Thursday, November 12, 2020

ADA 30 Idaho Interview Series- Ashley Olson

This week we visited with Ashley Lyn Olson, founder of Ashley shares her lifelong passion for outdoor travel and adventure with Erik Kingston (Idaho Access Project/RampUpIdaho) and Interpreter Lauren Seale (Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing).

Ashley has traveled the world for two decades, and her site features practical tips and resources organized by destination, interests, accommodations or transportation options. It’s clear that Ashley focuses on the experiences and people she encounters, from getting stuck in the middle of nowhere to being amazed by the natural beauty, access and hospitality of locals on a recent visit to New Zealand. We’ve included some of the links and resources discussed below. Enjoy!

#ADA30Idaho #WhatTheADAMeansToMe #AccessYourWorld | | | | | | |

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Inclusive Planning and Design: A Dollars and Sense Issue

A common mistake in public and private infrastructure development is what I call 'planning behind.' That is, fixing mistakes made by not anticipating the needs or consequences involving a project or design in the planning stages. One common mistake involves building or permitting single-family homes that aren't visitable by potential tenants (or neighbors) that use wheelchairs. Adding a ramp to an existing home can costs thousands of dollars and rarely looks good, while designing a home with one zero-step entrance and an accessible bathroom on the ground floor can cost no more than an inaccessible design.

Planning behind is always more expensive and less satisfying than planning ahead with the right people at the table; this includes end users of all abilities, neighbors and anyone impacted by the project. Not every user moves through the natural and built environment the same way, so it pays to have a cross-section of residents and users sharing their perspectives up front.

Example: This bike offramp is intended to keep cyclists out of roundabout traffic. It routes bikes from the roadway to the sidewalk; once they use the crosswalk there’s an on-ramp to move them back to the road.


For a pedestrian who is blind or low-vision and uses a cane, the design is a problem. This pedestrian ‘tracks right,’ using her cane to follow the right edge of the walkway to stay on track. The slight angle of the ramp seems normal at first, and the lack of any tactile change at the roadway means she is well into the oncoming traffic lane and into the raised lane divider before she realizes something is wrong. For this roundabout design there are four such ramps. The day we visited the Warm Springs corridor, we noticed several inattentive drivers on cellphones; at an intersection to the west of this location, several cars flew right through the flashing pedestrian signal. With a silent electric vehicle, there is no warning that a collision is imminent. It’s critical for planners and designers to include a variety of users with different perspectives to review and contribute to designs affecting connectivity, visit ability and safety. We should note that several people were watching traffic to ensure her safety. Her goal was simply to follow the sidewalk heading west as she would normally navigate with a cane. More videos from this Barber Valley Access Audit to follow. The full video is part of a larger project of the Idaho Access Project.

Friday, June 26, 2020

30 Years of the ADA!

Idahoans are celebrating 30 Years of Community Access, Independent Living, Employment and Activism through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The COVID-19 pandemic means we're adapting plans for Hands Around the Capitol 2020” to create a series of online events, beginning in July and continuing until the end of October. We welcome your involvement!

The ADA means people with disabilities are treated the same way as others. We'll use social media  to share stories of how the ADA empowers us to live the lives we want, and to celebrate the people who made it all possible.

The law expanded opportunities for 304,000 Idahoans with disabilities by reducing barriers, changing perceptions, and increasing full participation in community life. The ADA's promise can only be reached through shared to fully implement the ADA through education and outreach.

To help celebrate, follow activities on social media:
#ThanksToTheADA #ADA30Idaho #WhatTheADAMeansToMe

For more information or to share your stories, contact

Monday, June 1, 2020

Adaptive Recreation Creates Opportunity, Supports Local Economies

Paraskier making a sharp turn on the ski slope
Even before the ADA was signed into law, people living with disabilityand their families and friendsfound ways to pursue interests in sports and the outdoors. There are many pioneers in the field, including Jim Winthers, a veteran connected to the 10th Mountain Division in WWII. He found models in Europe to help returning veterans learn to ski after losing limbs. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and where there's a will, there's a way...

As a former volunteer with Splore in the 80s, it was great to learn from the diverse client base about their personal motivations to get outdoors and ski, raft, climb or paddle. What stuck with me was a common request from folks using wheelchairs during overnight rafting trips on the Colorado River:
I'd like watch the river for a while and be alone...
We all benefit from solitude, the sensation of wind and sun or the natural sights and sounds of water, landscape and open sky. This doesn't change for those with disabilities involving mobility, sensory or developmental issues. The other thing I learned from fellow volunteers (who were wheelchair users themselves) was their value for roadless areas and wildernesseven when that meant they couldn't visit easily. While others might feel differently, the knowledge that those areas were preserved in a natural state was as important to them as it was to anyone else.

To get a sense of the experience of one wheelchair user running the Coloradofrom an unintentional swim to using the camp 'groover'see this piece featured on, Rafting the Colorado with a Wheelchair, by John W. Mitchell.

As we all adjust to a world with #COVID-19, guides, outfitters and others in the recreation-tourism industry are anxious to accommodate clients again safely. With more than 12% of Idaho's population living with some form of disability, that's a market share worth welcoming into your lodge, shop, cabins, boat and restaurant. As we like to remind retail, travel and tourism professionals, by welcoming people of all abilities into your business or activity, you're also welcoming their entourage...friends, family, co-workers, etc.

Idaho is a state with exceptional recreational and landscape valuesand an economy based largely on providing access to those places. Boise's Ridge to River trail system features several wheelchair-accessible trail segments that let more folks explore the landscape, fresh air and views around the city.

Two adaptive cycle users stopped on a foothills trail overlooking the City of Boise.
Copyright, Ridge to River

Splore is now part of the National Ability Center. One look at their program list will give anyone a sense of the potential available to both individuals and local businesses. Whether it's hunting, fishing, skiing, bird watching or boating, Idaho has much to offer.

And in some cases, outdoor recreation depends on simple policies and community support and engagement. As community members, we should all consider the landscapes we move through and pay attention to basics: trail width and surface, potential hazards from high-speed bike traffic, and designated ADA parking options and entries to trail segments considered 'accessible.' It's time to demand more inclusive planning and design of our use of the natural and built environment funded and used by the public.

We all benefit from time outdoors in many ways: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It's not a matter of altering open space to remove all risk; it's a matter of making changes that promote more inclusive exploration. As the original Splore web site puts it so well,
...there is dignity in risk-taking and that it is an inherent part of living a full and robust life.

Woman and guide dog navigate downhill sandy trail flanked by dry grass with blue sky above.
Photo, Erik Kingston

Access Means Business, Access Means Inclusion, Access Means Adventure, Access Means Freedom

What are we waiting for?