WEEK 4: Reframing Disability, Reframing Advocacy

This week, we’ve had the opportunity to really start digging into the territory of aging. Choosing aging as a topic came from our interest in creating a multi-sensory mixed reality solution that was inclusive to people of all abilities. Aging is a complex intersection of a number of disabilities. And, if we live long enough, aging comes for us all, in one way or another. For this, and many other reasons, we are excited to begin digging into the territory.

To better understand disability, accessibility, and inclusivity, MacKenzie and I attended a disability advocacy event put on by Access Mob Pittsburgh. There, we spoke to one woman, Joy, a disability advocate. She got into disability advocacy work after seeing Murderball, a film about wheelchair rugby. She was determined to shift the frame and help people find the ability in their disability. How could we think less about dealing with the disability of aging and more about the superpowers in it?

Joy (left) with MacKenzie
Coexist Athletics was founded by Joy

But that wasn’t the only frame that appeared in front of me at that event. We also heard from multiple people at this event about a Ballots for Patients initiative that the group had worked on over elections in November. Pennsylvania does not have early voting and has very limited absentee ballots, along with huge restrictions on and barriers to emergency absentee ballots. Because of this, they worked on a project to get the necessary people into the hospital to facilitate emergency absentee voting and were able to secure 200 votes from people who otherwise would have missed out on the opportunity to cast their ballots. Much of the press around their success covered the women at Magee Women’s who were unable to make it to the polls because they were in labor. They would like to expand this project to nursing homes in the coming years.

This really interested me as related to the project I am working on at the public library on civic information services. In thinking about how libraries can help people engage civically, engage with policy, I realized here that it’s not all about changing policy. We have to equip people to obtain and present the information to their representatives and leaders, but we also have to equip them to advocate in the meantime, mitigating the effects of bad policy.

I am always impressed at where these small insights come from, at any moment, in any place. This is another way that design is similar to writing. The inspiration can strike at any moment, and I hope you always have a notebook nearby when it does.

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