Shifting Spaces

Maayan Ziv, a photographer, recently hosted an hour-long radio program on CBC Radio about how spaces are often designed that are not universally accessible to everyone.  Ziv invited listeners to consider living in a world in which doors don’t open, the phone has no dial tone, stairs lead nowhere, and the internet is in a language you don’t understand—this is what it can feel like for people with disabilities trying to go about their lives. Guests on the show told anecdotes about times that they had to find unconventional (or slightly dangerous) solutions to problems of accessibility (like being carried up a flight stairs in a wheelchair by several muscly bouncers at a concert venue—that the person had been told was accessible). Though they have accepted mishaps and misunderstandings with good humour (and sometimes dark humour), contributors to the show see many opportunities for physical spaces and attitudes to become more accessible.

One segment followed Ziv and Tim Rose, of Disability Positive Consulting (who is “very flexible, just not physically”), as they visited Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto, Ontario. They were impressed with its accessibility and reflected on the fact that new buildings are often more accessible because accessibility is considered throughout the design process, rather than thought of as an add-on necessary to fulfill legislated requirements. Another person on the show contemplated that companies like Apple have also contributed to a shift in culture around accessibility by having products come with accessibility features automatically.

Attention-grabbing solutions, like brightly-coloured ramps provided to businesses by StopGap, can help start conversations about accessibility and lead to consideration of more complex problems created by longstanding societal perceptions.

Hear all the first-hand perspectives, funny stories, and innovative ideas in this great radio special by listening to the whole show here.