Paralympian to faciliate workshop in GR about universal design

Apr 15, 2019

Ileana Rodriguez the day she arrived in London in 2012 to compete in the Paralympics.
Credit Ileana Rodriguez

For Paralympian, Ileana Rodriguez being able to get around the world comfortably is something always in the forefront of her mind, and a reminder that spaces are not always inclusive. 

“In the case of the wheelchair, you don’t have the choice to even pull it up a few steps, so you need to really find the ramp; and in many cases they are put  behind the building because its okay by the code to provide one entrance but it doesn’t have to be the main entrance.” 

After representing Team USA in the 2012, London Paralympic Games, Rodriguez decided she wanted to use her skills as an architect to advocate on universal design.

“Some of us are sitting down, some of us are standing, depending if you have a disability or not. So universal design tries to look at the wide range of people and tries to accommodate them all equally.” 

Cameron Young, a board member at Disability Advocates of Kent County, says that for him entering into a space with his wheel chair is what he has the hardest time with.

“If you can’t get in, then there is no chance of experiencing everything that that might have to offer.” 

About 20 percent of the Kent County community has some sort of physical disability, says Young and that things like shoveling the snow on sidewalks can really make a difference for this community.

“When you are parking on the side of the street if there is a huge snow bank in the way, a wheel chair ramp can’t go down so that prevents that person from having a chance to park there.” 

Rodriguez will be coming to Grand Rapids on April 18 as part of the Absolutely Accessible Kent Campaign. 

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News