BRIDGES Launches New Website to Help the Disabled Community Navigate Rockland Businesses and Public Spaces

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The students of Rockland BOCES Hudson Valley P-TECH, in association with BRIDGES, are proud to announce the launch of a new website called www.UAccessLife.org, which assigns a score to public spaces in and around Rockland County based on accessibility. These scores provide ratings on different accessibility features such as wheelchair access, lighting, and noise levels to those with various disabilities.

The www.UAccessLife.org
website was developed by a group of high school students at Hudson Valley P-TECH for BRIDGES, a community-based, peer-driven, cross-disability, not-for-profit organization dedicated to advocacy and leadership on behalf of people with disabilities. The www.UAccessLife.org
website supports BRIDGES’ mission to empower individuals with disabilities to make autonomous decisions and lead an independent life.

Carlos Martinez, Executive Director of BRIDGES came to P-TECH with his vision for a new website to help people with disabilities. “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 (ADA). 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.”

To understand firsthand what challenges a disabled person may go through on a daily basis, the students at P-TECH participated in an “In My Shoes” activity. During this time, they were paired up with someone with a disability and experienced what it may be like to live in someone else’s shoes. Some students were given goggles to block their vision while others were given a wheelchair. With this experience, they were able to design www.UAccessLife.org.

The www.UAccessLife.org
website provides information on many different types of public places that are reviewed and scored. These include malls/shops, medical facilities, community centers, eateries, and parks/recreations. The scores will provide people with the information they need to determine whether or not a particular location is accessible for their needs. The rating system scores different accessibility features, such as noise level, wheelchair accessibility, spaciousness, parking, employee assistance, accommodation for service animals, and lighting, based on a three-star scale of poor, good, and excellent. Ratings can be viewed by category or by navigating to the map.

"Using a website like this would provide me the convenience of knowing I can go to a restaurant because it is accessible..." - Oliver Hilario

The www.UAccessLife.org
website is also ADA compliant. It gives the user the option to control the font size, color contrast, or even have the website be read aloud to them.

The scores are judged by ADA Certified staff at BRIDGES, who will go to the public space and determine each location’s accessibility. In addition, anyone can submit a rating through the www.UAccessLife.org website. Every rating will be reviewed by a member of the BRIDGES staff.

Susannah Devine, Co-Founder of Devine Design, came into the class consistently to teach the students how to design a usable and functional website, and how to utilize the tools to build it, such as WordPress. Anita Dreichler, Coordinator of Rockland Community Against Hunger, also assisted the students with developing the content and structure. The students split up the work into different sections including complying with ADA guidelines, choosing colors and fonts, implementing a rating system, defining menu structures, organizing maps, writing a press release, and creating a Facebook and Instagram page.

According to Dan Kaplan, Principal of Rockland BOCES Hudson Valley P-TECH, "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. 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." 

The www.UAccessLife.org
website is live with a number of ratings for businesses and public spaces around Rockland County. The P-TECH students are continuing to work with BRIDGES to update the site with new locations and input forms and will also create social media accounts for the site on Facebook and Instagram. For more information, go to www.UAccessLife.org or contact Carlos Martinez at info@bridgesrc.org or (845) 624-1366.

MORE INFO ABOUT P-TECH

Rockland BOCES Hudson Valley Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) is a four to six-year program (grades 9-14) focused on engaging students in hands-on, project-based learning to be successful in careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Students who successfully complete the program earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree at no cost from Rockland Community College. Graduates are first in line for a job with industry partners in the growing STEM career fields. More information can be found here https://www.rocklandboces.org/ptech/

MORE INFO ABOUT BRIDGES

BRIDGES is a community-based, peer-driven, not-for-profit organization based in Rockland County dedicated to advocacy and leadership on behalf of people with disabilities. The vision of BRIDGES is to establish a barrier-free society and to improve access and enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities. For more information go to https://www.bridgesrc.org/

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Carlos Martinez, Executive Director of BRIDGES
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