Todd Hanson AIA shares his experiences when a rare neuromuscular disease took him from being a competitive Boston Marathoner, to becoming clumsy, to needing a walker and eventually a wheelchair. Along the way, he discovered the realities of living with mobility impairments. For an architect who knew the ADA and accessibility codes well, living it has brought a whole new level of understanding.
After experiencing countless frustrations in an attempt to enjoy dining and culture in his hometown of Portsmouth, Todd hatched an idea to create a simple web-based guide to this historic and vibrant seacoast destination. Anne Weidman, a colleague, stepped in to become the voice and mobility of Access Portsmouth, working with Todd to inspect and review restaurants, bars, breweries and attractions for accessibility to all people. This model is being expanded to other towns and regions for replication and is spreading the spirit of inclusiveness and awareness.
Access Portsmouth helps people with mobility challenges plan for what to expect when they visit. It’s a web-based guide with critical accessibility information for public venues and attractions, helping people with mobility impairments engaged with their community. Access Portsmouth has adapted this information into a Google Maps-based online application that could expand its reach globally. The addition of the Walk ’n' Roll Route, a user-tested and barrier-free loop, is universally helping users of wheelchairs and strollers, as well as the general public, travel around the historic downtown and waterfront. This initiative has gained national attention and is on the cusp of replication far and wide.
The overall goal is far reaching: to raise awareness where it’s lacking, inspire a spirit of inclusiveness, and influence other communities to do the same throughout New England and beyond.