Access Earth: An Interview with Matt McCann

Matt McCann, CEO of Access Earth

We recently sat down for a conversation with Matt McCann, CEO and Founder of Access Earth – a new app that aims to promote accessibility through public and social participation.

Access Earth is a project that began when Matt took a trip to London in 2012. Matt has cerebral palsy, and had researched and chosen a hotel that, in addition to its desirable price and location, advertised itself as accessible. But, upon his arrival he had to navigate a series of steps to get to the reception desk. When he got to his room, he could not fit his rolling walker through the door. Ultimately, Matt asked for a refund and switched his accommodations – but it was remarkable to him that this first hotel was not nearly as accessible as it had claimed to be online. He also knew that his experience was not an anomaly, but rather something that people with disabilities face every day.

Read more

60 Minutes on ‘Drive-by’ ADA Lawsuits: On Point or Missed Opportunity?

60 Minutes recently aired a story on what it referred to as “drive-by lawsuits” filed against businesses for failing to comply with the design and constructioninsiders-guide-ada-image requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The piece showcased stories of people who essentially “drive” around on the hunt to find ADA violations, including ramps that are look like they’re steeper than what’s permitted by the ADA, parking spaces that are not designated by required signs, missing pool lifts, etc. Before you know it, the attorney files a case against a business for design and construction violations of the ADA. What results? The establishment that is sued typically settles out of court and has to fork over thousands in court fees, which are theoretically divvyed up by the attorney and the plaintiff all in an effort to make money. Can this be possible? Yes, it can – and these “drive by” lawsuits happen all the time. So, in this instance, the 60 Minutes story was on point – people take advantage of “the system” for personal gain all of the time and in many different ways.

Here’s the missed opportunity – the 60 Minutes piece did nothing to highlight the incredible opportunities that have been opened up to people with disabilities as a result of the passing of the ADA. The story failed to mention that there are an estimated 53 million Americans with disabilities who, as a result of the ADA, now have the ability to work, shop, live, and play on the same terms as everyone else. The ADA leveled out the playing field and provides equal access to the built environment – equality; isn’t that what we’re all about?

Read more

Vote for Access 2016!

Is Voting Accessible?

Having lived in Washington, DC for over a decade, I’ve cultivated what some may call a geeky sense of pride in upholding my civic duty to vote. Last Saturday I stood in line at 8am with nearly 200 other Washingtonians, eager to cast an early ballot for the 2016 Presidential Election. I noticed a man using a cane join the line behind me. Further ahead of us was an elderly woman in a wheelchair. My mind started wandering down a path that is all too familiar for those of us on SWA’s Accessibility Team:
Accessible_Voting

Would the front entrance provide access for wheelchair users?
Would clear pathways be provided to registration tables and polling machines?
Have volunteers been trained to provide reasonable accommodations?

Unfortunately, my concerns aren’t unfounded. In a 2008 study, the Government Accountability Office estimated that 73% of polling places used in 2008 had architectural barriers that made access difficult or even impossible for people with disabilities. While Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local governments to provide accessible polling places; the GAO survey showed only 27% of polling places to be accessible to people with disabilities in the 2008 elections.

Read more

Wayfinding: An Interview with Katie Osborn

Katie Osborn, Principal and Chief Designer of Via Collective; expert wayfinding strategist

Katie Osborn, Principal and Chief Designer of Via Collective

Katie Osborn, Principal and Chief Designer of Via Collective and expert wayfinding strategist, took some time out of her busy schedule to connect with SWA’s Victoria Lanteigne on the importance of wayfinding and to debunk the myth that wayfinding is just signage!

Victoria Lanteigne (VL): Can you define wayfinding?

Katie Osborn (KO): At a basic level, wayfinding is utilizing tools and cues to help people navigate seamlessly from point A to point B. However, wayfinding strategies are complex and can include signage, maps, architectural features, lighting, floor patterns, customer service representatives, digital apps, and more. Proper wayfinding will enhance a visitor’s experience based on the sense of ease with which they can access all points, elements, and features of a space.

Read more

What is Human Centered Design?

Post written by Chelsea Wales, SWA Intern in Washington, DC

“Human centered design is a creative approach to design solutions that are tailored to individual users. Oftentimes human centered design is about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; which is critical when we design for people with disabilities.” That’s how industry experts Katie Osborn, Hansel Bauman, and A.J. Paron-Wildes define this innovative design approach. On August 2, 2016 the American Institute for Architects Committee on Accessible Design located in Washington, DC hosted its first-ever panel event entitled, “Trending Strategies for Human Centered Design”. The District Architecture Center was bustling with people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities as they filled the glass-walled lecture room to hear the industry thought leaders discuss the importance of human centered design.

Panel Speakers Row_VL

From left to right: AJ Paron-Wildes (panelist), Victoria Lanteigne (moderator), Ben Scavone (committee co-chair), Hansel Bauman (panelist), Katie Osborn (panelist).

Moderated by SWA’s own Senior Accessibility Consultant and Accessibility Committee co-chair, Victoria Lanteigne, the panel format allowed for each human centered design professional to share their stories and expertise in their respective fields. Following the presentations, Victoria lead the panelists in a group discussion which ended with a Q&A session during which audience members asked their own questions related to human centered design. Read more