What’s Next? – Inclusive Design

As you may know, in 2010, a few of us here in Cincinnati huddled up and launched the “What’s Next?” series.  Over the past two years, we’ve heard from people all over the region, but mostly focused locally, who are leading the charge toward a more inclusive future for Cincinnati.  In addition to the people mentioned in the original post (linked above), we’ve since heard from Tim Reiley, Principal at St. Ignatius in Cincinnati, who is leading the way in developing a completely inclusive grade school experience.  We also heard from local advocate and historian Robert Harris, as well as Missy Jones, who is working on making NKU an accessible and welcoming campus for people with labels of disability.

The next presentation will be on Tuesday, March 13th at 3:30.  We’ll gather at Starfire, 5030 Oaklawn Drive, 45227.  (Here’s a link to the event page on Facebook!)  As always, the event is free and open to the public.

Our guests include two citizens who are using their talents in design to literally build a more inclusive city:

Chris Kubik will be talking about the work of May We Help?    There’s so much to love about this effort.  It’s a bunch of local engineers who volunteer their talents to work on customized equipment for people….for free!  It’s literally the definition of an inclusive community.

Make sure to check out the pictures on their website and you’ll get an idea of the creativity and dedication of this group of citizens. And the coolest part? Chris and his wife live around the corner from me in Bellevue!

We’ll also hear from Chip Williamson, who is an architect thinking about sustainable communities. He has been working over the past few years with the Cornerstone Corporation for Shared Equity in Over the Rhine. Now here’s the neat thing about Cornerstone and Chip’s work: It’s not only about designing a physically accessible space, but their model of shared equity helps people build up assets! So it acts as a wealth building opportunity as well. Renters who attend meetings, take care of the property and generally pitch in to make the communities great can build equity and develop assets and personal wealth.

These two efforts speak to the importance of the design process, which has been top of mind lately. While I was in Toronto this summer, I had the pleasure of taking a three-day module with John O’Brien on design thinking. I also go to hear from Norm Kunc and he said something about design that really stuck with me:

From the beginning of time to now and from now until forever, there will be people with disabilities. Since we know that’s true, then we can say that disability is a natural part of our world. And if disability is a natural part of our world, then anything that is designed without taking disability into account is flawed. So adaptations are simply fixing a flaw in design!

I had heard various versions of the “disability is natural” conversation before, but that was the first time I had heard it so simply and logically put.

I also heard another great example of the importance of design at the recent CoreChange Summit:

Imagine that you are on a big ship. There is an experienced and competent Captain, a talented and capable crew, and lots of smart technicians, operating state-of-the art equipment and instruments. You hit a storm the likes of which you’ve never seen, winds are blowing the ship everywhere and the waves are crashing and churning. Who is the most important person at that moment?

The answer, of course, is the designer, who isn’t even on the ship, but thought about that storm years before as he or she worked on the plans for building the ship. If they did a good job designing, the ship will survive. Nothing the captain, crew or technicians can do at that point, will help much.

At CoreChange, they were illustrating the fact that designing our future communities was a sacred and important task. Mr. Kunc was talking about the fact that leaving out accommodations for differences in people’s modes of communication or participation was a flawed design to begin with. Makes sense, huh?

So Chip and Chris will be sharing how they are using their design talents and networks to create a more accessible and equitable Cincinnati. Another step forward. Make sure to join us on 3/13 at 3:30!

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