A day in the life of a wheelchair user: navigating Lincoln
By: Sophia Bannert
Architectural discourse has gradually become incoherent with the social and ethical needs of the contemporary city. With the relationship between theory and practice strained, lack of social relevance in design is ubiquitous. Practising architects frequently regard theory as esoteric and non-transferable, whilst many theorists do not manifest their ideas into reality and build. With the connection gripping the precipice by its fingers, this paper is conceived; written to persuade, motivate and encourage that there is real value in instigating ideas put forth in this paper. Concepts proposed are not only applicable to the city of Lincoln but are relevant and adaptable to all cities. Inspired by the architecture which has not yet manifested, it hopes to ignite the spirit needed to eradicate social inequities in urban design.
As Albert Einstein said: “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts”. In order to palpably grasp an understanding of what it is truly like to be physically disabled in Lincoln, I rented a wheelchair for one day to see for myself whether the facts fitted the theory.
Alone and small in the street, my self-awareness heightens. Large swarms of hurried people part when they see me approaching. My whole identity has changed in the eyes of the city within minutes. My wheelchair is my fortress and the enemy. With its large spindly wheels as my first and only defence, they are also my burden. Jarred into an utterly complex version of what I formerly knew as reality, my eyes begin scrutinising and dissecting the cobbled street surface ahead into zones which I can and cannot access. Never before had I seen the streetscape in such meticulous detail. Tiny height differences such as curbs and grooves between cobbles become mountains, cruelly halting progress and making small advances, exhausting. Whilst battling physical obstructions, I myself have become one. If the pavements were widened, perhaps disabled citizens wouldn’t be seen as causing an obstruction.
One of the most historic cathedral cities of Europe, renowned for its vibrant fusion of old and new, Lincoln is situated in the east midlands of England. People are attracted to the city’s picturesque cobbled streets, which weave the city body together like capillaries, constricting the flow of people in places and allowing access via tangles of short cuts, in others.
Currently witnessing an unprecedented population boom , Lincolnshire Research Observatory have released figures stating that since 2010 Lincoln has seen a sharp decrease in deaths and a dramatic rise in births. This correlation is unfolding on both a local and an international scale. Predictions from the World Health Organisation (WHO) state that within the next five years, the number of adults aged sixty-five and over will outnumber all children under the age of five. By 2050, these older adults will outnumber all children under the age of fourteen. The global population is rising at a rapid rate, raising questions about how the new third generation should be accommodated. Increased longevity may not be such a cause for celebration; this worldwide phenomenon is symbiotic with disability. WHO calculates that ‘two thirds of disabled people are over 60’. The process of aging is often accompanied by some form of disability- be it physical or mental. Disability is now more likely to affect your life than ever before. These predictions are threatening chaotic future repercussions. Our urban environment desperately needs to evolve at a rate which mirrors that of humanity.
For the complete essay, please visit the following website: http://berkeleyprize.org/competition/essay/2013/winning-essays/bannert-essay
Thursday, June, 02, 2011
By Matthew Strader, Enterprise Staff
Caledon’s Town Hall is going to be a little easier to get around in soon.
Of course, if you’re there for a traffic ticket, a little adversity might give you an outlet for your frustration, but the announcement this past Tuesday was about equality, rights, and the freedom to perform your own daily activities without barriers.
With help from federal funding, Caledon is going to be a little bit closer to being universally accessible soon.
In February, council listened to a presentation by Shane Holten, Access Consultant for SPH Planning & Consulting, a firm retained to audit the town’s facilities. Holten told councillors they were facing an approximately $12 million bill to upgrade Town facilities and see them made universally accessible.
The relevance of access is growing in its importance, and the issue of accessibility is just the latest way to show we are an equal society, some councillors said. All were happy to see $75,000 from the Federal Government to upgrade the Town’s main facility.
“These changes make life easier,” said Ward 1 Regional Councillor Richard Paterak. “And ensure the right of people with disabilities to have full lives. It’s the last frontier in many respects in terms of rights. We have to make sure we build a world for everyone.”
Dufferin-Caledon MP David Tilson was at Caledon’s Council to symbolically hand over the money, and said simply, “We are here today because we all appreciate the importance of removing barriers and creating independence.”
The $75,000 is part of the Federal Government’s Enabling Accessibility Fund, Tilson noted – a fund that is dispensing $14.2 million to 297 organizations across Canada.
For more information see http://www.caledonenterprise.com/news/feds-reach-out-for-accessibility/
Halifax has a long way to go to become fully accessible to all citizens, but doing so should be a priority for a truly democratic society.
by Jennie Savage and Tim Bousquet
"Any other minority group would not accept having a 'not welcome' sign on the door. I pay taxes, I shop and go out to dinner, so why am I not welcome in Halifax?" says Ben Marston, one of many wheelchair users who feels marginalized by the city's dawdling to make this a more wheelchair-friendly place.
Marston navigates his way to work on Spring Garden Road every day. He is effectively barred entry to most of the buildings on the street, as the majority of shops and restaurants have heavy glass doors and single steps leading inward. Apart from being the parasport co-ordinator for Sport Nova Scotia, he is an athlete who plays rugby and basketball, but even he is challenged by the obstacles. (See "Inaccessible Spring Garden," opposite page.) "Parasport" refers not just to "paraplegic"---people without use of their legs---but rather to parallel sports, all those events held parallel to traditional competitions, including sports for people in wheelchairs and those with limited sight and hearing.
Crossing the road for Marston means trying to avoid using narrow, steep or poorly positioned curb cuts. In the winter there seems to be no co-ordination between the plows and the crews that dig out the sidewalks---the crossings become impassable with snow and ice. This winter, Marston will be relocated out of the city---his designated disabled parking space on Birmingham Street is situated on a slope, which is awkward to negotiate at the best of times but becomes treacherous in the snow. Instead, he'll work at a more accessible office space in the suburbs.
For more information visit: