Inclusive Playgrounds with Art Aston

Episode 49 March 21, 2021 00:59:36
Inclusive Playgrounds with Art Aston
Freewheelin with Carden
Inclusive Playgrounds with Art Aston

Show Notes

Inclusive Playgrounds with Art Aston hosted by Carden Wyckoff


Who is Art Aston?

Arthur Aston is a son, brother, uncle and friend. Arthur is the founder and primary consultant of Our View. He was born in November of 1981 with a birth defect called Spina Bifida. This diagnosis would present many challenges for Arthur; impairment to his mobility being the most significant challenge.

As a result of his Spina Bifida diagnosis, Arthur uses leg braces and crutches to walk. He also uses a wheelchair at times. Although at birth, Arthur was not given the best projected outcome, now as an adult, Arthur is a living testament to know what it means to have life and to truly live.

Arthur has a passion for learning. He holds and Bachelors degree in Psychology from Stockton University and a Master’s degree in Psychological Counseling from Monmouth University.

Since October 2013, Arthur has served as Executive Director of Build Jake’s Place a New Jersey Nonprofit organization that creates accessible play experiences for individuals of all abilities ( He also serves as General Manager of the Camden County New Jersey Miracle League, a baseball league for children and adults who have disabilities ( 

Arthur currently resides in Collingswood, New Jersey. He enjoys spending time with family and friends, writing poetry, reading, attending concerts, Broadway shows, and traveling.


Facebook: @Ourview4life

Instagram: @ourview4life

Twitter: @ourview4life

Follow Carden on Instagram @freewheelinwithcarden
Find Carden everywhere

Special thanks to my producer Jonathan Raz on

Use referral code 'Carden' when downloading iAccessLife mobile app.



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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:04 Hey, and welcome to freewill Mccartin podcast. I'm your host card and why cough, wheelchair warrior and disability advocate based in Atlanta, Georgia. On this podcast, we believe in creating an accessible world, strengthened by supportive allies to build inclusion and belonging. We share stories from people with various disabilities and help to break down barriers for the disability community. If you like what you hear on the episode today, please rate, review, subscribe, and follow this podcast and share it with a friend. You can DM me on Instagram at freewheeling with pardon to let me know if you want to be a speaker on the show or let me know your thoughts on the episodes. Please download the app. I access life. It's a mobile app that rates interviews places on the built environment to break down barriers and transparency on the bathrooms, interior parking. And anytime you go into a new place, you can find I access live on Google play and the Apple app store use the referral code Cardin C a R D N. Speaker 1 00:01:06 My name when signing up today's guest is Arthur Austin. He has a son, brother, uncle and friend. Arthur is the founder and primary consultant of our view. He was born in 1981 with spinal bifida and this diagnosis would present many challenges for him, including mobility being the most significant as a result of spinal bifida. Arthur uses leg braces and crutches to walk. He also uses a wheelchair at times, although Arthur Arthur was not given the best projected outcome. Now as an adult are, there is a living Testament to know what it needs to have a life and truly live. He has a passion for learning and holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Stockton university and a masters in psychological counseling from Monmouth university. Since October, 2013, Arthur has served as the executive director of bill Jake's place a New Jersey nonprofit organization that creates accessible play experiences for individuals of all abilities. You can find it at bill bill Jake's placed off work. He serves as the general manager of the cannon County, New Jersey miracle league baseball league for children and adults who have disabilities are there currently resides in Collingswood, New Jersey and enjoy spending time with family and friends. He writes poetry reads attending concerts during non COVID times loves going to Broadway shows and traveling look forward to interviewing art today. Hope you enjoy it. Speaker 0 00:02:39 Hey Ari, Speaker 1 00:02:40 Thanks for joining the podcast. Friona carton really excited to talk to you tonight as another fellow podcaster. So it's always great to talk to another fellow podcaster because you know the importance of great audio quality. How's it going? It's going well. I live in New Jersey, Speaker 2 00:03:00 So we got another round of snow earlier today. Oh goodness. So yeah, not that I was going anywhere anyway, but you know, stuck in the house again for another day or so. Speaker 1 00:03:11 Yeah. Makes sense. Oh, and to kick it off, wanting to just do audio description. So I'm Carden Wyckoff. I'm the host. I'm wearing a red sweater. I am a white woman in my late twenties and I have Brown hair and it's in a bun. And then behind me, I'm in my bedroom and there are plants because I am such a plant mom. I have plants all over my house and uh, then my bed and then behind me is a cross section of a tree because I'm really into like nature stuff. Speaker 2 00:03:41 Awesome. I am art Aston. I am an African-American male in my late thirties, 39 to be exact. I am wearing a black turtleneck sweater. I have a brownish highlights in my hair. And um, yeah, I'm digging then. Thank you. Thank you. I, uh, I had my hair in braids for the last four weeks. I took them out yesterday, so it's a little currently ish, but in like an Afro style. And then in my background, I have a soft blue light that is shining behind a bookshelf. And on top of the bookshelf are two African-American dolls. One is a female in a wheelchair and the other is a male that uses like braces and crutches. And then you can partially see a big picture I have on my wall that is of a beach scene with a lavender boats and Palm trees and a little bit of sand in the ocean. Speaker 1 00:04:35 Well, that sounds really nice right now, especially the cold weather I live in Atlanta. So it's not that cold compared to New Jersey. I think it's cold. I don't want to go outside. Um, but yeah, actually you, you bring up a really great point and we'll first dive into your disability and, and why you do all the advocacy work that you do. And then the comment that you made when we first introed was about the weather. And I kind of want to know how the cold impacts you and your disability. So I'll give you the floor. Speaker 2 00:05:14 Yeah. So thank you again, carton for having me on your podcast. I'm very honored to be here and you know, you were on my podcast as well. We did an interview last week, so thank you for that as well. So, um, I am art Aston. I am again, 39 years old. African-American male and I was born with spina bifida. So what that means is I had a hole in my back when I was born and the hole was in the lower part of my back. So it impacts my mobility. So my muscles are very weak. I have to use like braces that come all the way up to my thighs and also use crutches to walk. And I also use a wheelchair for mobility purposes, mostly for long distances. If I'm out at the mall or out at a park or something like that, you know, using it to get exercise. Speaker 2 00:06:06 I also use the wheelchair for exercise. So yeah, I've been living with this disability for going on 40 years this year. And it's a lot of the times it's, it's very interesting. It keeps me on my toes and it just, uh, thankfully I now, as I'm a lot older, I don't have many complications from it that require surgery. Like when I was younger, I had to have a lot of surgeries on different parts of my body to lengthen my legs, muscles, to fix my bowel and bladder issues that I had as a result of the diagnosis. I have a shot to put in because I have hydrocephalus. And so I, like I said, thankfully, as I got older, those, those issues kind of resolve themselves and as a result of surgery. So I haven't had surgery in quite some time. You asked about the weather. Speaker 2 00:07:01 So I live in New Jersey, born and raised, lived here all my life and winters are horrible. Uh, winters are horrible. We get a lot of storms with the high and low pressure that come up off the coast of, uh, of New Jersey. And that impacts my shuts. So I get really bad headaches when hurricanes come, for example, in the spring and the summer and the fall, thankfully where I live fingers crossed, we have not had any tornadoes that have hit in my neighborhood, but whenever there are those high pressure storms at, you know, result in the tornadoes, I do feel a lot of pressure in my head. My muscles always ache when the weather changes, perfect example is this week in New Jersey, it was 50 degrees, I think two days ago. And we, we got, uh, some places today got six or seven inches of snow. So just having the, having the whole fluctuation in the weather is really, really tough on my body. And it's, uh, you know, it makes it really rough for me to get around sometimes and my like muscles and back muscles often ache because of the, uh, cold and the fluctuation of the weather. Speaker 1 00:08:21 I totally agree with you on the weather. The cold weather impacts me significantly when I'm out and for those joining us, um, this free freewill and with carton podcasts, and I have muscular dystrophy. And with that, with the really cold weather, my hands, I really feel it in my hands because I just like, can't move my fingers at all. And the problem with that is I have trouble controlling my wheelchair and I don't have gloves on, then it's really a problem. But then my home body, like I don't weigh that much. And because of the progressive muscle loss, I don't have a lot of cushion on me. And so that also the low body weight also makes it really cold. Just it natural. I always tell my parents, I'm like, I don't like anything lower than 73 degrees. Speaker 2 00:09:16 That's sounds about. Right. That sounds like a good, uh, a very good temperature. That's hot. I'm glad you brought up the hands though, because I have, um, I have a similar issue, which I didn't even think about until you said that because my hands are always in a, my fingers are in a curled motion most of the time, because I'm using my wheelchair or my crutches, but the cold weather does really tighten everything up in my hands and my wrists as well. So that's another, another effect. Like I said, I didn't even think about mentioning that until you said it. And I'm like, wow, that happens to me too. Speaker 1 00:09:52 Yeah. And I think the other thing about having a disability, especially a progressive one and having the muscle weakness that I have, I don't know if this true for you, but with the cold weather that requires layers and those layers have to come off when you go inside or else you burn up and then you have to put them on when you go outside. So it's just constantly taking on taking off. And for me, that's exhausting. I remember I was in Chicago a few years ago in the dead of winter and it was raining like four layers at a hat, gloves, scarf, everything like all like face mask, eye goggles. Like I love it. And it's, it is a lot and it was so exhausting. And I remember just being out with my friend and we were bar hopping around and it would take, you know, it takes me like 10 minutes to put all that stuff on and off every time, because I'm not very fast. So it, I was like, I could not live in an extreme cold environment where that would be a requirement. So Speaker 2 00:10:54 Yeah, I definitely, I just really stay in the house, um, as much as I can in the winter time or I make a very strategic trips outside. So I do, uh, I'll plan my day to do a lot of things and stop at a bunch of different places. And then I'll go in for, you know, for a while. Yeah. So that's how I usually handle handle that. Um, unless if, like you said, if I'm out bar hopping pre COVID days with some friends or, you know, out to dinner or something like that, but usually I do things in, uh, like I tell people, I put my braces on once a day. So if so, if you want me to do something on Thursday, you have to tell me for some time, because once I'm, once I'm back in the house. Yeah. Once I'm back in the house, I'm in the house and once my braces are off, I'm definitely not coming back out. So yeah. Speaker 1 00:11:51 Well, I wanted to get into, uh, some of the clubhouse sessions that you and I have both been joining. So for those that aren't familiar, clubhouse is a new application. We understand that it's not fully accessible for low vision and deaf and hard of hearing and blind users they're working on it. But I will say there's this huge disability club called the 15% and art and I have joined actually art. You're the one who told me about it. And I'm so thankful because I have just been learning so much of all these random topics that I don't usually think about in the disability community. And you can join the 15% club. It's a free app and you join it and it's all audio right now, audio only, and you just join and you can listen in, you can raise your hand to speak, but there's notable disability influencers on these panels, all different disabilities. Speaker 1 00:12:52 And so it's really cool to get to engage with those influencers and some of the role models and the people that have paved the way for our generation. And so one of the topics of discussions common in each of these rooms is about inspiration porn. And I wanted to know are given the fact that you, you and I both have physical challenges. It sounds like you do have some mobility in walking, but you also use a wheelchair for long distances. And so I kind of just want to know how people view you. And when you do come across those individuals that are like, well, you're so inspiring because you can just get around life and use your crutches and go places. And you go to the grocery store, pick up food. It's like, well, yeah, duh, like I got to eat to eat. That's my favorite Speaker 2 00:13:58 Eat like everybody else. Speaker 1 00:14:00 And kind of describe what inspiration board means to you and why it's problematic. Speaker 2 00:14:04 So my understanding of inspiration porn is that, uh, it's the idea that people who do not have disabilities find those who do have disabilities as being inspirational, just for the fact of having a disability. So just the fact that I am disabled makes me an inspiration to other people. Uh, and there are people who have a huge problem with that. I'm still not sure how I feel about it personally, myself, as you mentioned, we were in the room together about talking about inspiration porn. I believe that, um, yeah, I I've first. I want to say, I believe that everybody's feelings are valid. So if they feel like inspiration porn is a problem, then it's a problem for them. I'm not, I don't know if I'm okay with making a blanket statement that it's just a problem for everybody, I think is my big distinction that I would like to make, because I'm not sure if it's a problem for me, just because I think people, and I believe I shared this in the, in the room or maybe in one of our own conversations that you and I have had. Speaker 2 00:15:18 I think it's a thing for me. I see it as when you, when someone, without a disability comes up to someone with a disability and they feel like they have to say something extra besides saying hello, or having a good day, or, you know, hope you're having a good day or just giving a smile on a wave, which is what they would do to anyone else that they would meet on the street and passed. And you would wave say, hi, have a good day. Something to that effect. I believe that when in my experience, I will say that people who don't have disabilities, when they come up to me, they feel like they have to add something else to that. Hello. So it often comes out in a, Oh my gosh, it's so good to see you out. Oh, it's uh, you know, Oh, you're such an inspiration. Speaker 2 00:16:10 Oh, that's Oh, I could never do that. I would never be able to do that. Uh, so again, just instead of saying, hi, have a good day, or do you need help with that? They feel like they have to put in something in addition to the regular, everyday greeting. And I think that comes my, I would say my own interpretation of that is that it comes from a feeling of being uncomfortable around the person who has a disability. Because when I go out to the store, I don't see anybody else that's in a wheelchair. I, it's very rare. And I live in a very small neighborhood, very small group of different towns that are very close together. I see one other guy that's in a wheelchair. Sometimes I've run into him at the target and that's not all the time. And I, you know, I don't go out all the time now, even less now because of COVID. Speaker 2 00:17:06 But we, you know, I run into him every now and then in different, um, in the target at different times. But then other than that, I don't see people when I go to my regular grocery store. I don't see people in wheelchairs or with other visible disabilities. So I really believe, or I don't know if I've made this up in my own in my own mind, but I believe that people really see me as an inspiration because they don't have anything else to compare it to. They don't have anyone else that they see with a disability out, shopping for food or out at the mall by themselves. So I do a lot of things by myself. I, uh, yeah, I go food shopping and clothes shopping I'm by myself. I don't have any nurses, aides or any caregivers with me. So I think that's where the inspiration, just for the fact of them seeing me driving a car, you know, they, because it's not known that people with disabilities, certain types of disabilities are able to drive cars because they don't, it's not a common thing that people see. So I believe that I believe that it comes from a place of right. I'd like to believe it comes from a place of empathy on their part and just a place of not knowing what else to say, because they feel like they have to add something else to a greeting that they would give someone else Speaker 1 00:18:32 Interesting point about. You kind of said it, it first comes from a place of feeling uncomfortable, but you do. It sounds like, you know, people try to approach it with empathy and from a good place, because I think the problem that we face in society is that people just aren't educated on how to speak to people with disabilities and right. And I don't know why or how it came to be that you had to treat us or talk to us any differently than, you know, someone else who doesn't have a disability. So yeah, I don't, I don't really know why that is. I couldn't tell you. And you're right to the fact that you don't see people out like you out and about. And I live in a big city or a relatively big city and in this in Midtown and I, I can't count on my, I can maybe count maybe two instances when I was at target or at Kroger or whole foods and saw someone else using a wheelchair. Right. Like since living in the city and I've been in the city for almost 10 years. So yeah, it's, it's very unusual. And I think that's, like you said, another reason why people don't really know how to respond or react to our individuals with disabilities. Speaker 2 00:20:08 Yeah. I think because, you know, again, they have the, they don't have the, the interaction, they don't have everyday interaction or a regular interaction with someone who has a disability. So it does now can cause for them to kind of panic, I guess like, Oh, what do I do? What do I say? And I'll have to have to shove out there that, Oh, they're an inspiration. I guess that's a good thing to say. And it's, you know, in my, in my experience, I'm, I'm okay with it. I do understand issue of those who do have an issue with the inspiration porn. Because like, like we both said, yeah, we're at a grocery store. We have to eat, you know, so how else am I going to get my food? Or if I'm out of a restaurant or if I'm out at a concert or something like that. Yes. I like music. So a lot of people like music, a lot of people like live concerts. So yeah, I haven't outside and, uh, enjoying concerts with, Oh, and I have friends too. So they came with me to the concert. So yeah. Speaker 1 00:21:17 And I have not disabled friends and I have disabled friends. Speaker 2 00:21:20 Yes, yes. I have all kinds of friends. So spectrum Speaker 1 00:21:26 Of friends that we have. Speaker 2 00:21:28 Yeah. So that's the other thing. And it's just like there, um, you know, and, and even if I go someplace with my mom and it's just like, you know, she's, yeah. She's not my caregiver. I live on my own. My mom was just out with me sometimes when I go to the grocery store because I can't carry a lot of things. So she might be there to help me. And we had an experience once where the, the cashier was talking to my mom instead of me and asking her questions. And my mom says, um, he's your customer, not me. Like, I'm just, I'm just along for the ride. Like he drove me here. So, uh, you know, that's, that's a whole other topic there with the etiquette of it, all which you know, which I think we touched on a little bit people not being sure what to say or how to interact with those who have disabilities again, because I think it's uncommon for them to have interactions. So I think the more that we can continue to educate people and make people aware of disabilities and what disabilities mean and the abilities of those who live with disabilities, I think it will hopefully get better. Speaker 1 00:22:37 Yeah. And that also kind of points. And then the next question about the topic of clubhouse, the other room that we were in was how do you react in situations where you do face accessibility barriers? And do you approach it from a place of advocacy or are you a jerk? Speaker 2 00:23:00 I try to approach it from the advocacy place. I understand them all good answer. I'm just trying to be genuine. Um, sometimes I, you know, sometimes I slip up a little bit, but I am always, I try to approach things as, and this is very naive and foolish of me, but I try to approach things from the standpoint of again, the education or the lack of education around things. So people are just not aware of things. They're not aware of what they should be doing or how things should be done or how things should be designed. I don't know how are aware in the year 2021, but I still like to extend that grace and empathy to people and say like, okay, so they, they just might not be aware of things, but it's, I, again, I think it goes back to the term special needs. There are people who don't like that term because my needs aren't special. My needs are just what everybody else needs. You know, everybody, everybody needs and wants, uh, you know, they, they have similar, everybody has, has the same needs, you know, and that can be like, everybody should be able to come in through the front door. As far as speaking from an accessibility standpoint, you know, the ramp should not be around the back and through the kitchen of a restaurant, Speaker 1 00:24:34 Too many experiences with that. Exactly. Speaker 2 00:24:39 Something like that. You know, again, I try to extend that grace to them because legally they're not breaking the law because the Americans with disabilities act says that they have to have an accessible entrance. Doesn't say it has to be the front or the main entrance. So they do have an entrance that has a ramp it's just happens to be the ramp that they bring the deliveries in through the kitchen. Um, Speaker 1 00:25:02 Yeah. So actually California, um, city of San Francisco, or is working to change that they are required for all businesses that serve people to have their primary entrance fee wheelchair and fully ADA accessible. Speaker 2 00:25:19 Right? Yeah. Speaker 1 00:25:21 One other city. I think it's Dallas, maybe Austin. Uh, one of those other States in Texas, Speaker 2 00:25:27 It's so important because I can honestly remember. I don't know if I told this story on my podcast yet, but I can remember way back when I was younger and, uh, hanging out late at night at, at a bar that a friend of mine at the time had owned. Uh, he had two front doors that had steps. And I, again, I walk with crutches and, uh, so it wasn't a problem for me. I can get up the steps and get into the door. But one night I just asked him, I said like, how do you get away with having two front doors with no ramp? And you're a bar in a restaurant and a nightclub. And how do you get away with that? And he says, Oh no, no, no. We have a ramp. And I, I told him, I said, if you tell me that your ramp is in the back where your kitchen is, I said, we're going to have a problem Speaker 1 00:26:22 Talk. I said, we're going to have a problem. Speaker 2 00:26:25 And he said, well, I said, you're getting ready to say, it's in your kitchen. And I told him, and I was, I was friends with him at the time. I, I don't, um, talk with him anymore, but I said, I said, you have to understand what that means for somebody like me. African-American I said, people like my people had to come in through the kitchen, you know, back in segregation times, like, like, what does that say Speaker 1 00:26:54 About it like that? Yeah. So it's like Speaker 2 00:26:56 That. And then I said, you know, um, I said, then the other thing, what if you have an emergency in your kitchen, what if you have a fire in your kitchen? And we've been in here drinking all night. So I either have to, you know, if I come into my wheelchair, I either have to let people help me down the steps or crawl down the steps or, you know, have somebody to go get my crutches or like, take my chances with a fire in your kitchen. Like, how is that safe? And he just really looked at me and was just like, wow. Like, I, again, like, he's, like you just said, I never thought of it that way. I said, so it it's, it's still the, the, the segregation, the, what did they call it? Separate but equal kind of it's like, no, like it's not cool. Speaker 2 00:27:44 It's not cool to have us as people with disabilities using back entrances these days. Like, it's not cool. Like back when the ADA started and you had to hurry up and make accommodations and make it, make everything up to code. Okay. But like ADA is 30 years old at this point. Like, let's get on it. People let's fix these things because it is a, uh, you know, it's a form of, uh, segregation, like for people with disabilities, like why do we have to go around the back and through the alley and, you know, just to get into a restaurant and then then have to pay full price. Like everybody else, like, it's just, it's really, you know, it's really a shame that things are still this way and that it's still legal for people to do these things. Speaker 1 00:28:36 Thank you for sharing the piece of information that I did not know about being black and having to enter through the kitchen. And that is repeating history. And that sets a bad precedent and is triggering for black people. And the end of, that's not something that I think about as a white woman. And I'm very appreciative you saying that I will say, I mean, it's uncomfortable regardless of what color you are to go through the back. It is very, it is, it's a very segregated feeling. And there's a restaurant that I know here in Atlanta, that it was, it had a Christmas pop-up bar in it. And the way to get through it was through the back parking lot in, through the staff entrance only that was gated. And so someone had to like come around and open it up for you. And I like went through the kitchen and then went through like a black back closet and came through the center. Um, and yeah, I don't, I didn't really think much about kitchen fires and we just had one of our really well-known Krispy Kremes burned down to the ground cause it had a kitchen fire and yeah. I mean to think, yeah, a lot of fires happen in kitchen, Speaker 2 00:29:57 Right? Yeah. So that would be the only accessible way for someone in a wheelchair who was unable to get out of it. It's the only way for them to get out. So it's just like, what are you, what are you doing in a situation like that? Speaker 1 00:30:11 Can you enlighten me and continue to share more stories about the separate but equal and how that impacts you as a black man being disabled as well? Speaker 2 00:30:23 Yeah. I think that I often have to wonder when I am either denied certain things or a lot of times I have the experience of people. People bypassing me to go talk to one of my pop quetsion white coworkers, and I always have to wonder, is it because I'm in a wheelchair? Is it because I'm black? Is it because a little bit of both? Is it because I am fairly, um, I'm much younger than the other people that I work with. Most of the other people with the exception of a few, a lot of the people I work with are, you know, in their forties, fifties, sixties, seventies. So I work with a lot of older people. So I don't know, is it because I'm young? Is it because I'm black? Is it because I'm disabled or a mixture of all three? The great thing is that the people I work with, they're really good with referring the people back to me. Speaker 2 00:31:29 So it's just like, Oh, I, you know, I have a question about this. Oh, you can ask art asked and he's, you know, it's 10 feet back that way. So it's really, really good that I have that, you know, for whatever reason people do it, I have the support of, uh, my coworkers and, you know, they definitely refer people back to me. So that's, I think that's one of the biggest things that occurs with me fairly often. And even in, uh, even before the last year where a lot of things have been virtual, a lot of my work that I do has been virtual in the fact of, or I should say technology based where I'm either talking on the phone to people or emailing people. So they don't know what I look like unless they go to the website and see what I look like. So whenever I do show up, it's kind of like, Oh, your art. I'm like, yeah, it's me. So again, I don't know if that's because I'm using my crutches or my wheelchair or because I'm a fairly young and I understand Arthur is a very old name. Um, so, um, but that, again, Speaker 1 00:32:47 It does, Speaker 2 00:32:48 It has a very classic old person vibe to it. So again, so I don't know if the response is because I'm young, I'm black or disabled or a mixture of all three. So it's, I think it's again going, uh, speaking of like stereotypes, uh, back to the disability, part of it, where a lot of people have the misunderstanding that if you have one type of disability, you have multiple. And sometimes, sometimes that can be true. For example, because I use a wheelchair, they think that I can't talk or that I can't hear, or that some other type of disability accompanies my wheelchair use. And for me and my situation, uh, that may be true for some people. But for me in my situation, it's not true. I just have to use a wheelchair because my life muscles are weak because of my spinal bifida. And I think there is also a misconception of, I guess, lack of intellectual abilities, I would say where they think that you can't, again, like you can't speak for yourself or that you're uneducated or something, anything to that effect in that world. So, so that's something that I, um, that I have to, you know, fight quite often as well. So, but again, it goes back to what we've been saying about the lack of education that exists surrounding disability. So the work, again, the work that you're doing and the work that I'm doing as well is, uh, very beneficial and we are doing our part to make changes. Speaker 1 00:34:31 Yeah. I do definitely see an experience firsthand where people assume that because I'm in a wheelchair, I have other disabilities one, and then also, or they pigeonhole you into a very specific disability that they know of through their lived experience or through a friend or something. And I often get asked what happened to you or so you're paralyzed. And I think the education that needs to happen is just because you use a wheelchair doesn't necessarily mean that you had an accident and now have no function of certain muscle groups. Right. For me, it was a slow progression over time. And even when I did transition to the wheelchair, I was still walking around my house for a while and then stop that. So the other thing that you mentioned about how your coworkers point back to you, was that something they knew in the beginning, was that something that you had to educate them on or did they, they just figure it out? Speaker 2 00:35:46 Um, I think we're very much aware of the importance of first, the importance of hiring me in that position. So I'm the executive director of a nonprofit, and we build inclusive playgrounds here in New Jersey called build Jake's place. So they, I think they were very aware of what very aware of what to do and how to handle those types of situations. And again, the importance of hiring somebody of my age with a disability and also being a minority. So I, and I, I thank them for that quite often for having that, that opportunity for, you know, getting into a position like this at such a young age, because it doesn't always happen. So I think they, you know, definitely the people I work with, they, I don't know if they were aware that this would be happening to me, that where I would face, you know, those types of situations where people kind of overlook me for, uh, I mean, cause that's literally what happens. So I don't know if they knew that was coming, but they definitely recognized it right away and did their part in correcting it and continue to do their part and correcting it as it happens, uh, right away. Speaker 1 00:37:10 That's so wonderful that you have such supportive peers in your workplace that recognize when they're seeing and experiencing those IFCs firsthand and they work to empower you. And that just goes to show you a really strong workplace and coworkers that you're surrounded by all very many people are rec recognize those stereotypes and those biases, especially when they're racial and disability based to their point though. It is. So you're the nonprofit that you were heard, it was talking about inclusive playgrounds. You would kind of put two in together, right. That an executive director or someone in the high, highest level has a disability. Right. I mean, I don't think a non-disabled person necessarily would be just be an executive director of a nonprofit for an inclusive playground, Speaker 2 00:38:07 Right? Yeah. Speaker 1 00:38:10 Like, like when passionate about making and breaking down barriers, but, um, yeah, no, thank you for sharing those, your experiences. And I hope that we can just continue to educate individuals. And I think gelada comes with bias training and all these movements that are happening with racial injustice and black lives matter and everything that's getting a lot of attention is long overdue. And I think, and then encouraging people to dive into all these different books and podcasts. And there's just so much content going on right now, especially with black history month. Yes, I've learned so much. And I just have a thousand books to read, to educate myself so I can recognize these biases because I don't live that life being black every day. And not to say that I would ever fully know, but it's important for me to at least be educated on the history of it so that when it does happen or I do see profiling, I can be cognizant of that. Speaker 2 00:39:16 Definitely. And that's, um, that's another clubhouse room that we were in on the disability and black history month. That was another, another great room that they, uh, have hosted on clubhouse that we were honored to. I was honored to sit in and listen to some older gentlemen that were, I believe in their sixties that have disabilities. And they went through things and experienced things of seeing how, how the laws were getting passed and not getting past it at first, originally, and just being black and disabled back in the sixties and seventies. And it's, uh, you know, what, what a time it was for them. So again, clubhouses is great for, uh, having, having really informative and educational conversations. Speaker 1 00:40:07 Definitely, definitely. And to kind of go back to Jake's place, talk a little bit about inclusive playgrounds and why cities and communities should be implementing those and what is an inclusive playground for those lists? Speaker 2 00:40:24 Yeah. So I am the executive director of build Jake's place and we build inclusive playgrounds in New Jersey. So what an inclusive playground is, it's a barrier free playground. So all of the surfacing is a non-latex rubber, which allows people with mobility disabilities to use their crutches. They're wheelchairs, their walkers, for those who are blind or visually impaired, who have a walking sticks, they are able to effectively use all of the surface area of the playground. There is no mulch, no gravel, no blood chips or anything like that, except for where they, uh, we have a few trees planted on our playground. So there's mulched around that, but all of the play structure surfacing is a non-latex rubber. There are also ramps that take you from the lowest to the highest point of the playground. Yeah, the swings are, um, are kind of like a bucket seat. Speaker 2 00:41:24 So they kind of recline a little bit for those who have motor control disabilities, where they have to lean back. So they, they, so they won't fall out of the swing and also attach a harness to the swing. If the person needs to be harnessed into the swing for extra security, there are deescalation areas for those who have autism or on autism spectrum or other sensory diagnosis, where they can still be a part of the play experience, but they can go under and there's like a little work table there for them to still be a part of the play, but to get away from all of the, uh, sensory overload that might be taking, taking place, there's, uh, we have a great it's called a sway fund. So it's, it's pretty much a boat that rocks back and forth. So it activates the vestibular system in the body. And if she, that rocking sensation that a lot of people enjoy, I go on it every time I go to the playground, it's very relaxing Speaker 3 00:42:30 To Speaker 2 00:42:31 Just rock back and forth. And even on that, there's a bench, but there's a table in the middle that a wheelchair user can wheel under. And the wheelchair user can, uh, there's like a, um, pan cutout. So you can grab and rock back and forth from your wheelchair. Speaker 3 00:42:49 So you can use Speaker 2 00:42:49 It from there, from your chair as well. So it's, it's a very great place. We have two playgrounds that have opened already in New Jersey or working with seven townships to build seven more. Speaker 3 00:43:03 Yeah, we have Speaker 2 00:43:05 Jake's law was passed in 2018. I believe it was where it requires every County in the state of New Jersey has to have at least one inclusive playground and wonderful. Yeah. So our non-profit is named after baby Jake. He was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, born with half of a heart. And, uh, sadly he passed away and his family created the non-profit to do something in his memory. And they want it to build inclusive playgrounds because that's where Jake wanted. That's where Jake went to do his occupational and physical therapy. But because of his disabilities, he was unable to get onto the playground because of the mulch and gravel that existed on, you know, your typical playgrounds. So, uh, in his memory, they wanted to create a barrier free, free place where everybody can enjoy it. So we like to say, we create playgrounds for everybody of every ability and these, yeah, these playgrounds are so important and thankfully they are building more throughout the country and throughout the world. Speaker 2 00:44:12 But they're so important because they are beneficial to so many groups of people. There is a large, for example, there's a large number of, uh, wounded veterans that are returning from serving our countries and serving their militaries around the world. And these playgrounds allow for a place where the adult who has the disability can play with their child who may or may not have a disability. There's also a large number of, um, grandparents raising grandchildren. So the grant, the grandparent who may be a little older, may not be able to lift their legs high, to get through mulch or gravel. That's on a playground. They have a safe place to walk on this type of inclusive playground and not risk hurting themselves if they fall, because it does, uh, it does have a little bounce to it, the surfacing. So if you do walk on it, you can feel it kind of bounce below your feet. Even, even I remember the first time I walked on the playground and kind of like freaked me out a little bit. Cause I couldn't feel it when I'm wheeling in my wheelchair. But when I stood on it, I was like, Whoa, this is not stable. Like this, this is like a real soft cushion. Uh, you know, so it was a great experience for me to experience. And I, I remember playing on playgrounds as a kid and having to get through the gravel and falling on the gravel and yeah. Right. It hurts. Speaker 1 00:45:44 Yeah. And then you got little kids, scrapes and bruises and right. Legs and arms and all kinds of things, injuries on playgrounds. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:45:56 It was really, uh, you know, challenging. So to be connected with such an organization that's doing such great work to again. And in addition to us building the playgrounds, what we also do is we go into these communities where we build and we raise awareness about disabilities and talk about the importance of creating such a space for those who have disabilities. And we always say the kids get it right away. If you go into a school and say, you know, Johnny who uses a wheelchair, can't get on the playground because of the gravel or the wood chips that are there, the kids have a fit. What do you mean? How do we fix it? How to, he has to be able to play on a playground. We all can play on the playground. So once you get the kids involved, which is one thing we always do it, it becomes so much easier because they, like I said, they get really upset about it. Speaker 2 00:46:54 Like what, what do you mean? He can't play on the playground, but it, and it goes back to what we were saying before, as kids, they don't see many other kids with disabilities, right. Even in schools. And when I was growing up, I think it has gotten a little bit better now, but they kept a lot of the kids with disabilities in separate classrooms. And, you know, so we, we didn't see them, you know, interacting with other kids. So, but then we're automatically, I guess, assumed or supposed to know how to interact with people with disabilities, even though we've never seen them, um, most of our childhood. And, and so it's, it's like, that's why I get stared at when I'm in my, you know, my wheelchair in the store because a child probably has never seen someone in a wheelchair before. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:47:44 Yes. That's true. And the kids are always, always five lights, red lights on the back of my wheelchair. They're like brake lights and they're, they like gravitate to them. They're like, Ooh, what's that right. Um, but kids, they have no filter. So they're like, mommy, what's that daddy? What's that? Why don't her legs work? Right. And I'm like, and I always like, respond back. Like this is my superhero chair, something like that. And they're like, Whoa, I want one. Right. Speaker 2 00:48:18 It is it's. So it's so true that kids have no filter. That's true. Speaker 1 00:48:27 How wonderful inclusive playgrounds. We have one inclusive playground in the city of Atlanta and it's been around for a while. It definitely doesn't have all those things. Like you were mentioning like deescalation stations and vestibular system triggers and or activations and other funds swings like that, that we generally do have some ramps throughout the playground and like their platforms that you can add a wheelchair could go through. Oh good. Which is nice. One really sad thing that happened about a year ago was an, I wasn't aware that this was happening, but I saw on Twitter that there that the city of Atlanta built a brand new playground and put it on the West side of Atlanta. And the West side of Atlanta is there's way more black people over there and lower, uh, lower income and don't have great sidewalks. It's, it's not the most fluent area either. Speaker 1 00:49:27 And this playground had woodchips and, and it had stairs going up into it. And I remember I got tagged on the playground picture that was uploaded and it was like Cardinal carton. One be able to go and play on this playground. And I was just like, wow, that's a huge miss on the city to not think of that. And I'm just wondering how we create that to be a national law that all playgrounds need to be inclusive. You cannot be building stared playgrounds, only vertical playgrounds without any ramps and any other considerations. So you got to work with your local city. Speaker 2 00:50:16 I think that, I think that's, uh, the word of the day is education and awareness because, you know, and I'm quite sure that playground met the ADA standards of a playground because the ADA standards of having a playground just says that you have to have, it has, you have to have wheelchair access to the playground, to the playground, nothing about getting on the playground. Speaker 1 00:50:46 So yeah, it was, Speaker 2 00:50:48 Yeah. So if a sidelines, so if a 30 year old law is what the standard is, is what they're still going by. They don't know, but I'm quite sure they don't know that these playgrounds exist. That's a possibility or maybe they do. And just, you know, as you said, where they put it, maybe they just didn't think that it would, you know, that they needed an accessible playground in the lower income neighborhood where a lot of black people live. I don't know. Um, it's just really sad. Yeah. It really does make you sad. And, and again, I I'd like to think again, like I said, I'd like to approach a lot of things from the fact of believing that people just don't know, but at this point it's kind of like, it should cause Google anything. And it's true. You really can Google anything out there. And like, I guess, I guess that would be like a parks and rec department kind of issue if they're not up to that is if they're not up to date on the latest and greatest things that are out there for their parks and recs, like yeah. Um, yeah, that's an issue. Speaker 1 00:52:00 Um, can have a conversation with our parks and recs. Speaker 2 00:52:03 Yeah, yeah. That, that's definitely something that needs to be done. Actually, our, um, I don't know if they have it everywhere, but they have a league of municipalities meeting here in New Jersey where you can go, it's actually held at one of the casinos in Atlantic city, one of the convention centers, and you can get everything. You find out the latest on everything from police cars and fire trucks to streetlights and the company that we use to build our first playground. They go to this every year. And that's how we actually ended up building our second playground because one of the council women from a township was walking around and she saw like, Oh, what's this? What do you mean an inclusive playground? And, uh, he ended up telling her like, Oh, there's one like 15 minutes from your town. And the guy, uh, who works for them, Michael, who we work with to build our playground. So he connected her with us and that's how we ended up building our second playground because of that. So Speaker 1 00:53:05 When I come down to Atlanta and build some playgrounds for us, yes, we can make it well. No. Yeah. Do you, do you guys cross state lines? Are you real or New Jersey specific? Speaker 2 00:53:18 We haven't yet, but it doesn't mean we won't. Speaker 1 00:53:21 Okay. Okay, cool. Cool. Yeah. Just, you never know with some of them are regional only. And so yeah, that would be really good. Speaker 2 00:53:29 I had, um, I don't think what we did in Pennsylvania, we had an opportunity to, and then 2020 happened. And so, uh, you know, everything was kind of put on hold with even the seven townships we were working with before 20, 20, it's the everything got put on hold as far as their construction and planning and all of that. So we're hoping that it all comes back this year and we'll be back to, you know, doing, doing good things, dance and normal things. That would be nice. Speaker 1 00:54:04 All right. We have talked about an number of really wonderful topics from your disability. Talking about clubhouse in rooms, highly recommend anyone listening and even those who are not disabled joined clubhouse and listened to the disability conversations. We're having talks like what we are doing right now here on this podcast. And it's so important if you want to be a better ally, start listening to those that are, uh, at a disadvantage and are often profiled or stereotyped and not given given, or, you know, a second glance kind of thing. And Speaker 2 00:54:41 Yeah, definitely. Speaker 1 00:54:44 Well, great. Are where can people find you? And as a fellow podcaster, what is your podcast? Speaker 2 00:54:51 All right. So they can find me everywhere at our view for life. O U R V I E w that number four L I F E. And um, my podcast is called the hour view podcast, and it is everywhere that you can listen to podcasts, Apple podcast, Spotify. I also put up a video version of each episode on YouTube. So you can find me on YouTube at our view for life. And yeah, I'm on clubhouse and active on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook. So definitely reach out and ask questions. I think that's a good, um, a good thing that I, I would like to say, don't be afraid to ask questions. And at the same time also, don't be afraid to listen as hard and said, you know, join us on clubhouse and join these rooms and just listen and take in the information. And it's called the stage. Speaker 2 00:55:50 So get onstage on clubhouse and ask your questions and people, you know, people are very receptive and we understand, I think, or, you know, we try to definitely understand that people are willing to learn and they desire to do better. And I think that's the only way we can do better is if we have these conversations and allow people who are not disabled, we allow them to ask the questions because they don't have anyone else to ask. So I think, you know, we have to, I think that's a part of advocacy that MB uncomfortable for both people, the person with and without disability, but definitely again, it's the conversation that starts to make the change. And that's how we all educate ourselves and raise awareness about the issues that are, um, that are important. Speaker 1 00:56:44 Nice, thank you so much. And one thing that I really liked that lo lo love, she's a black disability influencer. We use the same kind of wheelchair. So we kind of connect there, which I gave her a little holler. I was like, Hey, we'll use Speaker 4 00:56:58 Her. She was like, Oh girl, Speaker 1 00:57:00 It was kind of cool. I had like my five seconds of a fandom with her. Um, because she, she said, Oh, uh, what are, what's a book, a movie, a screenplay, uh, creative that is black and disabled that you would like to elevate. Speaker 2 00:57:20 Oh, that's a good one. Um, I have to go with, I just have to go with my all time. Favorite Stevie wonder. Oh, nice. I love him. He's just a great musician. Great. A writer, uh, songs that he has written are songs that, you know, that were written in the sixties or seventies. And I still listen to on most weeks when I'm just sitting in the house, I'll just put on a Stevie wonder playlist and, you know, he was, uh, he's blind. And I, I just think he's a great musician. So check him out if you haven't. And I would suggest, um, I would suggest listening to buy him either overjoyed or end joy inside my tears. Okay. Dad, all my favorites. Speaker 1 00:58:13 I will go and listen into those. I will say that I've probably listened to, and it's just really out of me to say this on public, but I think I've only listened to like one or two Stevie wonder song. So I, I need to, Speaker 2 00:58:26 Yeah, well, I'm glad that I brought him up then. So, Speaker 1 00:58:30 Uh, so I will be going and listening to some Stevie wonder songs after this. Yeah. So yeah. All right. Are, well, I'll see you on clubhouse, the 15% room on your Instagram, loving all the content, especially black history month. I love how you're elevating all of these black disabled people. And I'm just like, wow, this is so educational. That's really nice. Speaker 2 00:58:54 Yeah. I'm hoping to continue that actually beyond February. So a wonderful, yeah. Speaker 1 00:59:00 Yeah. Because black lives matter all the time. Not just in February. That's right. Wonderful. All right. We'll chat later. Bye. Thank you. Bye. Bye. You're welcome. Speaker 4 00:59:15 Thank you friends for listening, please rate and follow this podcast or text card at four seven zero five eight one two one five with comments and suggestions tune in next week for another disability topic.

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