Youth Leading the Way: Inspiring Stories of Youth Creating Safe, Accessible Neighborhoods (September 30, 2020 Webinar)

Join us for inspiring stories from youth leaders who are working to create safe, accessible neighborhoods. Youth are the future of our communities and they are taking initiative to address concerns in their neighborhoods.

Webinar participants will hear from four student leaders working to create meaningful, inclusive, and lasting change in their communities through innovative programming with the YMCA.

First, hear from two students who took part in the YMCA’s 2020 Changemakers Institute. The Changemakers Institute is a virtual summer program available to all high school students, including incoming 9th grade students and graduating high school seniors. As part of the Institute, participants prepared, implemented, and evaluated a Changemaker Initiative that addressed a specific issue in their community, and aligned with one of the Y’s Areas of Impact, one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and their own passions.

Next, hear from two students who participated in the YMCA’s Youth and Government program and developed active and healthy communities projects as part of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-YMCA grant. These inspiring case studies, which address the need for safe pedestrian and bicycle access to schools and the many community benefits of shared school resources, will further highlight how young changemakers are leading the charge to strengthen communities through policy, systems, and environmental change.

** Thank you again to the inspiring YMCA changemakers who presented last week on their leadership initiatives to create strong, healthy, and active communities through safe routes to school, walkability, and shared-use agreements with schools. These student projects reflect the passion of the next generation to create healthy communities where all people can safely access opportunities for physical activity, active transportation, parks and open spaces, healthy foods, community resources, and social connectedness.  During the Q&A, the discussion about accessibility revealed that we need to do a better job of ensuring inclusion and elevate the importance of universal design in our work and the presentations we sponsor. In an effort to take a more intentional approach with these future leaders and ensure they fully understand the core principles and aims of universal design in building environments that serve all ages and abilities, the YMCA and America Walks worked with the student presenters, providing additional resources and clarifying the aims of universal design; We then asked them to tell us how, going forward with current and future projects, they could better ensure engagement with the disability community and advance more inclusive strategies. See below for their responses: 

“Doing similar work in the future, I will create a survey that asks people living with disabilities what additions they would want to see on sidewalks and invite them to show me their concerns around mobility in the community. This would help us decide what should be prioritized, so if, for example, there are people living with disabilities who are concerned with the lack of stop lights, implementing these would be a top priority.”

“When completing a project focused on shared-use agreements with schools, it is important to consider both school ADA compliance, as well as the accessibility of the streets, sidewalks, and paths leading into and around the schools. Some schools have accessibility devices integrated into the building, but sometimes paths to the school or its outdoor resources are not fully accessible, which is important to prioritize so that school resources can be accessed by all community members.”

“One of the ways I would implement the previously-mentioned universal designs for individuals of all abilities, would be to include individuals living with disabilities in our walk audits, so that we can gather their input about what is most important for them. To ensure that all perspectives are included in how walkable a community is, it is best to have all individuals who are being considered involved in the project from the start.”

“As I am continuing my project, I’m making sure to keep those of all abilities in mind. When forming our culture of walkability community committee, I am looking to consult with people of all abilities, including people with disabilities, in order to make sure their voices are being heard, regardless of whether or not they are available to actually serve on the committee.”

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