My first consulting experiences were accidental. When I started getting asked to consult on making spaces more accessible, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I just said, “Okay, I’ll give you my perspective.”
Seemed harmless, and in fact, I thought it was a way I could give something to my community. Little did I know that it was also going to be a lesson in “no good deed goes unpunished.” Eventually I came to understand that getting criticized is an inevitable part of stepping up, but back then (just like what happened after my first public speaking gigs) I disappeared for a while after a couple of negative remarks online – criticized for having the audacity to appear on the news.
Now I’m fine listening to those who challenge me, but it took developing confidence in my dedication to helping the community and region become more accessible. That’s why I recently enrolled in the ADA Coordinator Training Certification Program and even hope to help large businesses and public facilities become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The certification program is a great way for me to learn about various disabilities a consultant needs to understand in order to fully advise on ADA compliance. It may already be paying off since I was recently contacted by a large firm asking if I could check out some accessible facilities they recently built…. but that’s a story to share in a future blog post!
The whole experience that ended up on KIRO 7 News started off as an innocent rant on Facebook about inaccessible crosswalk buttons near the fairgrounds. Man it was important to make a change there, because Meridian Street is such a busy area in the heart of the city where I spend a ton of time.
I wasn’t able to reach the crosswalk button because there was a step-up curb in the way, making the button too far away to push. There was no way to safely cross the street with cars zipping on and off the freeway ramps. It was a safety concern for me and many others, a huge one.
I didn’t expect anyone to listen to my Facebook rant, or get anything done about it, but a friend saw the post and called KIRO 7. Somehow, they got in touch with my dad, and he told me they wanted to meet and do an interview with me about it. I was like “wow” – I had never been on TV so that idea was pretty intense. But there I was, right down there at the intersection by the fairgrounds, with a loud freeway overhead and cameras pointed in my face, and well, the rest you can still see by clicking on the news broadcast which is still posted on KIRO 7 after all these years.
The broadcast must have lit a bit of a fire. Right after that, I ended up meeting some of the guys from the city and the state, and they were like “wow” – they had no idea it was a problem and just didn’t think of it like I saw it. They started to point fingers about what wasn’t up to code, whose jurisdiction it was, who has resources to fix it, etc. but anyway, the problem got (partially) fixed that year.
What happened on social media after the news broadcast was interesting. I got some negative feedback. For some reason a couple of people weren’t happy that “I went to the news media” about it, although they actually came to me. Either way, back then I was sensitive to that kind of criticism. There were some mean comments so I kinda retreated and stayed out of the limelight for a while.
I had felt I was doing something good that was going to benefit everybody, and I was proud at first. I now know that’s the head space I need to stay in, and if I do, the sky’s the limit. I want to do what I can to make changes to improve and better our community – not just the community but anywhere in the state, or who knows – in other regions if possible, too.
I was reminded of this whole experience last year when another friend saw that old news broadcast and asked me about it. I casually mentioned that two of the crosswalk buttons never got fixed. Little did I know, but he called our city council representative who remembered the whole situation, and those additional crosswalk buttons were pretty much fixed within a few days, so I went down there to check it out. They weren’t improved as well as the original ones they replaced (made better by removing the step-up curb) but I was now at least barely able to reach all the buttons.
Grand Pacific Tacoma
Another accidental consulting experience I had was when a friend of my aunt heard about me, and maybe thought that I was a big accessibility advocate due to seeing me on KIRO 7 or something. She called and asked if I could head over to Tacoma and take a look at the sidewalks and crosswalks outside of the Grand Pacific Apartments, and meet with city staff about accessibility along her block.
Sure enough, there were a bunch of issues. The sidewalks were a mess, and there’s an intersection that goes over to a store with no crosswalk or anything to get past traffic. So I gave my thoughts – put in my 2 cents to help out, did what I could, but to this day I don’t know what happened. It doesn’t work if people don’t respond or listen. A few people from the city seemed to look at me like “go away” but maybe that was my low self-esteem talking back in the day.
Clearly I didn’t know what-all it entails to change a situation of inaccessibility like that. It’s got to be about timing, and cost, and the right people, and the bureaucratic process. All I really know is that it’s important, and I hope to help by consulting on more of these situations.
If you know of any areas where accessibility can be improved, reach out and ask me to check it out. I’ll give feedback, and try to put the right people in touch to make an improvement in your community. I’d be happy to take a look and give you my perspective and ideas.
Like I say on my consulting page, don’t let money or worry stop you from reaching out. I always appreciate financial support for time and travel as well as helping pay expenses associated with my ADA Coordinator certification training, but in the meantime, consulting simply remains a community service I’m passionate about pursuing. So spread the word!