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New Website Rates Accessibility of Rockland County Public Spaces

New Website Rates Accessibility of Rockland County Public Spaces

UAccessLife.org rates Rockland County businesses and public spaces based on how ADA-compliant and accessible they are.

A group of high school students at Rockland BOCES Hudson Valley P-TECH, in partnership with BRIDGES, a nonprofit community organization, developed and recently launched UAccessLife.org, which helps users determine how accessible various places in and around Rockland County are for individuals with disabilities. Funded through BRIDGES—a community-based, peer-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to advocacy and leadership on behalf of people with disabilities—these high school students were able to create an amazing resource to directly help individuals with disabilities within their community.

The website assigns scores to public spaces (think: malls and stores, restaurants, medical facilities, parks, and community centers) on the basis of how accessible and disability-friendly they are. Ratings specifically pertain to accessibility features like wheelchair accessibility, lighting, parking, accommodation for service animals, employee assistance, and noise levels. Students created each review based on a three-star scale of excellent, good, and poor. These scores, which are judged by ADA-certified staff at BRIDGES, help users determine whether a particular location is accessible to their needs. In addition, anyone in the community can submit a rating to the website, and every rating will be reviewed by a member of the BRIDGES staff. Ratings can be viewed by category or by navigating to the map.

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"The P-TECH students have done an amazing job on this project. Working with their teacher, Aliki Hatzis, and BRIDGES, they have tackled a real-world issue and this website will have a lasting and positive impact on the daily lives of people with disabilities,” said Dan Kaplan, principal of Rockland BOCES Hudson Valley P-TECH. “It's a key part of P-TECH's mission to involve our students in real-world issues and problems and develop projects that address those issues and find solutions. I am so proud of our students for their interest in and commitment to such an important project."

In order to comprehend the difficulties associated with living with a disability firsthand, the P-TECH students participated in an “In My Shoes” activity. Each student was paired with someone who is living with a disability to understand what life is like when you have a disability. Some students were given vision-blocking goggles to mimic blindness, while others were given a wheelchair to use. Through this eye-opening experience, students learned about the difficulties individuals with disabilities face every day—and were better able to design the website.

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“The freedom to be independent is one of the most fundamental things we enjoy as humans. Sadly, people with disabilities don’t always get that opportunity despite the fact it has been 30 years since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Carlos Martinez, executive director of BRIDGES. “If we can offer people a resource to prepare in advance for public spaces, we can help make a difference in someone’s life and help them feel empowered and live independently. This does not stop our work to improve accessibility all over our communities, but it does help us get one step further.”

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