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The Leadership Program bridges the gap between academic education and real-world implementation.   Student projects that have successfully grown into real entrepreneurial ventures.   Our Credit Card system allows students around the world to interact virtually.

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  Accessible New York Takes It to the City Streets!

The restaurants, theaters, and hotels of New York City will be the subject of a critical gaze over the next few weeks as CUNY students eye them for their accessibility to people with disabilities. On May 15th, members of the Accessible New York Team from the Institute for Virtual Enterprise attended a training session at the CUNY Center for Student Affairs, where Professor Jesse Lore guided them from the conceptual conversations online to the practical implementation of the project in the real world.

Students and faculty alike have spent the past two months gathering a list of hospitality sites, points of interest for any visitor to New York City, and developing a set of standards to identify what is good accessible service for people with disabilities. Now, with a comprehensive roster of restaurants, hotels, and theaters, and an Accessible Certification Guide that includes rating criteria on everything from wheelchair access to Braille menus and flashing alarm clocks, it was time to develop a cohesive strategy for approaching NYC businesses.

Over twenty people showed up at the training session, which began with a summary of the group's activities to date, and small group discussions about the efficacy and accomplishments of the Accessible New York team so far. The groups reported on the lamentable state of accessibility in New York City, and were able to identify different sources of inaccessibility. Whereas some staff members at the sites we contacted didn't believe they needed to serve people with disabilities, others were still oblivious to the needs of people with disabilities in NYC! The group affirmed, once again, that education was needed in the travel and hospitality industry not only to promote access for people with disabilities, but also to expand markets and generate revenue through serving a group of people ready, willing, and able to enjoy the luxuries of the Big Apple.

Professor Lore drew a distinction between different approaches to advocacy, and the important role of each in bringing about social change. He identified Direct Advocacy as the type of "Marching in the streets, writing letters to congress, filing lawsuits, and generally raising a ruckus," that was essential to bringing about social change, but which would be ineffective in the context of the given project. He then identified Indirect Advocacy, which, he said, consists of "Looking at the people you want to change, and see what matters to them. Then use that as a basis for finding common ground, and building solutions that are win-win." Professor Lore also embarked on a brief discussion about customer service, and pointed out that the restauranteurs of NYC are not our adversaries, but our customers: "We are selling them the idea that it makes good business sense to provide service to people with disabilities."

By the end of the session, students with and without disabilities divided up the list of sites, and made plans for on-site visits to determine the accessibility of services. In groups of two or three, the students were given a telephone script for initial contact with the sites, as well as copies of the accessible certification guide to fill out at their visits. Students will compile the results of their site visits on a GoogleDocs spreadsheet, which will be converted into a printed, as well as an online, resource for people with disabilities visiting New York City, or NYC residents going out for a night on the town. The first version of the Accessible New York Guide will be published in the program book for the Society for Disability Studies Conference, which will be held at Baruch College in June.


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Posted on 2008-06-01 15:13:19  [ Return to Previous Page ]          

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