“I wish for a world that views disability, mental or physical, not as a hindrance but as unique attributes that can be seen as powerful assets if given the right opportunities.” ― Oliver Sacks
Are we a City that strives to create the right opportunities? After I received a message of enthusiasm for the new Target downtown from an elderly woman, I’ve been thinking a lot about accessibility as one of many ways to improve inclusivity in Evanston. When we think of equity, we must consider ability status and age.
Jennifer’s Edibles, a new 5th ward restaurant that provides “the convenience of take out” with “the nutrition of a home cooked meal,” recently noticed a gap in the service they were providing. Located at 1623 Simpson, Jennifer Eason’s business is two blocks away from an apartment complex owned by the Over The Rainbow Association, an association that provides independent living solutions, such as housing and other services, to people with physical disabilities. Many of these residents have wheelchairs, and Jennifer realized that her business was inaccessible to them due to a 7-inch step at her front door.
Jennifer couldn’t afford to permanently fix the building, but thanks to another Evanston-based business, Inclusion Solutions, run by seventh ward resident Patrick Hughes, she was able to develop a solution to her accessibility issue for under $500. Inclusion Solutions installed a BigBell at the door of her building, which notifies Jennifer and her employees if someone at the door needs assistance. Then, Jennifer or one of her employees can easily deploy a Portable Ramp, allowing the individual entrance to her building, regardless of ability status, to enjoy her delicious cooking.
When most small businesses pick a location, they think mostly about location and price. Whether their building is accessible or not is most often an afterthought, and one that can be costly for the business itself as well as the community. With the historic buildings we have here in Evanston, there are many other businesses that aren’t truly “open to the public” at large. As you go around Evanston, I encourage you to look at issues from a different perspective. If you were someone in a wheelchair or with a walker, would you be able to navigate the streets or buildings as easily as you do now? How can we, as a community, work together to ensure that places in our community are open to everyone–like Jennifer’s Edibles—and that we create the right opportunities for all our residents?
Please join me and Alderman Robin Rue Simmons on July 30th at 11 AM for Civic Bites at Jennifer’s Edibles where we can discuss this and other topics on the minds of Evanstonians.