Is it really “going to be fine”? The “forgotten” of lockdown

In these about three months of “lockdown”, I preferred to keep silent, at least on Move@bility. I used to tell myself: “What would it make talking about freedom of movement, at a time when everyone is required to stay home, giving up his freedom of movement due to a pandemic?”. These have been complex and tough times, both physically and psychologically speaking, for lots of reasons, for me as for everyone, in different ways and for different reasons. That was exactly the reason why I was afraid that spaces (this website, but also its social extensions) I had designed as places of confrontations, reflection and “positive” mobilization in order to create together a barrier-free world, somehow, could turn into another “sfogatoio”, like so many others, not just online. But now that Italy has officially entered the Phase-2, maybe we can also restart talking about topics that, in these months, have certainly remained under-the-radar.

Lockdown - Silence

For instance, who decreeded the lockdown thought about ensuring, sometimes with some issues (mostly at the beginning), the supply of food and medicines to elderly or disabled people who couldn’t go out or had ended up without the support of relatives or friends who didn’t live with them. But what about non-pharmacological therapies? Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and other specific treatments that cannot always be used at home or, however, require the active presence of other people (therapists, for instance). For many people, including me, such therapies are really “life-saving“.  Yet, the answer we used to get was always the same: we can’t, you have to wait.

Lockdown - Didattica a distanza

The story was (and still is) the same (and, in some ways, with even more huge implications in the medium-long time) for students with severe disabilities who, when education turned into distant learning, have often been, in fact, deprived of a fundamental constitutional right. Not to mention that, for many of them, school wasn’t just an opportunity to learn, but also a place where they could socialize with their peers. Have you heard about it in decrees, TV news, long in-depth analysis about the topic of the moment? Have you read about it on newspaperts or “non-industry” websites? As for myself, almost never.

Lockdown - Social distancing

On the other hand, something that’s been mentioned for the entire lockdown  and still is a  (far too) “trend topic” is the renowned “social distancing“. Since I’ve been working with words for years, this expression gave me goose bumps (in a negative way) since the very first time I heard it. Ok, in order to minimize the spreading of a particulary aggressive and- under many respects-still unknown virus,  it’s advisable to keep a certain physical distance from other people. But the concept of “social distancing” goes well beyond the simple physical distance, linking it to the idea that we have to keep away from other people even emotionally speaking.

Together

For my part, I think this vision can be very risky, for everyone in general, but particularly for those who even before the pandemic and the lockdown used to feel (and, in fact, often was) “socially distant” from others, due to architectonical and cultural barriers. On the contrary, I think that, now more than ever, we need to stay “socially close“, even though (temporary) physically distant. I hope the “new normal” that we’re going to build together won’t forget to pay attention to involve from the very beginning, and as active protagonists, also people with a disability. Of course, it’s also up to us not to be forgotten and get ready and personally involved, throwing in and actively committed,  each one according to his own possibilities and capacities.

That’s the only way we can really claim “everything is gonna be fine“. Enjoy your restart!

ThisAbles, Ikea project for a home for everyone

Have you ever thought that, for who lives with a given disability, even his own home can turn into a hostile place, full of hidden dangers? Sometimes, little tricks could be enough to make furniture or rooms fully usable also by those who have physical limitations. This is the starting point of ThisAbles, the project developed by Ikea Israel and by the non-profit organization Milbat that enables who has a disability to pick, through the website dedicated to the initiative,  adjustmensts for commonly used furniture (obviously, made by Ikea) such as chairs, beds, couches that make it easier to use them also for those who have special needs.

Some products can also be printed in 3D directly from the website users, simply downloading the appropriate file from the website. ThisAbles currently includes 13 hacks for various home rooms: the living room, the study, the bedroom and the bathroom. Special handles that help opening and closing the closets, switches that are easier to reach, supports for canes and extensions for the couches legs, for instance.

Cane by me - a bed support for cane

Cane by me, a bed support for cane

But there’s much more that can be done! In fact, the website invites its users to  collaborate to expand the upgrades catalogue, sending ideas and proposals adapted to single needs, in addition to signal what objects, among those already included in the catalogue, are more suitable for helping people with disabilities in their everyday activities.

Couch lift

Couch lift

The ThisAbles project is perfectly aligned with the Swedish company’s vision: “create a better everyday life for as many people as possible”. We hope it can be soon extended to the other countries Ikea operates in and, hopefully, other brands follow its example. Since, as we always say, a more accessible world is an advantage for everyone, not only for those with “special needs”.

“Eleanor Oliphant”: diversity, loneliness and hope

I’ve always loved reading, but sometimes the books I’ve had on my hand didn’t leave a deep marking inside of me. This isn’t certainly the case of the last one I read, “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine“,  the debut novel by the Scottish Gail Honeyman, a little “literary sensation” that’s about to become a movie as well.

"Eleanor Oliphant in completely fine"

“Eleanor oliphant is completely fine”: the plot

Don’t worry: no spoiler! 🙂 I don’t mean to spoil your pleasure to enjoy this engaging and very well written novel. I’m just telling you something about the story of Eleanor, a character that you’ll hardly forget. Eleanor is an English young woman living an apparently “banal” life, between her job as an accountant at a graphic design the loneliness of her flat, with a plant as her only company. Eleanor is shy, not interested in being trendy, nor in socialize with her colleagues, who, after all, don’t do much to create a less than formal relationship with her. They see her as a “strange being”, due to her old-fashioned clothes, her sloppy appearance (marked by a scar spoiling her face, inheritance of the event that changed her life forever). Then, they make fun of her, isolating her and, at most, addressing her jokes and uncool nicknames. Nevertheless, as the novel’s title claims, she “is completely fine”. Or, at least, so she thinks, until, thanks to a series of events that I’m not unveiling, she’ll start to realize that there’s life beyond the borders of her routine and, gradually,  she’ll also learn to deal with her own spectres.

eleanor, “one of us”

” I’ve been the focus of far too much attention in my time. Pass me over, move along please, nothing to see here!”

I’ve found in this quote, one of my favourite ones in the novel, one of the traits that make me feel emotionally closer to Eleanor: indeed, like her, I’ve spent most of my life just longing for being invisible, not raising other people’s morbid curiosity. But, just like Eleanor, I’m gradually learning to make peace with myself, forgiving me for what I’m not guilty of and look at other people from a different perspective, not necessarily as potential “threats”, but also as “opportunities“, in every way.

So, here’s why I suggest you, shouldn’t you do it already, to read this wonderful novel: a breath of fresh air and a glimmer of hope for everyone. Since, in the end, there’s a little bit of Eleanor in everyone of us.

“Tutti in piedi”, an unusual story about love and disability

A few days ago, in the Italian cinemas, came out “Tutti in piedi” (“All stand“), a French comedy that unusually approaches a topic that movies have confronted with many times, mainly in these latest years: love and disability.

What’s unusual in “Tutti in piedi”? First of all, that, somewhat,  the tables turn. Jocelyn, the male character, is the typical irredimeable lady-killer, who tries to win every woman he bumps into over. It’s exactly this “predator” instinct that leads him to meet Florence, a charming woman living a very active life, as a refined musician and a tennis champ, who, due to a motoric disability, uses a wheelchair. He immediately falls in love with her and, due to a series of misunderstandings (Florence’ sister, who lives next Jocelyn’s dead mother, having found him sitting on his mother’s wheelchair, thinks he has a motoric disability as well) ends up feeling forced to keep on with his facade, being afraid that Florence wouldn’t accept him anymore, should he show her the way he really is.

"Tutti in piedi"

A frame from “Tutti in piedi”

That precisely represents, in many ways, a “new” element in the narration of the “standard” dynamics among disabled and non-disabled people: it isn’t Florence who feels to be “unqualified” due to her own condition, but Jocelyn, who’s afraid she wouldn’t like him anymore, should she get to know the truth about him.

The director of “Tutti in piedi”, Franc Dubosc, who also plays the role of Jocelyn, said that the idea to make a movie about disability rose from his mother’s experience, who, in her old age, ended up being unable to walk anymore and having to face the numerous architectonical barriers  that, until that time, neither she or her relatives had particularly noticed. From that experience, for the director, arose a new awareness and a growing curiosity towards the daily life of people with a disability, including their relationships with others. While making the movie, he realized that, as time passed by, his fear to hurt the disabled people feelings disappeared, as he kept on shooting. So, he came to the conclusion that, ultimately, you don’t need to pay particular attention while interacting (even for romantic purposes) with a disabled person: you just have to remember that you have a person in front of you, not a disease or a tricky condition.

“Ciak si aggira”: bypassing architectonical barriers is a game

We all know how many architectonical barriers who lives with a disability, but also who goes around our cities with little children or bulky luggage, has to face on a daily basis. Many of these barriers arise from disregard or carelessness (for instance, cars parked in front of ramps which enable people on a wheelchair to access a sidewalk). How to raise the awareness of the community, and, hence, of the (local and national) administrations towards the need to project spaces that are really “accessible”? An effective way can be, for instance, starting from the children, getting them used to this mindset through a game. This is the starting point of “Ciak si aggira“, a board game for children from 6 years old created by Ermio De Luca, an engineer with a disability, who, as a consequence, directly knows this issue.

Ciak si aggira

the plot

The “Ciak si aggira” characters are six children: Fabio, Giorgio, Mauro, Adele, Fanny and Marta, plus the “guest star” Isotta, the wheelchair Fabio uses to move around. The six friends live together a lot of adventures and enjoy moving around the city, to discover new places: will they be able to do it without having architectonical barriers to rain on their parade?

Ciak si aggira - the six friends and Isotta

how does “ciak si aggira” work?

The principle “Ciak si aggira” is based on is the same as the well-known game of the goose:  the players, using pieces, must move along the path designed on the board, recognizing and, precisely, bypassing the architectonical barriers they bump into, also getting to know the effects that those obstacles have on the mobility of people using a wheelchair or walking sticks to move.

The game is issed by La Macina Onlus, costs € 19.50 and can be requested sending an e-mail to  emailtowork@libero.it. If you’re looking for a gift idea that is funny, but also useful and smart for your children, you’ve found it!

“The shape of water”: a fable about diversities

Should you still be among the (few) people who haven’t watched it, I hope to convince you to immediately go to the cinema! Since “The shape of water“, the movie by Guillermo del Toro that won the Golden Lion at Venice International Film Festival in 2017 and four Oscar awards just a few months ago, tells a story that you’ll hardly forget, since it  wrings the  deepest heartstrings of everyone.

“The shape of water” is a modern fable set in Baltimore at the beginning of the Sixties, during the Cold War among the USA and the URSS. Its main characters represent various diversities: Eliza, an orphan young woman who is speechless after her vocal cords had been cut off when she was a child; Zelda, an Afro-American woman who works with Eliza as a cleaner; Giles, the old homosexual advertising illustrator living with Eliza, who is subjected to discrimination at work. Plus, of course, him: the Deus Brânquia, the “shape” the title of the movie (and of the novel that’s the other part of this project), who is worshipped as a god by the Amazonian people and has been captured and taken in chains at the State laboratory Eliza and Zelda work at, to examinate and use him against Russia. Marginalized human beings who, inevitably, meet and end up making an close and odd group.

The shape of water - Eliza and the Deus Brânquia

Eliza, who succeeded establishing a relationship based on silent empathy with the creature, decides to do her best to save it from an apparently sealed destiny and, helped by Giles, Zelda and one of the laboratory scientists (who is actually a Russian spy in disguise), rescues it and takes it in her flat. Here, they end up falling in love, but, before the happy ending, they’ll have to overtake several obstacles, in a crescendo of suspense and thrill.

The end of “The shape of water” (which I won’t unveil to you) is definitely a fable, as much as the tone of the whole movie. Nevertheless,  with its sensitivity and poetry, it launches a very important message, in its simplicity: beyond our differences, we all are equal and deserve to be treated (and loved) with respect and humanity.

“Non volevo morire vergine”, the sentimental education of a disabled woman

All of us have a more or less long list of books that, for any reason, have won a special place in our hearts. My personal list also includes “Non volevo morire vergine” (“I didn’t mean to die a virgin”), the last book by Barbara Garlaschelli, issued a few months ago and already (and deservedly!) a little literary success.

"Non volevo morire vergine"

The book tells the story of the writer, who became a quadriplegic when she was 15 after having bumped into a stone while she was plunging into the sea. Barbara Garlaschelli had already told her story in “Sirena (mezzo pesante in movimento)” (“Siren, heavy truck in movement”, a title that, in itself, suggests the self-deprecating tone the woman uses to describe her own condition, softening its hardest and more dramatic sides). But, this time, the perspective is quite different. In “Non volevo morire vergine”, Barbara Garlaschelli shares with her readers her sentimental and sexual education, which, soon after her accident, had seemed to her a chapter that, inevitably, was meant to stay close even being actually open.

Page by page, in “Non volevo morire vergine”, we follow Barbara’s evolution from her condition of “self-hidden” in her own armour to a young woman who becomes aware of the fact that, despite her accident and her being a disabled, still keeps her own femininity and, together with it, the possibility to please, seduce, stimulate desire and – why not?- even love in men.  So, she starts a series of more or less engaging relationships (there are also some asshole, as in everyone’s life, disabled or not), ‘til she meets her Love with the capital L.

Virginity Barbara wants (and succeeds) to get rid of isn’t just the strictly sexual one, but has a wider meaning:

“A virgin not just in my body, but also of experiences, life, mistakes, successes, failures, journeys, sun”

Barbara Garlaschelli tells everything using a light style, which invites to read, but without too much censorship. It, sometimes, can floor some readers, who have still, more or less consciously, a radicated taboo that sees disabled people (and, particularly, women) as beings who, at most, inspire pity, but sure don’t have, as the writer says, “right to physical and mental pleasure, joys of life, in all its declensions” (with everything it implies, also in terms of the incomplete fulfilment of serious policies about accessibility and inclusion).

What led the writer to share such an intimate part of her life through the pages of “Non volevo morire vergine” isn’t exhibitionism, but rather her will to transmit a strong message, not just addressed to the community as a whole, but also to so many people who, more or less voluntarily, renounce love or even, simply, pleasure, convinced (maybe, not just by themselves) they cannot be subject to it.

“Ascolta i miei passi”: autism meets prison

Autism is still an almost unknown disease, both as regards its causes and, therefore, potential treatments and, generally speaking, the most suitable ways to establish a contact with who is affected by it.  People with autism are often victims of bias and wrong certainties (also influenced by the way this condition has often been described in movies), as well as set aside because they’re seen as “strange” (and, then, potentially dangerous, according to many people). How can we understand the world of who lives with autism? How can we create proximity and dialogue? The “Ascolta i miei passi” (“Listen to my steps”) project, promoted by the Ortica Association in Milan aims to raise awareness towards this topic, starting from the direct listening of people with autism, who talk about themselves in short audio files, allowing others to know their daily life, their path, dreams and hopes.

Ascolta i miei passi

During the Disability Week (November 27th – December 2nd), Ortica Association brought “Ascolta i miei passi” inside a place that, according to collective imagination, also represents “a world apart”, despite being in the heart of the city: San Vittore prison. Thanks to an agreement with the prison management, during the five meetings organized, the prisoners had the chance to listen, using headphones, the stories told directly by people with autism. Not just it: they also had the chance to identify with the storytellers reality, symbolically wearing their shoes: those of children who have already been diagnosed, training shoes of the teenager who continuously walks up and down to let his angst off or, more, the shoes of a man who would like to become the protagonist of his own life, but cannot do that due to bias.

Bias are a common issue for people with autism- or other disabilities- and prisoners, after all. If we only knew these worlds closely, we’d realize that, all in all, differences are less marked than we used to think. And that’s exactly the meaning of the name chosen for the “Ascolta i miei passi” project. As a native American proverb states:

Before you judge my life or my attitude, wear my shoes, walk the path I’ve travelled. Live my pain, my doubts, my fears, my laughs. Remember that everyone of us has his own story. When you’ve lived my life, then you can judge me

Accessible tourisms: a prize for who helps them be known

We often talk about accessible tourisms, a trend which is (luckily) increasingly establishing, witnessing a higher awareness towards everyone’s licit need and will to travel, discovering new countries and different cultures. By the way, several initiatives (even in Italy) demonstrate that paying attention to the tourists with “special needs” isn’t just a generous act, but also a forward-looking and profitable strategy: as a matter of fact, taking into account that, limiting our talk to people with any disability, we’re talking about a quarter of the world population, not thinking about ways to adequately welcome them too means renouncing to a not exactly unimportant market share.

accessible tourisms

But, there’s often an issue on the table: transmitting correctly the message about the importance of accessible tourisms and help all the existing services, structures and initiatives be known through mass media. From this need arises an initiative promoted by the non-profit organization Diritti Diretti: the Premio Turismi Accessibili (Accessible Tourisms Prize), precisely aiming to award journalists, advertisers and communications specialists who succeed in “overtaking the barriers”,  describing though radio-TV services, advertising campaigns, videos or communications campaigns entities which succeeded producing social and economic development, combining attractiveness, innovation, appearance and/or sustainability and accessibility culture.

Premio Turismi Accessibili - Accessible Tourisms Award

The Accessible Tourisms Prize, which has reached its third edition, is addressed to the existing accessibility, in the various categories of tourism: culture, food & wine, sports, conventions, sea, mountains, thermal baths, education, religion. The goal is to demonstrate, through concrete examples, to entrepreneurs and institutions that serious investments in accessibility can improve a territory and its touristic and cultural offer, resulting in an advantage both for tourists and residents and- what’s not a secondary issue- with important economic effects for the enterprises operating to this end.

how to participate in the accessible tourisms prize?

To participate, you must register, filling, by May 5th 2018, the form that’s available on the Accessible Tourisms Prize website. Among all the participants, two winners will be selected: the project which will receive more votes by the users will gain 1000 €, while the project selected by the experts’ panel will receive a plaque. For more details about the contest, please check its announcement.

PS. Move@bility runs for the award as well, with its article about “B&B Like Your Home“. You can vote for it following this link 

World Usability Day: design for inclusion

 “User experience” is increasingly important for who works in  development and design, at all levels.  It is confirmed by the 2017 edition of the World Usability Day, the event that will take place, for the fourth year in a row, in Rome on November 8th and 9th, gathering Italian and international experts in workshops and talks. The World Usability Day was established in 2005 by the Usability Professionals ‘Association (UXPA). Since then, every year, on the second Thursday of November, all around the world there are events aiming to boost awareness towards the importance of thinking and designing taking into account, first, the main character: the user who what you’re working on is addressed to.

World Usability Day 2017

The subject of this edition of the World Usability Day is user experience as an inclusion promoter. The goal of design professionals, as a matter of fact, must be contributing to shape a better future, taking into consideration the specific needs of all the people, seen in their own uniqueness. In a world that changes quickly, also under a political and demographic perspective, we can’t keep on designing keeping in mind just a part of population, forgetting about the remainders.

How to reach this ambitious goal? The speakers who will alternate on the World Usability Day stage will present different perspectives and food for thought: design thinking to create technologies and products for all, services accessibility and usability, empathy as  a starting point for a designing process focused on the individual.

This initiative underlines, once again, the increasing awareness towards the unavoidable need to think according to the “Design for All” logics, developing products and services suitable for the specific abilities, attitudes and needs of the users. As the insiders say, designers are often reluctant towards change. Then, it’s important to help them approaching their job using something we all, as human beings, have: empathy, that is the ability to “put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes”, feeling his needs, spirit and life as ours.