12-02-2018 02:45 PM - edited 12-02-2018 02:48 PM
I joined @EmekaHouse and many other great Local Guides around the world to take part in the Worldwide Accessibility Walk (WAW) - I participated from Miami, Florida, specifically Little Havana - a community in Miami where the population is majority Cuban and Cuban-American, but it draws visitors and locales from the city and around the World on a daily basis.
I focused our efforts on the most popular stretch of road in the neighborhood, that road being Calle Ocho, which means 8th Street. Being that Sundays are usually a bit more quieter on this stretch (aside from one particular festive day), I decided to hold the walk on Saturday, December 1. Although I was the only one in attendance for this walk, it proved to be an eye-opening adventure and provided a lot of opportunities to recognize which businesses are taking steps towards accessibility.
I started at one of Little Havana's most well known attractions and spots for local residents to meet, which was Maximo Gomez Park, aka Domino Park. As the name states, you can expect to see many locals meeting up here to play dominoes and having their cafecitos (Cuban espresso). I noticed a ton of pick-up, drop-off, and tour buses in this area and a number of tourists, which made me realize even more how inclusiveness and accessibility is important for this area of Miami considering the variety of visitors.
The first place I spotted after parking before getting to the Domino Park 1) wasn't listed on Maps and 2) did not have a true accessible entry, so I decided to add it to Maps and make that notation.
As I went through the walk, I noticed that since many of these buildings and shops were constructed many decades ago, that the majority of them were established without accessibility in mind. In the photo below, you could see an example of a store that began without a ramp and added a ramp to their main entrance. I realized this was a situation that plagued many of the shops on this main stretch of road.
I also noticed that while thankfully there were wheelchair ramps built into the crosswalks, there were virtually no accessible street spots available. While there were accessible parking spots in some of the main plazas, they were all occupied. Therefore, there were no safe street parking spots for those with accessibility placards. The road itself is three lanes moving in a one way direction, and space is tight enough as it is. If someone needed to exit their vehicle using a wheelchair, this would be virtually impossible due to the limited space and lack of resources for those vehicles who need the space.
A great thing about Little Havana and Calle Ocho is the amount of beautiful art and buildings to see. I saw so much during my walk. Below you can see some of my favorite examples, which includes the Roosters of Calle Ocho.
I did happen to find a couple of unfortunate examples of places without any sort of accessibility options for those who may be immobile. One was a plaza with only stairs, and upon further inspection, there were no elevators available. The second building (consisting of two businesses) had stairs on each end, and a high ridge at the front entrance that would make it very difficult for someone in a wheelchair to enter. I even took a photo of a vehicle with a handicap placard in front of that very business to show the inconvenience that it may provide if that individual was going to that location.
There was only one instance in which a business had a raised entrance but happened to have a sign that had the accessible sign (see below).
The accessible sign was in Spanish, but when translated says "if you need assistance entering, please call us." So while it has the old construction without the addition of a ramp, this was their way of being compliant. This example prompted me to enter the business and have a chat with one of the associates. While the language barrier was definitely there as my Spanish isn't too well, I was able to share my thoughts with the associate and a manager about maybe implementing a ramp like some other establishments had.
Overall, taking part in this Worldwide Meetup was an eye-opening opportunity and showed me that not only are there still a lot of businesses out there that could use the enlightenment in regards to accessibility, it showed me that there are still a lot of edits that can be made to maps in regards to accessibility to help others, and that we can really use the feature suggestion option for each location to help those individuals out by providing accurate information as well. Despite instances in which businesses did not provide it, I was happy to see an overwhelming majority of local and nationwde businesses that had implemented ramps.