Imagine a future full of possibility. Join the effort to make the world a more accessible place with WE are One.

By Amy Van Es

 

Did you know the voice command on your phone was originally designed for people with disabilities, but was later adapted to benefit us all? So was your TV’s remote control. “Inclusive design” is a term used for products and experiences created with all people in mind. Everybody deserves to feel valued and respected in their communities; each and every one of us should have access to the same opportunities, regardless of physical or mental abilities.

When it comes to people, there’s no such thing as “normal” anything. Humans grow and adapt to the world around them—each in their own way. Think about when you discover there’s a road closure on your way to school. Rather than just standing and staring at the sign, you change your plan. You find a new route to get you where you need to be before the bell rings. For some people, adapting isn’t quite as easy because they don’t have the tools they need. Consider this: in the United States, 6.6 million youth between the ages of 3-21 were receiving special education services in 2014 to 2015. That’s about 13 per cent of all public school students. And in many cases, access to resources is an issue. In Canada, for example, more than half of children with disabilities don’t have access to the aids required to guarantee equal opportunities.

One way to improve accessibility is through technology. Technology is a powerful tool for social change. Every day, each of us engages with products, services and environments that could be more inclusive. The WE are One campaign invites schools, families and individuals to identify these opportunities and invent a solution to better your school, home or community by making it more inclusive. Together we can pave new roads for everyone by getting started on your own WE are One action plan today.


Be conscious of your surroundings.

From the Velcro on your little sister’s shoes, inclusive design is all around us. But among the solutions, there is also a lot we can still do to bring inclusivity into our everyday world.

Begin by challenging yourself to examine a space you spend a lot of time in with accessibility in mind. Take a closer look at your home, your school or a community space like a library or local arena. To get yourself thinking inclusively, make note of all the aids already there. Is there grip tape on the stairs up to the building to prevent slips? What about a ramp for those in a wheelchair? Can you spot an accessible washroom?

Next, jot down what’s missing. Here are some questions to get you started:

1. Could anyone move around this space comfortably?
2. Could anyone participate in my favourite activity here?
3. Could anyone use the necessary facilities?

Once you’ve visited a few spots, gather your research together in preparation for the next step.


Begin the discussion.

It’s time to let other people in on the project! Not only will a great group of people help you accomplish tasks quicker, but they will each bring fresh perspective to the topic. Like we emphasized earlier, everybody is different, and it’s our differences that provide a means of learning from one another. So, wrangle a passionate and diverse group of your peers and start chatting about what you can do to make the environment around you more inclusive!

Here’s a breakdown by area:

At School | Did you know 35 per cent of public school students have a learning disability? This makes your school a great place to start a discussion about accessibility. To get the ball rolling, create a presentation for a school assembly that raises awareness about the benefits of inclusive design. And don’t forget to use the notes you took earlier! They’ll be an excellent reference point when deciding on where/how students and teachers can take action.

At Home | Start closer to home—literally. Have a discussion with your family about what inclusion means and discuss whether your house is an accessible environment. Together ponder this question: Could you welcome people with diverse abilities to your dinner table?

In the Community | If you’ve surveyed some different spaces in your neighbourhood, hold a brainstorming meeting with interested members of the community—particularly those involved with the management of the spaces being discussed. Challenge the group to examine the space, just as you’ve done. Share our handy list of questions and head out on a field trip. By the end of it, participants should have a clear grasp on whether or not people of all abilities are able to feel welcomed in the space. The answer will determine the action needed.


Put your inventor’s cap on!

You’ve compiled the research and opened the discussion to others, now it’s time for action planning.

When considering how you can open doors to a more inclusive community, think of technology and use our Resource Guide to develop a forward thinking plan! Inside the Resource Guide, you’ll find all kinds of helpful sheets and exercises to keep your thoughts organized, track the skills and resources available to you already and help you build new skills—ones necessary to reaching your goals.

For a hefty dose of inspiration, here are some examples of young community members who have gone the extra mile to advocate and empower with tools for accessibility.

 

Frank Nguyen | Cofounder and CTO of HelpWear Inc.

“I invented a watch that monitors someone’s heart and contacts Emergency Services when they’re in need.”

 

Emma Mogus | Cofounder of Books with No Bounds

“I invented a mouth guard that allows people to use a computer and access the internet just by using their tongue.”

 

Toni Kunic | Student at Lassonde School of Engineering

“I designed a headset that records and analyzes sounds to display them as images and words for people who are deaf.”


Technology lets us reimagine the world we want to live in: a world where everyone’s differences are respected, a place where the line of division isn’t drawn between ability and disability; a future where technology empower us. In this world, everyone has the tools to create change. Be the future, decide how you will use technology to promote inclusivity.

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