The Future of Mobility Inclusion
As part of our 50th anniversary, we’ve asked advocates of the disability community to share their hopes for how mobility and inclusion will evolve over the next 50 years.
Guest writer Ann Tisdale is the mother of Maya, aka Mighty Miss Maya, a tenacious young girl who is “living her life with cerebral palsy like a total boss.” Maya’s spirit is matched by Ann’s determination to give her daughter every opportunity to experience her life to the fullest, advocating and educating others about disability inclusion at every step.
What brought you to the disability / mobility inclusion space?
Our daughter Maya was diagnosed with CP at an early age. From the moment she was diagnosed, we were determined to make sure she had all the same opportunities as her two older brothers. When she was younger it was more about adapting and finding ways to include her in the activities we liked to do as a family, like hiking, sledding, bike riding, etc. Usually this just meant special carriers, strollers, or rigging up a sled that she could sit up in. As she got older, it was about finding ways for her to be independent and explore activities she is passionate about. Recently she became interested in wheelchair tennis. She LOVES it. As a parent there is nothing better than to watch your child enjoy something they love. It wasn’t easy though. We first had to find her a sports wheelchair, then we needed to find a facility that was accessible and a coach that had some knowledge about wheelchair tennis. It was a PROCESS. With my boys if they wanted to play a sport we could usually choose between a few different options and just call and sign them up. Getting Maya involved in wheelchair tennis was an entirely different process, and it’s reflective of nearly every effort to create “normal” opportunities for her.
What is something society needs to improve in the next 50 years to change the landscape of access and inclusion for the mobility disability community, specifically children with mobility disabilities?
The first thing we need to do is make sure schools are fully accessible and inclusive. This includes playgrounds. So many school playgrounds are not accessible for kids with mobility disabilities.
Nearly all school playgrounds have woodchips or other inaccessible ground material that makes it nearly impossible to navigate if you have a mobility disability (this goes for all parks as well, not just schools). It would be amazing if every city/town thought about accessibility when constructing or renovating their parks. The thing about accessibility is that it hinders no one and helps everyone. Making something accessible for someone makes it useable for everyone.
How does society’s current gaps in access and inclusion negatively impact the mobility disability community?
Gaps in access and inclusion mean people with mobility disabilities cannot fully participate in life. It’s that simple. If you can’t access a building or outdoor space, you miss out on the events taking place in that space. One of our main therapy goals for Maya has always been to be able to navigate steps. Why? Because so many places are not accessible if you can’t navigate one or two steps. It’s sad but true. I started looking around at all the places we visited and realized that she would not be able to go to these places independently if she couldn’t navigate a step or two.
In a perfect world, what does accessibility and inclusion look like for Maya and your family? What does a universally accessible society of the future look like?
In a perfect world, people with mobility disabilities would be included in the conversations about city planning, public transportation, etc. from the beginning. This would make a huge difference in changing how spaces are created and events are planned. I also think it’s important for all of us to be Allies for the disability community. Speak up if you notice something that’s not accessible and ask questions about how to ensure people with disabilities have full access.
How can individuals help ensure inclusion efforts for children with disabilities?
Be an ally. Don’t assume other people are going to take care of it. If you are planning something or creating something, think about how children with disabilities will access the space or event. Is the space accessible? How accessible? What can we do to improve the accessibility of this space? Are the activities I planned inclusive and accessible to all? By asking some simple questions we can usually find a solution to make things accessible. The biggest problem is that if you don’t live this struggle day-to-day, the questions aren’t considered while planning.
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