs that twist, light switches with large, flat panels rather than toggle switches and accessible cabinets, storage spaces and work conditions.

McGuire said he will have assistive devices on hand for people to try out. He also will talk with farmers about prevention and safety and will provide them with informational materials and recommendations.

"We're always looking at things from the aspect of safety -- (farming) is still a very hazardous industry," he said.

In addition to learning about Ohio AgrAbility, those who attend the event also will have the opportunity to hear from Holly Mattei, executive director of the Fairfield County Regional Planning Commission. Mattei will talk about the Fairfield County Local Food Council -- Fairfield Growing and the importance of supporting local farmers.

Earlier in the evening, attendees can browse displays from five local FFA Chapters and agencies and organizations such as the Fairfield County Farm Bureau, the Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District and the Fairfield County OSU Extension Office. Meat samples from Signature Beef and Bay Food Market/Bay Packing also will be available.

Linda McDonald, community outreach coordinator for SOCIL, said this is the first year her agency is doing an agriculture event for farmers.

She said the event is good for farmers of all ages, even if they don't have a disability or long-term health condition, because they can learn about preventive steps they can take to make their jobs easier and safer. Fairfield County has 172,000 acres of farmland with a total of 1,090 farms, according to Fairfield County Economic Development.

"A lot of times there are little minor adjustments that can be done that are not expensive but can make a huge difference," she said.

She and McGuire said they hope the event also will raise awareness of local organizations and agencies that can assist farmers.

"It's an opportunity for individuals to see what services or organizations are available and gives them a chance to talk with individuals from those organizations," McGuire said. "That is one of our goals with the AgrAbility program, to work with farmers in the state to promote and surround them with resources."

McDonald said if the event is well-attended, she'd like to bring it back again next year.

She added SOCIL is preparing to host another event April 19 with McGuire that will focus on gardening and planting.

"(McGuire) will bring an occupational therapist with him who will talk about, as people age and it's tougher to get on your hands and knees, what they can do to make the process easier, such as using hanging baskets and how to raise flower gardens," she said. "We want to keep people out on their farms so they can continue to do what they enjoy doing."


Scott Rains believes that if the world is more accessible, tourism will make more money due to more people traveling.

Scott Rains believes that if the world is more accessible, tourism will make more money due to more people traveling.

If you'll do a Google search on the Rick Hansen Foundation and the Global Accessibility Initiative, you'll find a map tool where people with disabilities can add their comments on how accessible an area or a destination are for people with wheelchairs and other disabilities. There are very good directories for Australia, the United Kingdom, Scotland and several other countries. But, to make the world more accessible for all of us, the tourism industries have to decide that they're going to make accessibility a part of the data they have available for consumers in all areas of advertisement and promotions and through every vehicle of marketing that the various tourism industries have at their disposal. We have to help the tourism community see that we're a viable market that spends money on travel, and that we are customers to whom they can promote and sell their travel products and destinations.


Editor's Note: Dr. Scott Rains has used his disability, his love of travel, his genuine concern for others in wheelchairs, his goal of making the world more accessible to all people and his doctorate in ministries to create a consulting business. He has considered his disability and identified the advantages and the opportunities that disability affords him to become one of the leading authorities and most sought after experts in this area to make worldwide changes. He also works for the Rick Hansen Foundation, which has as one of its goals to change the world and make it more accessible for anyone with a disability. Part 5 of a 5 part series.

About Wideaware

Wideaware works with organisations who realise that being inclusive is an opportunity, not just a compliance requirement. An opportunity to widen their customer base, enhance their reputation, and increase their profits.

We help by providing disability equality traininge-learning, and a range of access consultancy services, so that everyone in the organisation is ready to deliver an equal service to all customers.

For more information:

Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds

Aging in Place and Universal Design

From Sunbelt Pools:

Your home can maintain its beauty, its spirit and make a graceful transition into the golden years, just as we all hope and plan to do. Think you're too young to read on? Have just your parents in mind? Heard of "aging-in-place" but think it makes a home look "clinical"? Think again. Apply universal design principles to any current home renovation project and find yourself comfortable, independent and happy in your home, at every age.
"One of the keys to universal remodeling is to incorporate form with function," says Richard Hoffman, owner of Specialty Builders Remodeling ( "You don't have to build a big wooden ramp to the front door or install bulky grab bars." Not when beautifully graded landscaping and elegant towel holders designed to pull double duty between pleasing the eye and creating a safe environment can do the trick.


By Sminu Jindal, Chairperson, Svayam & MD, Jindal SAW

The Railway Budget 2012-13 announced by the Hon'ble Minister today may have provided relief to various sectors but the announcement on introduction of special


 coaches for disabled friendly is not a welcome step. We expect the government to have a universal design / coaches which would be accessible for all with furnished accessible washrooms, considering the needs for differently abled people.

We have been working hard to provide equality and dignity to all including elderly and disabled and this step goes in the opposite direction which discriminates the disabled from the rest. This is more vulnerable for the community, as it does not allow mainstreaming and restricts disabled from travelling on general coaches.

Further announcement of building escalators, will not come in aid of differently-abled people, we would request the Hon'ble Minister to alongside build ramps and elevators which would help all.


Designing an Everyday Bag for the Back of a Wheelchair


The Task:

Create a system that fits on the back of a wheelchair for carrying the items that a wheelchair user needs at home or away for the day. The items must remain dry in rain, relatively safe

Cadeira fashion.JPG

 from theft, and undamaged in transit. For wheelchair users with arm and hand strength the system must allow independent attachment to the wheelchair, access to content, and removal from the wheelchair.

Items to be Carried:

The specific items to be carried will be highly personal choices but the dimensions and weight of these items can be designed for. One the small end of the scale are: House keys, lipstick, pens, prescription bottles, or coins. Mid Range might be a water bottle, hair brush, medical supplies, or flashlight. Larger items could range from a heavy fragile laptop, to school books, a jacket, or groceries.

Protecting the Contents:

Items in the bag vary in fragility or desirability for theft. A purpose-built padded slot for a laptop, camera, or cell phone might become a hindrance to storing other items if it is not designed for multiple uses or as temporarily affixed and removable. Ease of removal needs to be balanced with security from theft.

Water-resistance or full waterproofing is desirable not only to protect from weather but to limit damage to contents should liquid spill internally. Cleaning and resistance to odor retention are also relevant here. Keep in mind that texture and texture changes with be a significant element in cognitively mapping this invisible accessory and the locations of items within it.

The Ergonomics of Positioning:

Reaching behind the back creates a unique inconvenience and range of motion. Design challenges multiply with possibly limited fine motor skills or limited cognitive capacity for imagining and recalling locations in space with no visual cues.

This bag is functionally invisible by being located behind the wheelchair in normal use. Cues for navigating the inner and outer spaces of the bag must be tactile not visual. In addition there is a sort of "working in a mirror" cognitive effect of manipulating objects behind your back. 

Without the cues of color to locate and distinguish similar items, such as pens, dedicated locations can be helpful. Bag features that affix items but allow them to be moved within a defined range can help - a house key, credit card, or flashlight on a retractable "keychain" for example.


Experience shows that the most stress is placed at the point where the bag is attached to the chair, seams and corners, zippers, and points of friction with wheels.

Attachment point stress can be mitigated by extremely strong material such as nylon webbing attached with strong thread and adequate stitching.

Seams and corners can use reinforcing material, adequate overlapping with reinforced stitching and strong thread.

Zippers must be of the highest quality. Careful attention must be paid to the unique range of motion required by use behind the back. Placement of zippers should follow the natural range of motion of an arm behind the back in a seated position. This minimizes lateral torque on a zipper which can cause derailing of the zipper head. Note that a quadriplegic, hemiplegic, or amputee may access a zipper exclusively from one side. This may require asymmetry in the bag to avoid discomfort, maximize what strength the user has, as well as minimizing damage to zippers.


It is unreasonable to caution a wheelchair user to observe weight limits when filling their bag (as some patterns for simple wheelchair bags do online.) Weight carried is determined by the lifestyle of the user: textbooks, laptops, the week's groceries are all heavy but essential items that must be designed for. However, the arm or hand strength of many users may be compromised. Swinging a heavy item around behind one makes use of minor shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand muscles - often t their maximum extension. Ease of opening and opening size mitigate these limitations. A technique of removing the bag, setting it on one's lap, filling it and returning it is also used. Making the bag of the lightest material possible aids in this technique.




Use these images of active travelers with visible disabilities to tell the story of people with disabilities (PwD) as the burgeoning travel market sector that we are!

From Ottowa Citizen,

A young woman went into a washroom in a downtown restaurant recently and found the designers of the "accessible" facility had little understanding of what the term meant.

Sitting on Great Wall.jpgShe emerged with a business plan, and a company name that has a ring of super hero to it.

Now, if anybody wants to know if a business is truly accessible, including the people who own them and think they are, they can go online and check with "Miss Ability."

Sarah Lyn Wilson of Kanata is 29, and has spina bifida, a genetic birth defect that damages the spinal cord. She's tiny, weighing less than 100 pounds. She has a diploma in social services and the can-do attitude one learns to associate with the disabled.

Over decades of meeting and writing about people who refer to themselves as "differently-abled," a theory has evolved. They complain much less than most of us, and that's because they have to find ways around so many obstacles just to go about their days that they become instinctive problem solvers.

People who can solve problems don't waste time complaining.

Sarah is pleasant company over a cup of coffee -- self assured and quick witted.

"When I was invited to join friends at that restaurant, I called to see if it was wheelchair accessible. I was assured it was. When I arrived at the door I could see they had tried, but they had wasted money.

"The main entrance had an automatic door opener with a properly marked large button beside it. But there were three (unmanageable) steps up to the button. Once inside, attempts had been made to offer clear wide aisles, but tables and chairs were moved around to accommodate large groups, so passage was often blocked.

Read more:

Travel to Morocco!

From  Morocco Board:

"Which would you prefer, a limited experience or no experience at all?" The question is put to me by Daniella Johnson while we're taking a coffee on the terrace of the 


Café de France, watching the goings on in the beautiful chaos that is Jmaa el Fna, North Africa's most exotic and vibrant square, the heart and soul of Marrakech.

She has a point. Just because the cobbles in the Medina, the one-thousand year old centre of the historic city might bounce a wheelchair around, the clamour of the merchants in their long, hooded gelabas selling their wares from dolls house-sized shops might slightly confuse someone with limited hearing, or the rapid change from bright sunlight to almost Stygian gloom could disorientate a visually impaired person for a while, is that any reason not to visit one of the most exotic destinations in Africa, and one of the safest? And apart from that, Morocco is far more than ancient alleyways and the hubbub of sandal sellers.

American-born Johnson has been touring the towns and cities of southern Morocco since June of 2011, researching hotels, museums, tourist venues, shops, and sites for the fledgling travel company, Morocco Accessible Travel, which goes live with its first holidays in Spring this year. Trained as a nurse, she lived for a while in France, before discovering Fez, Morocco's ancient capital, and one of the country's four imperial cities. Possibly the most beautiful city in the Maghreb, Fez isn't particularly friendly for people with motor impairment, being built in a valley surround by hills, so when New York-based Experience It! Tours, the parent company of MAT, asked Johonson if she would develop a new travel company specialising in holidays for disabled people, Marrakech was the obvious choice, as the city is almost completely flat.

"When I was trying to work out what I wanted for MAT, using the term 'disabled people' seemed quite harsh, so when I visit hotels or tour venues I use the terms 'barrier-free travel' or 'travel for people with unique needs', because they are much more inclusive. A ramp at the entrance to a museum is equally as useful for a family with a push chair, or an elderly person who needs to use some form of walking aid, as it is for a wheelchair user. Put that ramp in place to remove the barrier of having to climb a set of stairs and you suddenly open up your hotel or venue to a much broader audience, which is as much a benefit for local people as it is for visitors."

We finish our coffee and take a walk across Jmaa el Fna, beginning at a music shop blaring out Moroccan disco music. I switch on my small recorder and we walk slowly; past the storytellers regaling the audience with their lyrical chant, the wail of a snake charmer's flute, a monkey man who tries to put his chattering animal on my shoulder, the clashing of the small hand cymbals and insistent drum beat of the gnaou musicians, the cries of hawkers selling toys, the jingling of coins in the hand of the cigarette seller, and the babble of Arabic, French, Berber and a hundred and one different languages. When I listen to it later it sounds as if I'm tuning a radio in Africa, passing through the waves with each sound ebbing and flowing as I change stations. The scent of smoke and barbequed food fills the air as the al fresco stalls that make Jmaa el Fna the largest open-air restaurant in the world begin setting up. A hint of incense, a whispy aroma of jasmine and freshly squeezed orange juice, with the occasional rustic whiff of horse dung as a calache trots by; all blend together to create an exotic perfume.

"I'm really encouraged by the reaction I've had, particularly from hotel owners. The fact is that often it simply hasn't occurred to them to think of disabled people as a tourism 'market', if you care to use that term, or that with a few simple changes they can make their hotels and venues easily accessible. In many ways it's probably because of the culture of Morocco. Moroccans get very little state help for disabled people, so they are used to dealing with any difficulties within the family. Because of that they are very supportive of what I'm trying to do."

One of the charms of a visit to Marrakech is a stay in a riad in the Medina, one of the original houses where life revolves around an inner courtyard garden. Most have roof-top terraces with views across to the city to the peaks of the High Atlas Mountains in the distance. The large riads often have swimming pools on the terrace. Unfortunately, stairways are usually quite narrow and dark, with steps of uneven heights and no handrails, making access to the terraces sometimes quite difficult.

"A few of the riads have elevators, but the truth is that if someone with any sort of motor problems wants to visit Marrakech then I would advise them to stay in a hotel," says Johnson.

But that's no hardship. Marrakech is overflowing with hotels of all levels, from the basic somewhere-to-lay-your-head to the glory of La Mamounia, the gem of Marrakech hotels, that recently reopened after a $176 million refurbishment.

On a recent visit to the Ben Youssef Maderssa, the 14th-century Islamic college, the largest in Morocco and one of Marrakech's most visited monuments, Johnson came across a group of wheelchairs users and their helpers.

"It was such a surprise, but even though they could only visit the ground floor rooms everyone was so happy to have been able to see this beautiful and important monument. But one of the things that moved me most was they all said that anything is possible, we can do it.

"Things will change slowly, it's the nature of what happens here, but they are changing. There is very little adapted transport available at the moment, although a new red tour bus service recently started, which has wheelchair access and you can get on and off at various points around the city. You may find that access or facilities for disabled people are more limited than you might find elsewhere, but if you can accept some limitations, Morocco is a wonderful country to visit. There are the mountains, the dessert, the ocean, and some beautiful cities. But one of the best reasons to visit the country are the Moroccans themselves. They are a delightful and charming people who will go out of their way to help."



Underwater Wheelchair Dance

See the BBC video here:

A disabled north Devon woman is preparing for a London 2012 Cultural Olympiad performance, using her specially-adapted wheelchair to perform underwater ballet.

Sue Austin, a student at the University of Plymouth, is believed to be the world's first underwater acrobat in a wheelchair.

She will be performing in Weymouth and Portland during the Olympic celebrations later this year.

The chair is powered by two motors and Ms Austin steers the wheelchair by operating two plastic "wings" either side of the chair.

Ms Austin has been in a wheelchair since she developed ME in 1996.

She said: "This work is about showing that in spite of working with mental and physical limitations, it is still possible if you have a passion about something to transcend those issues."

From Ottowa Citizen,

A young woman went into a washroom in a downtown restaurant recently and found the designers of the "accessible" facility had little understanding of what the term meant.

Sitting on Great Wall.jpg

She emerged with a business plan, and a company name that has a ring of super hero to it.

Now, if anybody wants to know if a business is truly accessible, including the people who own them and think they are, they can go online and check with "Miss Ability."

Sarah Lyn Wilson of Kanata is 29, and has spina bifida, a genetic birth defect that damages the spinal cord. She's tiny, weighing less than 100 pounds. She has a diploma in social services and the can-do attitude one learns to associate with the disabled.

Over decades of meeting and writing about people who refer to themselves as "differently-abled," a theory has evolved. They complain much less than most of us, and that's because they have to find ways around so many obstacles just to go about their days that they become instinctive problem solvers.

People who can solve problems don't waste time complaining.

Sarah is pleasant company over a cup of coffee -- self assured and quick witted.

"When I was invited to join friends at that restaurant, I called to see if it was wheelchair accessible. I was assured it was. When I arrived at the door I could see they had tried, but they had wasted money.

"The main entrance had an automatic door opener with a properly marked large button beside it. But there were three (unmanageable) steps up to the button. Once inside, attempts had been made to offer clear wide aisles, but tables and chairs were moved around to accommodate large groups, so passage was often blocked.

Read more:

The "Ugly American"

From Travel Impact Newswire:

WWASHINGTON, March 2, 2012 (Businesswire) -- Tired of the "ugly American" stereotype of U.S. travelers abroad? A new LivingSocial 


survey conducted among more than 5,600 respondents in five countries by Mandala Research discovered that Americans ourselves believe we are the world's worst tourists. The survey found that Americans, Canadians and Australians all gave U.S. tourists that dubious distinction, while the Irish identified their British neighbors as the worst, and the British called out the Germans for bad travel behavior.

"Americans turn out to be pretty active globetrotters, with the average person having visited at least four countries. Unfortunately, Americans have pretty low opinions of themselves as travelers, so it's time to turn on that Yankee charm and improve our global image."

Despite these self-doubts, respondents dismissed another common misperception: that most Americans have never traveled abroad. The survey found that 78 percent of Americans have visited at least one foreign country, 61 percent have visited multiple countries, and 36 percent have traveled to four or more foreign destinations. The average number of countries visited was more than four.

"Our survey puts the old wives' tale to bed that only 15 percent of Americans own passports," said Dave Madden, GM of LivingSocial Escapes, North America. "Americans turn out to be pretty active globetrotters, with the average person having visited at least four countries. Unfortunately, Americans have pretty low opinions of themselves as travelers, so it's time to turn on that Yankee charm and improve our global image."

Among other findings of the survey:

Read more:

Meet Jon Bateman

Victory on the Ice

...And They Said He'd Never Play Hockey

When I was four years old I was chosen as a poster child for a provincial telethon aimed at raising money for Albertans with disabilities. For a solid week, a local 


reporter in the small Alberta town of High River followed me around, snapping pictures of my every move and capturing my wide-eyed innocence of the world around me. One of the results was a photo essay in our local paper that included a picture of me looking up in wonderment at a person clutching a hockey stick that was just outside my grasp. The caption read, "He'll never play hockey."

That image stuck with me as I grew older and made the transition into the life of a student at Mount Royal College. As a child, I had memorized statistics, collected over 7,000 hockey cards and become a resident expert on all things related to the sport, but never believed that I could actually play the game I loved. For me, the logical choice had been to become a sports broadcaster, and so I spent my teenage years working at a local radio station and writing weekly columns in our small-town newspaper.

Then one night I saw something on CBC television in the wee hours of the morning that changed my life. It was just after the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, that I saw an Olympic sport of a different kind being played on the ice. The game was sledge hockey and, much to my own amazement, what I saw on the television screen that night was what I'd always been led to believe was impossible. There they were, all the members of the Canadian Paralympic sledge hockey team, doing warm-up laps on an international ice surface, using small aluminum sleds that looked oddly like toboggans on skate blades. They propelled themselves around the rink with their arms from a seated position, digging small picks into the ice surface from the opposite end of a sawed-off hockey stick which was flipped over to handle and shoot the puck. I was shocked but incredibly excited as I sprang up from the couch and launched my Internet connection to research this new sport.

I soon discovered that this was a game I could participate in, and that there was a local team that played two hours a fortnight at a rink in northeast Calgary. It wasn't much ice time, but for a young man who had never been on the ice before, it was an opportunity that couldn't be passed up.

As I arrived at the Stew Hendry Arena that Saturday night, I realized what those two hours really meant. The game is a liberating exodus from wheelchair to the pure speed and intensity of a Canadian hockey rink. It's a chance for each player to go out and leave his or her mark on the ice. The aim for these athletes isn't to gain attention or fanfare, it isn't to showcase their special abilities. It's simply to play a game for which they all share the same passion and enthusiasm. For these players, the memories of days spent as spectators by the wall during elementary school dodge ball games quickly fade as the pure competition of the game takes hold -- and they battle for rebound and charge the net.

I was 21 and more than five years older than any of my teammates, and I was about to fulfil a lifelong dream. I strapped myself into the sled, gripped my mittens around the shortened hockey sticks, and pushed myself out onto the ice for the first time.

The feeling that followed was both euphoric and empowering, and though there wasn't a single fan in the stands to cheer the event, it didn't matter. It wasn't a question anymore of whether or not I could play hockey, but a question of how far my abilities could take me.

The first thing I did when I reached the ice...

Full article:

Las personas con movilidad reducida o discapacidad que sean elegidas por el pueblo para representarle como concejal en el Ayuntamiento lo tendrán difícil para acceder a su Salón de Plenos de la plaza Peral. Este espacio no es accesible para una persona que se desplace en silla de ruedas, por el escalón que separa en altura el suelo de las bancas de escaños. La asociación de discapacitados La Gaviota, que se ofreció al Gobierno local para asesorar a los encargados del proyecto y subsanar los errores a tiempo, indicó que la licencia de obras data de 2005 y por tanto se rige por el decreto 72/ 1992, que es menos restrictivo en materia de accesibilidad que el actual.
El presidente del colectivo, Manuel Astorga, consideró que lo sucedido con este espacio es un claro ejemplo de un error en el diseño, al olvidar el concepto de 'ciudad para todos' o 'diseño Universal'. «Y es que además de eliminar las barreras urbanísticas, debemos eliminar las mentales que impiden pensar que una persona con movilidad reducida, pueda ser alcalde, concejal o representante de algún partido político de su localidad. Es cuanto menos llamativo que el Salón de Plenos, donde reside la soberanía del pueblo, no es accesible para la participación como político de una persona en silla de ruedas». Astorga, explicó que a pesar de los ofrecimientos por parte de La Gaviota para subsanar los posibles fallos en materia de accesibilidad antes de la recepción de la obra, ésta ya está entregada al Ayuntamiento.


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