International Day of Persons With Disabilities (IDPD) 2021

Interntional Day of Persons with Disabilities

KEYNOTE: Chris Downey | IDPD 2021 | Question Responses

What three tips do you have that people can do to make persons with disabilities feel more included?

  • When possible, when planning the activity(ies) or event(s), explain what will be happening and ask if there is anything that can be done to help them be included.
  • At the event, ask them if they would like to participate, dance or whatever.
  • If they decline, ask if there is anything that could be done to better include them or if there might be something else that they would like to do.

With the vision-impaired population to double in the next 25 years and the aging population being the major driver of this, what are some ways you feel Braille be incorporated within the urban infrastructure to tackle visual impairment literacy and prepar

This is not so simple. Generally speaking, only 10% of the blind and visually impaired are fluent Braille readers. As reflected in the demographic trend stated, the majority of the visually impaired population is in the elder set with the majority of sight being lost as a function of age related visual impairments. Learning to read Braille proficiently or even moderately well through touch poses significant challenges for learning at that age. It’s not just an intellectual challenge, it’s also a dexterity and challenge along with the need to establish new neurological pathways between the sense of touch at the fingertips to the brain. The most effective way to help the largest number of seniors with age related visual impairments is through visually accessible text and signage: large sans serif fonts, characters with high visible and effective color contrast against the background, low or non-glare finishes on the text or signs and for the font size to be responsive to the distance from the viewer. Braille should be incorporated for those with no sight which will address the majority of those that lost sight early or earlier in life as well as those that never had sight. Signs and text with Raised characters can be more easily accessible and readable to those that lost sight late in life. Tactile signage, both Braille and raised characters, should be located in predictable if not code required locations. Few, especially in a post-COVID world, will want to explore surfaces all around to determine if there might be accessible signage.

What are some simple delights that can be inserted into an urban space to provoke realms of delight? Could art and sculpture for the differently abled people transform as means of communication to the abled users?

When considering how to make urban places more relevant, memorable and delightful for all people, it is important to think of it in terms of multi-sensory place-making. A visually iconic place, if explicitly ocular-centric (for instance a pervasive different color scheme), it will be lost to those without sight. It’s best to design and accentuate all sensory possibilities from sight, texture (touch), smell, and sound to make truly inclusive urban spaces that are unique, recognizable and memorable to all. Within that broader pallet, there’s plenty of opportunity to curate and instill a sense of delight. Of course, gardens, fountains, etc. can be effective yet within the limits of the seasonal demands.