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’)