Category Archives: Community

We all benefit from the Americans With Disabilities Act

Shadow selfie in walking castSix weeks ago, I traded in my hiking boots for a walking cast when I fractured my right ankle. A glorious hiking season came to an abrupt end with one quick fall on a hiking trail.

Thankfully, the fracture wasn’t severe. I’m now in the process of transitioning out of the walking cast and set to begin physical therapy soon.

Two summers ago, I wasn’t as lucky. I heard a bone break when I took a fall on a forest path. My left ankle had fractured in several places and I had to have surgery to pin it back together. I spent eight weeks in a walking cast, followed by several months of physical therapy to regain strength and range of motion.

Both ankle injuries impacted my daily life. Two years ago, I had to rely on crutches to help me get around. This time I was able to get around with the aid of a cane. Stairs, hills and unpaved terrain were challenging, and sometimes impossible. Biking was out and so was working in the garden.

My temporary mobility impairment has given me a renewed appreciation for the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for people with disabilities in employment, government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It’s because of the ADA, that many (but not all) of our street corners have curb ramps, elevators and ramps are installed in our public facilities, and much more.

Skateboarder-curb-cut-400x305My neighborhood is a walkable one and I live within five blocks of grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, a hardware store, numerous restaurants and coffee shops, the farmers market, and the transit center. I can walk to almost any service in about five minutes—until I broke my ankle. With the cane, my travel time is now about ten minutes. When I had to rely on crutches it took even longer. Crutching was also taxing on my shoulders and arms.

But the point is I can still get around. Those curb ramps make it easier for me to cross streets in a walking cast and crutches/cane. For someone in a wheelchair, curb ramps make it POSSIBLE to cross a street on their own. Likewise for kneeling transit buses. They greatly improve bus access for people with limited mobility.

Who else benefits from these ADA accessibility improvements? Everyone. Delivery people with hand trucks, teens on skateboards and parents with strollers use curb ramps at street intersections all the time. People with rolling luggage and shoppers with rolling carts take advantage of the kneeling buses. Wheelchair users need ramps and elevators to access train stations, overhead walkways and multi-story buildings. But plenty of other folks use elevators and ramps for convenience.

ADA improvements make our neighborhoods and communities friendlier for everyone. From wheelchair users and people with limited vision to parents with toddlers to the elderly, we all benefit.

Advertisements

Taking a spin with Spin

After running a few errands on foot yesterday afternoon, I wandered my way through the neighborhood on my return trip home. I was making my way past a popular playground park when I spotted this:

Spin bike at park

This, my friends, is a Spin bike.

Spin is one of two private bike share companies (the other is LimeBike) that launched services in Seattle this month. They’re easy to identify: Spin bikes are bright orange and LimeBikes are bright green/yellow. Both bikes are equipped with front baskets, kickstands and locking devices.

You need a smart phone to download an app and a credit/debit card to use either bike share. The apps help you locate nearby bikes, unlock them and pay for your ride ($1 for thirty minutes). This screenshot shows the distribution of Spin bikes in West Seattle at this moment. As you can see, most of them are clustered along the waterfront.

Spin map

I had downloaded both apps earlier this week in anticipation of trying out these bikes, so I was ready to ride when I discovered the Spin bike at the park. I scanned the barcode to unlock the bike, paid for my ride and took off for a test ride. My ride lasted for about twenty minutes and here are my quick observations:

  • The bike is easy to use but the 3-speed gearing isn’t low enough for Seattle hills. Spin is aware of this and promises lower gears on its next round of bikes in the city.
  • I like the convenience of parking the bike almost anywhere at the end of my ride (public bike racks or on the sidewalk out of the way of pedestrian traffic).
  • With good citywide coverage, these bikes will make good options for spontaneous short trips.
  • Downside: Not everyone has smart phones or credit/debit cards in order to use the system.
  • Downside: Unless you travel with bike helmet in tow, you’ll probably violate our local helmet law when you ride of these bikes.

Will I take a spin with Spin again? You bet. I’m also looking forward to trying out a LimeBike soon.

spin bike 2

Mother Nature forces us to take a break from work and politics

snow-day

Today Mother Nature gave us a snow day in Seattle. It was a much needed respite from the political havoc that has descended upon this nation since the transition to a Republican administration.

snowmanFor at least a few hours, many Seattleites opted to shun news, social media and work to play in the snow. Instead of turning on the morning news programs, we walked through neighborhoods blanketed with snow. We tuned out the tweets in favor of building snowmen. We took a day off work to sled with our kids.

For those who eschew winter, the snow day was a perfect time to ignore current events and cozy up to a fire. We used the down time to catch up on some reading or finish a knitting project. It was a chance to watch a movie that we added to our Netflix list months ago.

Thanks, Mother Nature. We really needed this break today. Tomorrow will be a new day.

snow-day-2

We are a cultural melting pot. Embrace it.

My mother was an immigrant and I remember some of the challenges she had to overcome as she forged a new life for herself in America.

A native of Japan, my mother grew up during World War II. She lived through hardships, survived air raids and lost family members. During post-war reconstruction, she found work caring for the children of US military officers stationed in Japan. She eventually met and married my father, an enlisted man stationed at the air base she was working. He brought her to the US when he completed his tour of duty.

kokeshi-origamiAs a young child, I remember my mother taking English classes, studying to become a US citizen, learning how to drive a car, and navigating a culture that was different from the one she grew up in. She did all of these things plus care for two little girls and a home!

She was fortunate to have a small circle of Japanese friends that she could turn to for support, companionship and community. They gathered together regularly to talk, eat their favorite Japanese dishes, listen to music from their homeland, and practice traditional crafts.

They often included their children at these get-togethers and this is where I developed my Japanese side. I sampled sushi, tempura, natto, sukiyaki, and more. I listened to Japanese folk tales and learned Japanese songs. I collected and played with kokeshi dolls and learned origami.

somali-basketsThese memories resurfaced recently when I saw some lovely handwoven baskets created by Somali women. My employer, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, offers a Somali basket weaving group to connect refugee women with each other through this traditional craft. The craft group brings the women together to socialize and create baskets while reducing the isolation they can experience living in a new culture. It gives them a sense of community within a larger, less familiar community.

The anti-immigrant and anti-refugee platform embraced by our president-elect is disturbing to me. It dredges up hurtful childhood memories of classmates calling me Jap, Chink and Ho Chi Minh. It causes me to recall the time the father of one of my elementary school friends told me he didn’t like Japanese people. And more.

This open backlash is making many in our country–including children–extremely anxious. An acquaintance recently told my partner how worried her preteen daughter is that her Latino friends will be deported. LCS Northwest immigrant and refugee clients have reported being verbally assaulted by strangers. And more.

America is a melting pot of nationalities. My roots extend to Japan and Ireland and, unless you’re Sioux, Navaho or from another Native American tribe, so do yours. It is that incredible mix of human diversity that makes us a unique and great nation, and it is that mix of diversity that will propel us into the future if we embrace it.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  – Statue of Liberty inscription

 

There was enough blue sky on Sunday afternoon to knit a cat a pair of britches, so I embraced the day with a bike ride through nearby neighborhoods. I pedaled through South Park and Georgetown, where I made a stop at Oxbow Park.

Nestled in the residential part of the neighborhood, Oxbow Park is home to Georgetown’s P-Patch and the iconic Hat ‘n Boots. The larger-than-life cowboy hat and boots were originally part of an old 1950s gas station until the business closed its doors in 1988. The Georgetown community rallied to rescue Hat ‘n Boots from the wrecking ball and, in 2003, the historic icons were moved to their present day home in Oxbow Park.

More info about the history of Hat ‘n Boots can found on History Link.

West Seattle Community Garage Sale

West Seattle Community Yard Sale signPeople hold garage and yard sales all the time. But what happens when an entire community holds one? It becomes an event.

This certainly holds true for the West Seattle Community Garage Sale. What started as a community project with 100 or so coordinated garage and yard sales in 2005 has evolved into a 2016 event that featured 320+ registered sales scattered across the peninsula. At least 18 of those sales were benefit/fundraisers.

What do the rest of us do? We hit the garage sales! Continue reading

Space-Needle-Glasshouse

The Seattle Center is a community gathering place and the Space Needle, at 605 feet high, stands in the middle of it like a beacon guiding citizens and visitors alike to the center grounds. This unique public space, left over from the 1962 World’s Fair, is a mix of park land, community and commercial events, and experiential venues.

On this particular day, I was visiting the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition at the Seattle Center. I wandered into the Glasshouse and was captivated by the iconic Space Needle from this point of view.