Last updated on November 18, 2019
Graham: Hi all and welcome to Talking Bloom, the official podcast of Project Bloom. A student run project at Saint Joseph’s University here in Philadelphia, aimed at growing accessibility through interactive mapping, blogging, and of course podcasting. My name is Graham Fagerquist and I’m joined by my co-host Sam Britt. In the coming weeks we’ll be tackling a variety of topics and hope to speak to a bunch of different guests. However, I think before we start it’s important that we talk about our backgrounds just a little bit. Honestly, accessibility was never a major concern for me before joining this project around two months ago. Experiencing little resistance when maneuvering around campus and throughout my everyday life, I might not be the greatest authority on the subject, which is why we’ll try to incorporate as much lived experience as we can through our guests and written sources on accessibility and disability studies. This will be a learning process for us and we look forward to making that journey with you.
Sam: Hi, I’m Sam Britt, the other co-host. I have kind of a similar background experience as far as it comes to accessibility. It was never something I thought of either before joining this project. I don’t feel that’s necessarily a bad thing, just because you’re not thinking about accessibility doesn’t mean it’s not there. I know for us it’s going to be important to talk to many different people and bring in a lot of different sources so we get varying perspectives. Accessibility is more so something that basically everyone deals with going throughout their day and though some people face more resistance doing different tasks than others, that doesn’t mean that me or Graham aren’t affected by accessibility while we’re going about our daily lives. I think that’s something that as a whole project we’re trying to get people to understand, is this idea that accessibility is a bit more than just a handicap sign you see next to a bathroom. It’s something that affects everyone and it should be at the front of our minds as we go about our day and it’s more so making the world more inclusive in that sense.
G: I don’t think it’s a bad thing either, speaking from our perspective. I think that looking at Project Bloom as a whole, thinking about it in terms of growing accessibility through mapping, the emphasis really is put on mapping.
S: I think so too, when you look through these other projects started by other colleges. You have UPenn’s mapping project and Vanderbilt’s mapping project, and if you just look at their names mapping is right there. Basically, the goal of the mapping portion of this project is to provide a resource for people who want to look into how accessible St. Joe’s is as a campus and I think one of our main goals as a project as well is to try to get this expanded and have this be something that maybe not just colleges campuses focus on, like maybe cities focus on for people who aren’t familiar with the terrain and with varying levels of accessibility who might need a resource to look through before they go and visit a place. And I think that is where our mapping portion comes through with Project Bloom. It relies a lot upon hands on, going out to these buildings and looking at the varying aspects of accessibility and on top of that giving people the written and visual resource as we try to introduce more video of the buildings here on campus.
G: So currently on our website we do have an interactive map at projectbloomsju.org, but we are in the process of updating it. There’s a lot of useful information on there as it stands about the various buildings and areas on our campus and how accessible they may or may not be. But, in the future we’re looking to add more 360 degree images of buildings and just different information on features like proximity of parking, signage, and all of this information will hopefully make visitors and students alike more adept to navigating hawk hill and just make there time on campus slightly easier.
S: This is honestly one of the places where me and Graham have at least a little bit of experience given this project, because one of the first things that we were tasked to do after joining Project Bloom was to create a rubric in order to assess these buildings’ accessibility. We created the rubric and then we were each assigned a building to go out and grade it. I guess I’m going to ask you Graham: how do you think that went? What do you think we could have improved on? And what building did you have and how did it do?
G: I think it went pretty well. The rubrics were pretty in depth. There’s a lot of features that they tried to account for. I was tasked with evaluating Bellarmine Hall here on campus and I realized that there are a lot of things that need to be present to make a building accessible. While walking to Bellarmine Hall, one of the things that caught my eye is this new expansive rampway that has replaced these steep steps on campus kind of by our athletic field. While this might seem like a positive to me initially, I made a choice to recognize how substantive change isn’t necessarily indicative of progress and just thinking about that although these stairs or lack of stairs might give the appearance of this great change being made on campus, I think one of the things to keep in mind is that it’s more than just appearance in terms of accessibility.
S: Yeah because that’s one of the things I think as a project we want to touch on, and especially as a podcast. Obviously people are going to say, “oh a ramp, that’s perfect for people with a wheelchair if they want to get somewhere”. But accessibility is so much more than that, we shouldn’t just be looking at things and be like “oh that problem is fixed, we can just stop thinking about that”, it’s something that continuously needs to be in our minds as far as design goes. I guess I’ll just throw out my building: Barbelin, The Barb, one of the most picturesque buildings on campus. I knew going in that it probably wasn’t going to be a very accessible building based on walking around the inside once or twice for a couple of classes. It’s buildings like that, where obviously Barbelin is a huge selling point for St. Joe’s. It’s on their social media, it’s on everyone’s social media a large portion of the time, but it’s really a building that is hard to navigate regardless of what your physical or psychological background is. Having that building, makes our campus less inclusive altogether and I think that’s something we want to focus on moving forward with our project is finding places like Barbelin, or even places like Merion Hall, which seems pretty simple. Three floors, u-shaped, you think it’s accessible, but there’s so many small aspects that provide challenges to people that you want to point out and slowly but surely you want to create this environment where people aren’t challenged either physically or psychologically to get to places where they need to be.
G: I think you touched on something really important which is not becoming complacent with the changes that we make and really keeping into account that this is an ongoing process and I think that’s where mapping comes in. If we don’t recognize these specific problems that we have here on campus then there’s no chance that they will be resolved. That’s something that we’re definitely going to have to deal with more and we’re going to talk about it more in depth in the next few episodes, especially when it comes to the pitfalls associated with retrofitting spaces for different bodies.
S: Yeah and going back to this mapping group, you speak about it being continuous, the mapping group from last year put their map together and Project Bloom will have to be diligent because we’ve gone less than twelve months and a lot of it is already out of date. So it’s going to be on Project Bloom and going to other campuses and other cities who are going to want to implement something like this to be diligent and keep up with the changing architecture and the changing space of whatever you are trying to map. So I think that is really important moving forward. Stay diligent and keep accessibility at the forefront of your mind.
G: Yeah, it’s definitely being aware of accessibility and being aware of lived experience which is such an important part of understanding accessibility. Which is why we’re going to try to incorporate as many guests with different experiences and different backgrounds as possible over the course of this podcast. So far, we’ve spent a lot of time during these first two months of our involvement on the project discussing Aimi Hamraie’s work Building Access. That has served as the central source for our entire project. The book has brought a lot of concepts to the forefront of our mind, specifically concepts related to universal design, intersectionality, and these are two concepts that you will hear us frequently talk about on this program.
S: Going off that, crip theory is another important thing that we’re going to touch on going forward. That goes more into the social justice movement. Especially with just with the name: crip theory, not to be confused with the gang, crip theory is basically reclaiming the word cripple and using it as a term that makes the whole process of getting these changes done a bit more inclusive for everyone. And that’s something that we’re going to want to touch on and something that we’re going to want to get varying perspectives on moving forward.
G: I really love the idea behind the reclaiming of this word cripple. Because, for a long time, we’ve thought of it as this derogatory term that’s been used to hurt people and keep people down. And to reclaim a word and make a variation of it to empower people is something that really stood out to me and something that we’ll really have to keep in mind while we’re going about this journey. It’s definitely something worth talking about.
S: I feel like as far as the accessibility behind reclaiming the word crip goes, it’s all about making things more inclusive. Because “cripple” has implied in the past that someone is different, someone is less than, that they need special treatment. We want to kind of get rid of this thinking where people are sectioned off based on their physical traits. Obviously some people have different physical needs than others, but that shouldn’t be what defines them and that shouldn’t be what we think of with cripple moving forward, that it’s a negative and that it’s a problem. Their bodies should be celebrated just like our own bodies and I think it’s about taking that positive approach to the word cripple and taking it out of a negative context and moving into a more neutral context. Like if me and Graham were going to talk about our bodies which is what accessibility is all about.
G: Making a positive out of a negative is something that I’m always going to get behind no matter what. Looking forward, we have a lot of material that will be related to this. We’re currently updating our map, we’re adding new blog posts to our website, and we’re recording several new episodes, all of which will be made available on our project website and across our social media accounts.
S: You’re going to want to keep up with all of that. Obviously, the podcast it’s kind of our thing, we’d like you to listen to that, but we have a lot of talented people working on the social media side, updating our website, creating content for there, creating new designs, and we’re going to be working closely with the blogging portion of this project which a lot of our writers are taking on different topics in regards to disability. Writing about them, doing interviews, just like us. I think this week they are actually talking about what we were talking about, the mapping and the rubrics. They are writing about a couple of the buildings on St. Joe’s campus and I think social media was talking about potentially putting up a poll to talk about a couple of different buildings and seeing what you guys think of these buildings and how you feel their accessibility is. You can find all that on our social media platforms. We’ve got Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, they are all under Project Bloom SJU. So if you want to check out a little behind the scenes look at what we are doing and to stay up to date with all of the content you are going to want to follow us on all those.
G: Definitely give us a follow. You will be able to stay up to date with all of that content and you will be able to stay up to date with all of the events and fun stuff we have planned on campus and in the area. One of the events coming up is the map-a-thon and as soon as we have more information regarding that event we will update you guys so that you can join us and be a part of all that we have in store here on campus.
S: Yeah, all I know about the map-a-thon right now from what we have discussed as committees, is I think they’re planning on it being in two weeks and I think it might be a multi-day event. So keep your eye out for that if you want to take part in Project Bloom or maybe if you just want to get out and see what accessibility is all about, the map-a-thon would be a perfect place to come and try it. Look out for that, there should be flyers posted and stuff on social media, our social media, and hopefully on a couple of other accounts’ social media. So keep your eyes out for the map-a-thon coming up.
G: Thanks for listening. I hope that this episode gave you a good picture of where we’re heading. Tune in next week as we discuss universal design, retrofitting, and more on episode two of Talking Bloom.
S: Make sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts as well. I hope everyone has a great rest of the week and talk to you next time.