Description of header image: A view upward through the tilted windows of the University of Michigan Law Library. The windows’ black mullions slant at angles through the photo frame. Between each mullioned segment is part of the view through the windows, composed of fragmented parallelograms of blue sky, pinkish-white clouds, leafy deciduous tree, and stone towers. A bird has pooped on one of the window panes. (Photo by Johnna Keller.)
Hello! We are the Sustaining Access Project, a group of designers, researchers, and activists who collaborate to explore the intersections of sustainability and accessibility.
This website began as an effort to enhance accessibility for a 2014 presentation at the Society for Disability Studies, titled “Social (In)Justices and Unlikely Allies: Questioning Sustainable Design in Architectural, Urban, Digital, and Academic Spaces.” Our intention was to provide an open-source and accessible space for presentation materials, as well as a “crip time” (non-linear space/time frame) venue for discussion.
Since that first project in 2014, we’ve added more materials to this site, and it is always in progress–so please bear with us! Feel free to add a comment or contact any of the members if you have questions.
Can’t wait to take part from a distance! Wish I could be there — but I also really appreciate this opportunity to join the conversation online.
I tried to post this from the session (but found this site inaccessible from my computer…interesting irony re: this intervention!)…anyhow, I was wondering why we were all sitting in rows, w/ our backs to one another…why didn’t we change up our seating, in order to be able to encounter one another more ‘fully’? ….realizing some of the problematics of the presumptions underlying this question (for some, such an arrangement would not increase accessibility…). But still: why were we in rows?? why couldn’t we choreograph/improvise….? I’m found it hard, in this arrangement, to feel that this was a real conversation….
Anne, this is a great question. Speaking only from my own experience, I sometimes find circles of chairs welcoming, but more often intimidating. This may stem in part from my own disabilities and the fact that I’m uncomfortable being within peoples’ direct gazes. It feels a bit panopticon-y, if that makes sense.
For me, sitting in rows with an audience is often a warm (metaphorically) experience … since there is typically a mix of eye contact and not-eye-contact, of being close but not so close that I feel claustrophobic or potentially triggered. However, I don’t have that “warm” feeling when, as I mentioned with regard to the image I discussed, the chairs are locked together and don’t have space between them.
At the same time, I heartily agree with the importance of changing up, intervening in, re-choreographic conference spaces. And I agree that the appearance of chairs in rows can appear to mandate against a certain kind of sharing / openness that we would desire in a discussion session. I have a personal collection of images I’ve taken at conferences of people re-purposing those spaces for access and fellowship–the sight of you right now (in session 3F), next to a window, over against a wall so that your computer’s cord will reach the outlet, gazing alternately at your computer screen and at the speaker, chair angled toward the people in your row) would be one such image. 🙂
sweet! and our having an on-line conversation about session 1F during session 3F is another re-purposing/choreography/improvisation….allowing each of us a way to “step out” of one space into another…
Inspired by Nirmala Erevelles’ comments/questions this morning during our panel regarding social equity and access …
It was the desire to seek “more” or “better” from sustainable architecture, one of these “more” and/or “better” things being social equity as an integral part of sustainable architecture, that led me to The Living Building Challenge, which is the only green building performance program that includes the concept of social equity.
From the Living Building Challenge Standard:
“The Living Building Challenge is a holistic standard, pulling together the most progressive thinking from the worlds of architecture, engineering, planning, interiors, landscape design and policy. It challenges us to ask the question:
What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place? What if every intervention resulted in greater biodiversity; increased soil health; additional outlets for beauty and personal expression; a deeper understanding of climate, culture and place; a realignment of our food and transportation systems; and a more profound sense of what it means to be a citizen of a planet where resources and opportunities are provided fairly and equitably?”
The Living Building Challenge promises so much (or maybe I’m reading into it what I want to see); however, how I see that being actualized is far from just and equitable. For instance, to build on what I was saying this morning, The Bullitt Center is located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle and has no on-site parking to encourage “car-free living.” Therefore, to access this building, one must either live in Capitol Hill, which may not be economically feasible, or take public transportation, which has its own set of limitations and access issues. And it’s not just The Bullitt Center. I see many LEED-certified schools being built in rich, white neighborhoods, and if these green schools implement strategies to optimize the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) to enhance learning, then that’s privileging the rich, white students even more.
So, what happens in poorer school districts with less money to build fancy LEED schools? Projects that have less money to build better for sure, but a better building doesn’t have to cost more. It just has to be designed better. Unfortunately, access to more experienced designers familiar with how to integrate sustainable building features into a low-budget project may cost more money, experienced designers may not pursue what may be perceived as the less prestigious project, etc. So, there’s an access issue to even get the information and experience to help. And I find this to be one of the more frustrating aspects of sustainability.
I’m a serious user of on-line forums; I love the way they expand space and time. And so, a few days after the conference, I’m struck that this lovely, inviting “telepresent effort to enhance accessibility” hasn’t gotten more visitors (or, @ least, commentators…). Presumably–though I had some trouble getting on-line during the session–this isn’t a problem with access (no need for a car, or public transportation–just an internet hook-up). Yet coming here repeatedly, to find this space nearly empty, puts me in mind of those complex community-built playgrounds that so often go unused.
So now my question is about the relationship between being accessible and being used….You build it, but they don’t come. And why is that…? What do folks need, to encourage their use of more expansive times and spaces….? Is there something about the more focused, time-limited spaces of conference presentations that are more encouraging of showing up, in a way the less restricted on-line spaces are not….?
Anne, I think this is a GREAT question. I know during the time-space of the conference, my internet access was not great (for some reason my computer was really slow whenever I got online) and I found myself wanting to soak up in-person contact that I can’t get elsewhere. I also think, being someone who also uses on-line forums, that a lot of people soak up online material without necessarily wanting to jump in and talk themselves. I’m imagining lots of ways that someone could feel slightly intimidated about having their comments recorded.
But more than that, I think there’s an element of that old adage, “something that can be done anytime never gets done” (that’s not the pithy way of putting it but that’s the gist of it, right) where we have lots of pressures around engaging with lots of different kinds of ideas.
What I think would be most effective at generating community where people come and engage online in all kinds of ways is a sort of clearinghouse where lots of people’s papers and presentations are all interrelated and accessible together, feeding in and off and around each other. In any online forum, I find myself always seeking new/different connections, not just coming back to the same conversation or same thread.
so I guess I would say I don’t think it’s that people aren’t coming, it’s the fragmentation and dispersion of the many varied amazing conversations and interactions and encounters and sites of engagement engendered by an academic conference that makes it hard for any one of them to really build and generate more longitudinal, crip-time conversations.
Dispersion of responses is a big part of it, and is different from observing who’s physically using a playground at a specific place and time … which is what I was thinking when I used the guiding metaphor of “traces” in my presentation. What’s so fascinating to me about these sort of hybrid digital / fleshly gatherings is that the “traces” of them take so many forms. One thing that happened at SDS was that Johnna, attending the conference for only the second time (and not an academic), experienced a lot of conversations that started with “I read your paper online, and I wanted to ask you …” or “I wanted to say to you …” But those “traces” don’t show up on this blog … in those cases, people read the material and used it as a launching pad to a different kind of interaction. Ibby Grace would probably say that such connections are rhizomatic. 🙂
Designing and using online spaces is always really complicated, and has unpredictable (cripped!) effects. Sometimes, when I set up a provisional space like this one, it really takes off … but rarely in the direction I expected. When I set up a space like this for a presentation I gave at Ohio State, for instance, the space because the site for an intense back-and-forth between me and an OSU graduate student studying DS. His ideas were so generative that I ended up citing him in the paper we were discussing. In a completely different vein, sometimes I’ll post something on Facebook that I don’t expect to get much response, and it will turn into a rather large, multi-person discussion. (My recent post on trigger warnings was one example of that phenomenon.) Facebook is extremely “well-trodden,” compared to dedicated sites like this one, so it’s not surprising that it ends up often sparking more multi-faceted, multi-user discussions. Yet that popularity comes at a cost; technically speaking, I don’t own what I put on Facebook, whereas this space–Wordpress–is more under the authorial control of those who post and comment. Relatively speaking.
All this–transient spaces, traces we leave on them, traces they leave on us–makes me think of the “desire paths” architects talk about … those are the paths worn between intended, laid-out paths, because sometimes people find pathways that work better for them than what was designed. (Here’s an example, which I found through Creative Commons: https://flic.kr/p/5kDxUt. It’s a photograph that shows a concrete path winding through green lawns and trees, with a well-trodden dirt path cutting across one part of the lawn in a straight line that eliminates one of the path’s curves.) A good architect will observe those paths of desire, and think of ways to integrate that information in future designs. Ideally … here’s where “participatory design” comes in … the paths of desire are articulated by user-designers as the site (or walkway, or whatever the designed thing is) comes into being.