What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
Access Portsmouth's 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. The site was designed with an eye to simplicity knowing it would become a template for replication in other communities.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
This was always perceived as a great thing to do for people living with disabilities, but at its heart this can be a powerful economic driver for cultural institutions and businesses. For a traveler with disabilities, visiting a town with unknown challenges is stressful. Knowing what to expect and being able to plan ahead makes a huge difference in the desirability of the destination.
The original goal was a simple, easy to replicate website. The expanded goal now includes a GPS enabled app for smart phones and tablets, and replication across New England and beyond.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
The Access Portsmouth team is led by Todd Hanson, a healthcare architect who lives with a neuromuscular disease, causing him to use a wheelchair for mobility and an iPad for speech. Anne Weidman does the business assessments and writes the reviews, William Tucker provides the IT support. All three are colleagues at JSA Inc Architects in Portsmouth NH. The stakeholders include 153 bars and restaurants in Portsmouth NH as well as dozens of cultural institutions and attractions.
What really gives Access Portsmouth its merit is that we have done this with just three people, at almost no cost, in only a few months. It’s simple. And it’s powerful.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
Upon launch in the fall of 2016, Access Portsmouth caught the attention of organizations across the region. It is recognized as an economic driver. The Southern New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission has been trained in assessments and hopes to replicate the effort in the fourteen towns they serve. University of New Hampshire’s Occupational Therapy program is considering using teams of interns for evaluations. The Governor’s Commission on Disabilities is helping us brainstorm on growth possibilities. The Institute for Human Centered Design featured Access Portsmouth in a learning series. Plan New Hampshire and AIA New Hampshire have both hosted programs on universal and accessible design and Access Portsmouth. Our site crossed the path of a board member of NEFA, resulting in founder Todd Hanson being invited to join the newly formed NEFA Accessibility Committee.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
The Open Doors Organization, an accessibility advocacy organization, published a nationwide market study of adult travelers with disabilities showing that in 2015, American’s with disabilities spent $17.3 billion on travel. This led to the easy assumption that if travelers knew what to expect in historic Portsmouth, they would visit.
Open Doors also created an extensive site of accessibility information for the City of Chicago, ‘Easy Access Chicago’, that became an inspiration for this effort.