Accessible Presents

By: Catherine J. Kudlick

With this entry I hope to introduce a regular feature for which we’ll gladly accept guest contributions.  Our work at the Longmore Institute is devoted to discovering advances in universal design - the idea that innovations put into place to benefit someone with a disability can often have unintended benefits for everyone.  We always come back to the curb cut, originally put in to help a few wheelchair riders, but now used by people who walk: parents with strollers, folks with rolling bags, delivery people, and skateboarders, to name a few.  There are also television captions for deaf and hard-of-hearing people that help non-native speakers, multi-taskers, and no-doubt others.  The screen-reading software first-conceived for blind people helps commuters.  Of course not every innovation benefits every user; sometimes they even compete, such as in the early days of curb cuts when blind cane users couldn’t use the curb to make sure they were crossing the street in a straight line.  But still, there are many instances where these innovations offer surprising gifts for all.  Hence the name: Accessible Presents, my incurable penchant to pun.  Get it?  To get things started, here is my first contribution.

This week students have returned to campus in droves from near and far. These laughing, sneezing, coughing hordes bring with them a fresh batch of germs: flu, colds, conjunctivitis, mononucleosis…..

Very few cough into their sleeves.

Hundreds of them per hour stream in and out of the Humanities Building, in and out of classrooms, in and out of restrooms where they’re pulling on door knobs, pushing on bars, grabbing a door before it closes.

Thank goodness for the Americans with Disabilities Act that requires automatic doors for hands-free opening and closing!

Hand covered in germs