Monday, December 2, 2013

Cycling infrastructure means new pathways for all

Check out this video of cycling infrastructure, or 'infra,' in the Netherlands. A leader in bike- and pedestrian-friendly communities, Dutch culture is equally friendly in terms of universal access. Both stakeholders that use wheelchairs and cyclists find common cause in advocating for safe routes that connect neighborhoods, communities and recreational amenities.

As Idaho's statewide Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) and other mobility planners explore options to expand transportation choices, keep this video in mind. To learn more, call Erik at 208.331.4706.

Who else benefits from Dutch cycling infrastructure?

(Photo: Chuck Humel)
Some ingenious ways to combine bike and wheelchair commuting with friends and family:
See also:

Friday, November 22, 2013

When Vancouver Leads, Access Follows

Ideas that are long overdue. A similar single-family residential ordinance was adopted officially in Pima County, AZ years ago and has withstood court challenges. Lever hardware is rapidly becoming the norm (no knobs in my house!), and we can expect hardware makers to get more creative and artful as lever use expands.

As I've often said, we are all seniors in training (if we're lucky), and aging-in-place is good for us, our families and for the public treasury. Habitat for Humanity has said it will build all homes to 'visitability standards' (at least one zero-step entry and accessible route to a sleeping area and main floor bathroom). Whether through age, illness or injury, we will all face mobility restrictions at point in our lives. And there's no place like home.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Idaho Loses Long-Time Advocate

Idaho lost a tremendous disability rights advocate and expert, and many of us lost a friend and mentor this weekend. Bobby Ball had a long history working to preserve and expand opportunities for persons living with disabilities through technical assistance and the legislative process. As the Director of the ADA Task Force, Bobby brought together partners from many background. Her wonderful smile and persuasive ability made it tough to say no, whether she was asking for volunteer time or resources to make Idaho more accessible and welcoming.

Thank you, Bobby, for all your hard work, dedication, great sense of humor, and the inspiration you have been to so many of us. We will miss you.

To learn more about Bobby, see this brief feature story when she was recognized as one of Idaho's 'Women Making History.'

This brief 10-second clip was captured during the ADA celebration at the Idaho Statehouse in 2010

Friday, November 15, 2013

Brochures, Information Sheets Available for Download!

Although it's been a while since the last post, things are moving forward. Here's a brief update on Ramp Up Idaho (RUI) activities:
  • RUI partners presented at this year's American Planning Association Conference in Idaho Falls
  • Cards and brochures printed and distributed via trade shows, NW ADA conference, Community Review visits and regional housing roundtable meetings
  • Presentation to Boise Fair Housing Task Force.
We've been getting requests for promotional materials from communities and organizations around the state. Small quantities of brochures or business cards are available on request, or you are free to download and distribute information as need using the links below:

Data sheets/brochures
Call 208 331 4706 for more information.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New Brochures, New Outreach

Ramp Up Idaho brochures are now available on request, along with RUI cards featuring contact information. If you or your organization would like to help spread the word to regional business groups (i.e., local and regional Chambers of Commerce, Business Districts, etc.), please let us know. Quantities are limited, but we will do our best to get you what you need.

RUI team members will be presenting information on community and retail access to the Idaho Chapter of the American Planning Association conference this week in Idaho Falls. Stay tuned for more updates!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NW ADA Conference in Boise Sept. 19, 20 - Register Now!

(From the DBTAC site):

Communities Celebrating Equal Access and Employment Through the ADA

Learn how the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2013 is reshaping opportunities for citizens with disabilities.  The Northwest ADA Regional Conference will bring together an impressive array of speakers to Boise, touching on many of the topics important to our work and play.
Whether you run a business, manage a hotel, work for local government, or have a disability and want to enjoy the recreational opportunities of Idaho, this conference offers excellent information.  Hear experts from the Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Access Board, and from the Job Accommodation Network, as well as regional authorities. 
Idaho in September is beautiful and registration is limited. Check out the agenda and speakers to confirm that this conference is the one you don’t want to miss.
Featuring Nationally Recognized Speakers:
Sally Conway
U.S. Department of Justice
Beth Loy
Job Accommodation Network
Peggy Greenwell
U.S. Access Board
Sharon Rennert
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Richard Pimentel
Nationally Renowned Speaker and Advocate
This two-day event will be held at The Grove Hotel in downtown Boise, ID. The conference will offer four keynote sessions as well as 16 breakout sessions on a variety of topics, including:
  •     Employment and People with Disabilities
  •     Role of the ADA Coordinator/ADA Title II
  •     Accessible Outdoor Recreation
  •     Effective Communication
  •     Assistive Technology
  •     Service Animals

Regisratation Cost: $175
(includes lunch and refreshments)
Register Here

Conference Location
The Grove Hotel Downtown Boise

The Grove Hotel
245 S. Capitol Blvd
Boise Idaho 83702

Room Block is available at the Hampton Inn & Suites Boise
Room rates are $130 Online hotel registration

For Content Information:
John Dineen

For Registration Information:
Tammi Olson

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Access Means Business

Photo credit: Disability Action Center NW
Current demographics show that not only are Baby Boomers an economic force, they also indicate that one in ten Idahoans (read: potential customers and tourists) lives with some type of mobility impairment. Nearly 22,000 Idahoans living with a disability earn more than $50,000/yr. This means communities with accessible and inclusive housing, retail, public and recreational spaces will be the winners moving forward.

Wheelchair users are mobile, and they're looking for travel and adventure opportunities like anyone else. It pays to make them feel welcome.

More online resources are available every day to these travelers, whether aimed at historic tourism, zip-line courses, skiing and boating...not to mention hunting and fishing. Idaho should be a draw to these visitors (we have the best of all these, right?), but only if we begin to think about access in our planning process. If you aren't convinced that wheelchair users are pushing the envelope, check out this video.

One of the best sites to illustrate access-related travel reviews is The site provides travel tips on air and ground transportation, lodging and inclusive tour options or travel packages. An example of one such review can be found here; a wheelchair POV video of the trip is here. Big props to WCT's Creatrix Ashley Lyn Olson for her amazing documentary skills. What would Ashley have to say about your town?

Our group would love to talk with local businesses, planners, chambers and leadership to assess the visitor-readiness of your streets and spaces, and help you gain some traction towards increased economic activity and compliance with existing laws. Visit us on Facebook or email to let us know how we can help.

Photo credit:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Visitability and Universal Design Principles

Concrete Change

One of the most effective champions of 'visitability' I know of is Eleanor Smith, along with her friends at Concrete Change. Some of us in Idaho looked into replicating their Easy Living Home project, which involved marketing and outreach to encourage architects, builders and developers to make new single-family homes 'visitable.' Alternate terms are 'no-step' or 'zero-step' entry homes that allow easy access for anyone using a wheelchair or moving furniture, appliances, bikes or baby strollers in and out of the house.

This designation differs from more rigorous design and construction standards for multifamily housing under the Fair Housing Act, or ADA standards for public and common areas. A visitable residence means being able to recover at home after an accident or illness, avoid institutional care for any disability, and to age-in-place. It requires a no-step entry on the main floor, an accessible route with 32" clear passage space through hallways and doors, and a bathroom with adequate floor space for maneuvering a wheelchair.

What does this have to do with Ramp Up Idaho?

While Ramp Up Idaho focuses primarily on retail and commercial space, we see this as part of a larger effort to make communities more welcoming and usable by everyone: residents an visitors alike. As our card says: Accessible communities and businesses are essential to Idaho’s economy.

Why build visitable single-family homes?

Simple. Because it saves money and makes life better for everyone in the community.
  • For Medicare-eligible individuals, home-based care represents estimated annual cost savings of $32,000 over institutional care. For lawmakers and taxpayers fretting over Medicare costs, this is a no brainer.
  • When we can live at home surrounded by family and friends, health outcomes are dramatically better for everyone involved.
  • Some local governments see the Baby Boomer writing on the wall: populations in many places (like Idaho) are aging: cities and counties can take steps to attract retirees and their incomes, lower costs for taxpayers, and make their communities more attractive places to live. See one approach to this in the Pima County Building Ordinance. The authors of a recent 2012 study on aging in Idaho sum it up nicley:
Idaho is about to get older quickly. It would be wise for Idaho’s citizens, employers, and policymakers to start planning for it now.
To see what others have to say about universal design in single-family housing, see the following:
What builders and communities should consider is that 'planning ahead' is much cheaper and better than what I call 'planning behind.' Concrete Change has lots of research on the low cost of visitability; learn more here.

For Eleanor's last 'Train the Trainers' presentation before her retirement, click here.

It's pioneers like Concrete Change that have created opportunities and access for everyone and that inspire projects like Ramp Up Idaho.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blue Path Offers a Directory of Accessible Business!

One of our goals is to provide positive incentives to small businesses who take steps...out! When businesses remove barriers like steps, their customer base increases from that moment on. A great way to locate retail outlets is Blue Path, an accessible directory for the Northwest. Check it out and let listed businesses know you appreciate their inclusive policies.

We're hoping to add a few hundred new Idaho businesses in the coming months and years.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Which businesses are covered by the ADA?

Businesses that provide goods or services to the public are called “public accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. The ADA establishes requirements for 12 categories of public accommodations, which include:

  • stores,
  • restaurants,
  • bars,
  • service establishments, 
  • theaters, hotels,
  • recreational facilities,
  • private museums
  • schools,
  • doctors’ offices
  • dentists’ offices,
  • shopping malls,
  • and other businesses

Nearly all types of businesses that serve the public are included in the 12 categories, regardless of the size of the business or the age of their buildings.

Businesses covered by the ADA are required to modify their business policies and procedures when necessary to serve customers with disabilities and take steps to communicate effectively with customers with disabilities. The ADA also requires businesses to remove architectural barriers in existing buildings and make sure that newly built or altered facilities are constructed to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. “Grandfather provisions” often found in local building codes do not exempt businesses from their obligations under the ADA.

But do not despair, RampUpIdaho is here to help make the process of making adaptive modifications easy to understand, and connecting businesses to available resources to help defray costs and create efficiencies though communication and planning. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

What does access look like?

Just for fun, here’s a lo-res video clip of the first scooter/chair use of a ramp/entry the Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA) had constructed (in partnership with the good people at Boise Parks and Recreation) between our east parking lot and Julia Davis Park. The historic gate was not wheelchair accessible, so our building manager worked closely with the BP&R reps and our contractor a few years ago to create a better option. It required lots of communication and some new thinking, but it has made a huge difference for everyone...people using scooters or wheelchairs, parents with strollers, and those of us who bike to work.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

So, how does this create jobs in Idaho?

I met Dave at an Information Fair in Caldwell. His business is installing modular steel ramps, which are available for rent or purchase. He says they can usually get ramps ordered and installed within 36 hours of customer contact. Folks like Dave can expand their business when others learn about the Tax Credit and Tax Deduction available for qualifying small businesses who remove barriers.

Or maybe the guys at Reclaimed, who are salvaging and repurposing high-quality structural barn wood. The materials they are re-harvesting might make excellent ramps for some applications where a more rustic or craftsman look is desired.

Communication is crucial!

It is essential for local businesses, chambers, economic development professionals, highway districts and planners to get into the habit of meeting and talking to one another, not just to promote access, but also to ensure wise us of resources.

Breaking down traditional silos allows communities and agencies to anticipate and reduce conflicts early in the planning process. Routine community collaboration also reveals shared goals, project timelines and funding opportunities that can benefit multiple stakeholders.

Planning ahead together generally yields better outcomes than 'planning behind' once problems arise.

Rotary Club Presentation

Kerrie Hurd, Lender Relations Specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration, presents information on RampUpIdaho to the Centennial Rotary Club members at their April 25th meeting. Kerrie was assisted by yours truly.

What's all this about?

What does this say to you?

To someone using a wheelchair or scooter, a step says in effect: “Thanks, but we have enough customers.” When lots of barriers exist in a downtown core, it’s like putting up a big ‘WHEELS NOT WELCOME’ sign  on the whole town. This doesn't just keep out those who use wheelchairs, but also their families, friends, and coworkers...anyone they might travel with.

With aging Baby Boomers (and our parents) comes a rapidly expanding market demand for accessible communities, tourism, entertainment and retail. The most attractive communities will be those in which we can all get around independently. Add to this returning veterans and anyone experiencing short or long-term mobility challenges, and you get the idea that this is a potentially big constituency.

We have yet to find a rural Idaho town or business that would intentionally turn away tourism or retail traffic. But we also know that creating an accessible entrance—especially in a historic district—can be a daunting and costly prospect for a small business. So our group is focusing on the following:
  • Educating small businesses about existing tax deductions and credits that offset the costs of accessible modifications
  • Increased access to downtown rural Idaho
  • Expanded markets and increased revenue for small businesses
  • New job opportunities for regional entrepreneur(s) to manufacture materials and make modifications
  • Create a new marketing angle for proactive communities (‘Come visit the most accessible town in Idaho’)