Rural Institute for Inclusive Communties presents at DiverseU
Faculty and staff of UM’s Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities presented information on community accessibility at “DiverseU,” the University of Montana’s annual diversity symposium. Presentations offered insight into the ways in which community design either includes or excludes people with disabilities and began with an historic overview.
The history of disability has been one of exclusion in which people with disabilities were not able to be part of daily life and were often institutionalized in inhumane conditions. But in the 1960’s, advocates and activists worked for sweeping social change that eventually led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Although the ADA is coming up on its 25th anniversary, many community spaces remain inaccessible.
For example, the built environment often does not consider the needs of individuals with mobility impairments. Many streets, particularly in rural communities, still do not have sidewalks or, where sidewalks do exist, do not have curb cuts that allow a person using a walker or wheelchair to access them. Raising awareness of inaccessible spaces and the ways in which community design either includes or excludes its members is the first step in creating change.
One local community success that demonstrates what can happen when advocates and city governments work together is the “All Abilities Playground” located in Silver Park in Missoula, MT. The “All Abilities Playground” offers opportunities for play for children with and without disabilities and is committed to Universal Accessibility which is the idea that built environments should and can be inclusive of all potential users.