October 12th, 2011 marks an important day for people with disabilities, caregivers, seniors, and parents with strollers. On this day the Rick Hansen Foundation launched the Rick Hansen Global Accessibility Map. This is a moment that for myself I welcome, applaud and mourn.
The Map is an online tool that will raise awareness and essentially join people around the world in the common goal to make our planet a more inclusive and accessible place. It allows online users to review and rate their accessible experience at any business or service. People can submit and obtain reviews for mobility, hearing and sight. The first phase of this tool provides access through desktop, IPad, IPhone, BlackBerry Torch and devices using Android 2.2 or higher on the Opera Mobile browser. The second phase will include a professional ratings tool and enhanced functionality. Over the years, I have seen similiar concepts, like Wheelmap, CitiRoller or Abilities Access Guide Canada, etc. Some sites have been extremely complicated and not user friendly while others are specific to only one area. I felt the means of achieving global success with this concept, was still in the distant future. Rick Hansen Global Accessibility Map has begun to change that. It's not area limited and is user friendly but still has room for improvement.
For me, it's all bitter sweet. If you read my first post "My Wheelistic View", you would know that a few years ago (July 2009 to be exact), I tossed about an idea with friends that I believed would make this world a more inclusive, accessible place. That idea continued to grow and expand with excitement. It was one of those moments in your life where you believe with all your heart "this is what I'm supposed to do." It was my moment and it was also my challenge. "How on earth was I going to get this off the ground?"
I spoke at great lengths with family, brainstormed with my sister Jennifer, obtained feedback from Callie's therapist and folks at Sunnyhill Health Centre for Children. After putting in full days with Callie's needs, I worked to the wee hours mapping out every aspect of this project over and over again. Upon speaking with a business coach Jill Crossland, I was forced to answer the question "Did I really have the time to invest in this?" Jill had some wonderful ideas but as a mother of a child with disabilities, it didn't take me long to realize the answer was "No." There was no way I could do it on my own. My sister Jennifer suggested, I needed to find my voice, my audience, my connection to the disability community and begin with my blog. My hopes for this blog were to inspire change and help people in some small way. It was also my hope that I would make new connections that might one day lead to a partnership where my idea could be realized. I never once stopped adding to this project and it quickly became an obsession that was highlight of my day.
They say great minds think alike. If that's true then I guess I should feel proud of myself. Though, we had no connection or collaboration of thoughts, my project was almost the exact same concept as Rick Hansen's Global Accessibility Map. It was suggested to me once to approach the Rick Hansen Foundation with my ideas and looking back, what better a partnership to have. I guess there was a part of me that wanted it to be just my baby to love, shape and grow into something extraordinary. There are still differenence in our ideas but the similarities were uncanny. I looked at the site with shock and grief. I know that I couldn't possibly have had the resources, time or funds to get this off the ground, however, I'm sad this dream for me may be over. I'm happy for Rick Hansen that his dream may be realized in this way and for the global community of persons with disabilities this is a huge asset. Perhaps, there may still be time to partner with Mr. Hansen some day and add some of my observations and ideas to his. Till then, the future is a blank slate once again.
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