Designing for Inclusive Health Grantee Shares Success

This is an update from the Access Portsmouth team who received a Designing for Inclusive Health grant in 2017 as part of the America Walks-NCHPAD partnership. 

We thought it was time to send a ‘season of Thanksgiving’ update to you. When we reflect on things we are grateful for, you easily make the list. Back in June, when you awarded Access Portsmouth a ‘Designing for inclusive Health’ grant, we were doing great things. Today, nearly six months later, we’ve gotten even greater.

We were originally working only in Portsmouth NH, helping people with mobility challenges plan for what to expect when they visit historic Portsmouth,NH. Six months later, we have found a way to scale up.

First we discovered custom Google maps. This solved the ‘sharing digitally with ease’ conundrum. We provide the accessibility information; Google provides the technology template for sharing.

Then we entered into an alliance with the University of New Hampshire. Currently we have five nursing students using us as a two-credit public health nursing project. We provide training and ongoing support, they are working in four surrounding communities collecting and mapping accessibility data to expand our scope – the Exeter and Hampton maps, above, are theirs. Next month we will train a group of Occupational Therapy students to collect data from two additional towns.

Around the same time we developed an alliance with Granite State Independent Living, a statewide non-profit providing support for individuals living with disabilities. GSIL clients will become local champions and fact checkers as we move throughout the state with new teams of UNH students.

At a recent touch-base meeting with the UNH students, I asked how this felt, being out in the community working with business owners. They replied that they are finding it hard to take off their accessibility ‘hat.’ Everywhere they go, they now look for the obstacles to accessibility. What a win for all of us! We expect through 2018, with the help of UNH and GSIL, to be mapping the entire state of New Hampshire.

Original Picnic Tables
Accessible Picnic Tables

Back to Portsmouth NH…one very small, but notable win. We had fact checkers from a local brain injury center test our walk-n-roll route in June. They pointed out their disappointment that a beautiful new city park had picnic tables with attached seating, providing no accommodation for a visitor using a wheelchair. We reached out to the city and they removed a seat, providing a new nicely accessible spot. A tiny win for us, but for the users of the wheelchairs, a sense of empowerment and a new favorite destination. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking nicely. I’ve attached images.

Our next step? Moving towards non-profit status. We’ve started the paperwork and will keep you posted. It will include a name change to reflect our geographically expanded scope. We have become prolific speakers to tourism, cultural, housing, architecture and planning organizations, spreading the gospel of inclusion and accessibility. We are well received. And all the while, we chip away frugally at our America Walks/NCHPAD grant, using it for technology to facilitate our expansion. And finally, we continue to be grateful for the support and encouragement of JSA Inc Architects, who consider this a terrific example of corporate social responsibility in the community.