Japan: The café where employees work remotely

The accessible, barrier-free floor of the café is filled with robotic staff.

Kentaro Yoshifuji needed to be hospitalized multiple times and for extended periods when he was a student and couldn’t go to school.

This experience inspired him to study robotics and “use technology to improve the lives of people who were unable to participate physically either in work or social life.”

Thus, with the help of crowdfunding and grants, he created the Dawn Avatar Robot Café, a Japanese business that shows that robots don’t necessarily take away our jobs, but on the contrary, they can help create inclusive workspaces.

The image at Dawn is as follows:

The accessible, barrier-free floor of the café is filled with robotic staff. There is a robot that greets customers, another to help them find seats, and another that suggests daily specials and takes orders. Additionally, there is the popular Tele-Barista, a humanoid “master” of coffee who will take care of the pumpkin spice latte at the bar.

However, the awkwardness of asking a robot to take your order is bypassed as patrons know it’s the human side that makes Dawn special.

The humanoid robots OriHime and OriHime-D, standing at 120 centimeters tall, serve as avatars for the workers who operate them remotely. These operators interact with customers, suggest items from the menu, and ensure that your coffee is just the way you like it.

The business employs people with disabilities to control the robots, creating inclusive job opportunities for those who cannot leave their homes or are, in many cases, bedridden.

Employees can use a mouse, an iPad, or even an eye-controlled remote to operate the robots from a wheelchair or a bed.

According to the Ministry of Health in Japan, over 7% of the population lives with a disability.

Indeed, most of the humanoid robots are equipped with iPads so that customers can interact with the person controlling them.

It should be noted that in 2012, Yoshifuji won the Human Power Award for “OriHime,” the first robot with an avatar to combat loneliness.

Source: naftemporiki.gr

11-Year-Old with Deafness Cured by Gene Therapy in the USA

Several studies with this type of therapy are already underway or being planned worldwide.

An eleven-year-old boy who was born deaf can now hear thanks to a special gene therapy, according to American reports.

The boy from Morocco was the first person in the USA to receive gene therapy, which is still in the experimental stage, at a children’s hospital in the metropolis of Philadelphia on the East Coast, reported the New York Times, citing the hospital and the involved companies.

However, the therapy does not mean that the boy can now understand language and speak on his own: he may never be able to do so, the report said. According to the report, the brain has a window for language learning that starts from the second or third year of life. After the age of five, it closes forever.

According to the report, the eleven-year-old has a very rare genetic defect that affects about 200,000 people worldwide. A single mutated gene causes the deafness, which is replaced by an intact version during the therapy.

After completing several months of therapy, the eleven-year-old now has almost normal hearing, according to the New York Times.

Even if he cannot speak or understand speech, it could at least be useful for recognizing traffic or similar situations where he needs to pay attention to sounds. He can now also listen to music.

Several studies with this type of therapy are underway or planned worldwide, the report continues.

After the success with the eleven-year-old, scientists want to use the therapy on younger children. The inner ear is a small, enclosed space, so the gene therapy applied there does not affect cells in other parts of the body, Manny Simons, CEO of the involved company Akouos, told the New York Times.

According to the report, finding a suitable candidate was not easy for a specific reason: most babies born with this form of deafness receive cochlear implants in infancy to be able to hear and are then no longer eligible for such therapy trials.

The boy in question was not in a school in Morocco and learned sign language only in a special school in Barcelona after moving to Spain, according to the New York Times.

The CIF proposes systematic checks on health issues through a manifesto.

Based on findings and conclusions reached by stakeholders and interested parties in the health sector, a document was prepared.

The Cyprus Integrity Forum (CIF) proposes systematic checks on healthcare issues to prevent corruption tendencies and ensure full transparency in the healthcare system, as outlined in its manifesto “Transparency and Combating Corruption in the GHS.”

The manifesto was drafted based on findings and conclusions reached by stakeholders and interested parties in the healthcare sector during a roundtable discussion focusing on transparency and combating corruption in the General Healthcare System (GHS).

According to the CIF, during the specific discussion, issues were highlighted that raise concerns about the current management of the General Healthcare System (GHS). These issues need to be addressed immediately and effectively before the system collapses financially and in terms of quality.

According to the CIF, the publication of the Commissioner’s reports would contribute to transparency and to combating and reducing abuses, both on the part of providers and beneficiaries.

According to the CIF, the publication of the Commissioner’s reports would contribute to transparency and to combating and reducing abuses, both on the part of providers and beneficiaries.

Also, Dr. Hatzichristofis stated that the inadequate and weak oversight exercised by the Health Insurance Organization (HIO), the insufficient oversight of the HIO by the Ministry of Health, the deficient legislation governing oversight and correction of any distortions that nullify provisions of the law, and the ambiguity in interpreting the philosophy are also factors that contribute to the lack of transparency.

The CIF, through its manifesto, observes a lack of quantitative and qualitative control of services in the GHS, specifically noting that “the administrative control of the HIO by the Audit Office of the Republic of Cyprus showed disappointing results in terms of the percentage of control exercised.”

Additionally, it states in the manifesto that there is no control over the quality of diagnostic equipment or medical devices in diagnostic centers, while adding that there is no control over cases of negligence either.

Regarding the issue of corruption within the GESY, the CIF notes in the manifesto that there is a significant laxity in the implementation of the already inadequate legislation and often a violation of control procedures.

Furthermore, the CIF argues that there is no clear calculation for the amounts spent on healthcare, while also emphasizing the need for systematic performance auditing of professionals and facilities providing medical services (Medical Auditing).

The President of the Cyprus Integrity Forum, Marios Skandalis, stated that the manifesto is the result of the collective effort of the majority of healthcare stakeholders in Cyprus to safeguard the “greatest gift” ever given to Cypriot society, that of the General Healthcare System.

“We have identified serious issues that require immediate resolution to ensure the financial sustainability, transparency, and high level of services provided within the institution, which is the greatest achievement of the social policy of the Republic of Cyprus since its independence,” he said.

“In her statement, Dr. Christina Giannaki, Director General of the Ministry of Health, said that the development of mechanisms for effective control in the healthcare sector, both within and outside GESY, is imperative. She noted that the competent Ministry recognizes the need for adopting safeguards to ensure proper supervision and monitoring of the system through quality criteria.”

“Dr. Giannaki stated that for the control and supervision of the system’s usage by both providers and beneficiaries, in terms of avoiding abuses and ensuring the quality enhancement of healthcare services provided, the introduction of clinical guidelines is required, along with the gradual development of therapeutic protocols, the establishment of quality criteria and performance indicators, as well as the implementation of more effective organizational and control mechanisms. Additionally, incentives and disincentives should be promoted where there is distortion in the supply-demand relationship.”

Source: KYPE

Euro 2024: Germany, football, and volunteering for people with disabilities

“One supports the other.”

The Euro 2024, fifty days before kickoff in Germany, is not just about football but takes volunteering to another level by engaging people with disabilities and their “tandem” companions.

There are almost 10 days left for the Euro 2024, in Germany and football, to be precise, volunteering, gives a way out to people with disabilities, which it actually includes in the organization. In particular, in the context of Euro 2024 which will be held in the summer in Germany, in addition to what concerns football as such, an inclusive volunteering program is also activated, in which 50 disabled people and their companions-partners “Tandem” – from the British term which literally means “one behind the other”, they are ready for action.

Like every major football tournament, Euro 2024 in Germany is a football-themed spectacle where volunteering plays its role, and Germans, in particular, support part of it with individuals with disabilities and their “Tandem” partners.

In the service of Euro 2024 in Germany, individuals with disabilities are also included.

“It is something that is particularly interesting and indeed gives a different cultural color to Euro 2024, with Germany showing that beyond football, volunteering is sensitized, bringing people with disabilities to the fore.”

UEFA EURO 2024 logo launched!

“Thousands of volunteers across Germany will play a significant role in the success of Euro 2024, but the host city of Cologne has implemented an inclusive program to ensure that the experience is open to everyone. Not to play football, but to contribute through volunteering, including people with disabilities.”

Euro 2024 recruited 50 people with intellectual disabilities.

Cologne has recruited 50 people with intellectual disabilities to become volunteers for Euro 2024 in Germany. Each of them has appointed a “Tandem” partner to collaborate throughout the tournament and assist with any challenges that may arise.

Tandem paragliding with the flying wheelchair for our disabled friends

The program effectively kicked off on Tuesday, April 9, as the 50 volunteers and their Tandem partners met for the first time. This event allowed everyone to get to know their partners, ensuring that they feel comfortable and secure with each other ahead of the volunteerism commencement event on Saturday, April 27.

“One of the volunteers expressed, ‘I really like that individuals with intellectual disabilities like myself can participate as volunteers in major events in Cologne. This makes me feel well integrated and excited for Euro 2024.'”

“The inspiration for this particular initiative came during the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin.”

“Access Denied: Websites of European Political Parties Inaccessible to People with Disabilities”

The serious deficiencies in the accessibility of the websites of major European political parties make it very difficult for people with disabilities to be informed about the European Elections.

“People with disabilities were almost completely ignored by political parties on their websites in view of the EU elections, according to a report compiled by the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the independent non-profit Foundation Funka.”
“The main conclusion is that citizens with disabilities struggle to access the content and, therefore, are not adequately informed to exercise direct democracy.”

“The report analyzed the websites of the seven main European political families – the European People’s Party, the Party of European Socialists, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, the European Conservatives and Reformists, the European Greens, the European Left, and Identity and Democracy.”

“The main conclusion is that citizens with disabilities struggle to access the content and, therefore, are not adequately informed to exercise direct democracy.”

“According to the study, European political parties neglect their obligation to provide information to all voters, whether they have specific accessibility needs or not. In doing so, they create a barrier not only for people with disabilities but also for the democratic process itself. Our democratic systems and political procedures rely on citizens being informed when they vote. However, as this report shows, political parties seeking the votes of over 100 million Europeans with disabilities largely fail in their duty to provide accessible and reliable political information.”

“The results are very disappointing, but not surprising – they reflect the widespread lack of attention to information accessibility in the political world,” said Ioannis Vardakastanis, President of the EDF and the ESAmeA, to Euronews.”

“These findings at the European level may also indicate that national political parties face similar challenges, according to the central body representing the rights of 100 million people with disabilities in the EU, the EDF.”

“Political parties must ensure that their communication is accessible to every voter – including voters with disabilities,” added Mr. Vardakastanis.

“The party with the worst performance was the far-right Identity and Democracy, passing only four out of the seven criteria used for evaluating the websites. All the tested websites passed the test for automatic subtitles for deaf or hard of hearing users.”

“The EDF calls on the political parties of the EU and all political actors:”

  • “Website administrators need to be trained in the basic skills for accessible digital information.”
  • “They should use the European standard for accessible ICT (EN301549) in the procurement, design, and development of digital interfaces. The standard is free.”
  • “Users with disabilities should participate in the design, development, and testing of digital interfaces to ensure they work for everyone.”

“Finally, they encourage all political actors to actively involve organizations of people with disabilities in accordance with the updated motto of the disability movement: ‘Nothing About Us Without Us.'”

“A Spectrum of Possibilities”

“The Greek Community of South Australia stands by autistic individuals.”

“For the first time in its history, the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia (GOCASA) celebrated World Autism Month with a special event aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the condition among the general public, highlighting the contribution of autistic individuals to the broader community, and encouraging more multicultural communities to join the conversation.”

The event with the theme “A Spectrum of Possibilities” took place symbolically at the Community Meeting Room on Wednesday, April 3rd, one day after the 17th World Autism Awareness Day, when the Malinauskas Labor Government inaugurated the state’s first Autism Inclusion Charter.

The speakers were the country’s first Assistant Minister for Autism, Emily Bourke, the president and founder of the Gold Foundation, Angela Pangallo OAM, and the world’s No. 2 in Australia and No. 5 in the world tennis player with intellectual disability, Andriana Petraki.

“I am very proud of everyone who participated in the event. It is important as one of the oldest multicultural organizations in the state to play our role in raising awareness about autism, removing barriers, and promoting acceptance and inclusion of autistic individuals, their caregivers, and families,” said Panagiotis Gonis, Vice President of the Hellenic Orthodox Community of South Australia.

“Through education and dialogue, we can understand autism in communities like ours and reduce the stigma and misconceptions associated with it,” emphasized Mr. Gonis.

According to recent statistics, it is estimated that 3.2% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with autism in Australia, while the quality of life of autistic Australians is among the lowest in Australian society.

“Autism is the largest primary disability group in the NDIS, and South Australia is above the national average, with 41% of NDIS participants in South Australia being autistic,” said Assistant Minister for Autism, Emily Bourke.

“Many wonder why we need an Assistant Minister for Autism – and it’s unique. We are the only government in the world to have this position. It’s because if we let down the largest disability group in our community, then we let down every disability group.”

Angela Pangallo OAM, the president and founder of the nonprofit organization Gold Foundation, moved the audience with the story of her son, Connor, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome fifteen years ago. She shared how the challenges he faced after the diagnosis, particularly without available support, inspired her to “give kids a chance” and help other families.

In her speech, following a few words from the Mayor of the City of West Torrens, Michael Coxon, Ms. Pangallo made a special mention of how the late president of the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia, Vasilis Gonis, whom she referred to as a “pioneer and visionary,” helped the organization find a new home at the Camden Park Community Centre.

“It’s a huge privilege to do this work for the autism community, and the special honor is doing it with the support of the GOCASA. I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Community, and my parents were part of it from its inception. That gives it more meaning and purpose,” Ms. Pangallo said.

In her touching and inspiring presentation, Australian tennis champion of Greek descent, Andriana Petraki, stated that as an autistic individual, she has faced challenges but maintains a “positive and resilient” attitude.

“We need to encourage each other and people with disabilities to participate more in sports, schools, workplaces, and organizations,” she said.

“The technology ‘ally’ of blind pregnant women: How they were able to ‘see’ their unborn babies”

An unexpected “gift of life” was provided by technology to a 44-year-old mother with vision problems. She managed to “see” her unborn baby through the sense of touch. The new type of ultrasound has a relief form and even combines Braille writing, so blind mothers can experience this milestone in their pregnancy.

Karen Tripp passes her fingers over the relief ultrasound of her baby. Unlike her previous pregnancy, this time she is able to feel all the characteristics of the fetus she is carrying.

Born with a rare eye condition, 44-year-old Karen from England never believed she could experience this touching moment for all future mothers.

“When I was pregnant ten years ago, it was very difficult. Ultrasounds were not a pleasant experience. Because the staff didn’t have the time to explain it to me,” she said.

In the 8th month of her pregnancy, technology, as well as her doctor, gave her the unique “gift” of feeling the image of her unborn baby, beyond just hearing its heartbeat.

Photos of Karen’s baby are included in the “Invisible World” exhibition, hosted for a few days in London, featuring a series of photographs taken by world-renowned photographers, some of whom also have vision problems.

Visitors will thus be able to have a unique tactile experience, designed entirely for people with little or no vision, including relief prints, audio descriptions, and incorporating Braille code.

Edited by Athena Korovesi

Autism – ADHD: What role do microbiota and antibiotics play in their appearance

The role of the gut appears significant in the emergence of neurodevelopmental disorders in children, according to recent study data published in Cell. Specifically, disrupted gut flora in the early years of life is linked to diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) later in life, as revealed by the study led by researchers from the University of Florida and Linköping University.

This study is the first prospective study examining the composition of gut flora and a wide range of other factors in infants in relation to children’s neurological system development. Researchers identified many biological markers that appear to be related to future neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, communication disorder, and intellectual disability.

“The remarkable aspect of the work is that these biomarkers were found at birth in umbilical cord blood or in the child’s feces at the age of one, over a decade before the diagnosis,” said Dr. Eric W Triplett, professor in the Department of Microbiology and Cell Science at the University of Florida in the United States, one of the study’s researchers.

The role of antibiotics

Autism: Turning the focus to parents with spectrum children – A psychologist explains

For the study, more than 16,000 children born between 1997 and 1999 were followed from birth to 20 years of age. Of these, 1,197 children, accounting for 7.3%, were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, communication disorder, or intellectual disability.

A large number of lifestyle and environmental factors were identified through repeated surveys conducted during the children’s upbringing. For some of the children, researchers analyzed substances in umbilical cord blood and bacteria in their feces at just one year of age.

“We found in the study that there are clear differences in gut flora as early as the first year of life between those who develop ASD or ADHD and those who do not. We found correlations with some factors affecting gut bacteria, such as antibiotic treatment in the child’s first year, which is associated with an increased risk of these diseases,” explained Dr. Ludvigsson, senior professor at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at Linköping University, who led the study together with Dr. Triplett.

Children who had recurrent ear infections in their first year of life were at an increased risk of being diagnosed with a developmental neurological disorder later in life. It may not be the infection itself that is the culprit, but researchers speculate that there is a correlation with antibiotic treatment. As they found, the presence of Citrobacter bacteria or absence of Coprococcus bacteria increased the risk of future diagnosis.

A possible explanation is that antibiotic treatment may disrupt the composition of the gut flora in a way that contributes to neurodevelopmental disorders. This risk may increase the likelihood of diseases associated with the immune system, such as type 1 diabetes and pediatric rheumatism, as shown in previous studies.

Other environmental factors

The present study also confirms that the risk of developmental neurological diagnosis in children increases if parents smoke. Conversely, breastfeeding has a protective effect, according to the study. Specifically, from umbilical cord blood samples for the detection of various substances from metabolism, such as fatty acids and amino acids, it was found that children who were later diagnosed had low levels of several important fatty substances in the blood. One of these, linolenic acid, necessary for the formation of omega-3 fatty acids and with positive effects on the brain.

Although the research is in its early stages and involves only a portion of children, and more studies are needed, the discovery that many biomarkers for future neurodevelopmental disorders can be observed at a young age opens up the possibility of implementing long-term preventive measures.

Increase of 115% in kidney patients undergoing dialysis, says the Nephrology Society

“Increase of 115% in kidney patients undergoing dialysis,” says the Nephrological Society – On the occasion of the second Thursday of March, which has been established globally as World Kidney Day.

An increase of 115% in the number of our fellow citizens undergoing hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis is observed in our country during this period, according to the Nephrological Society of Cyprus.

In a statement issued on the occasion of the second Thursday of March, which is globally established as World Kidney Day, the Nephrological Society reports that kidney health problems are the 10th leading cause of mortality worldwide, while 1 in 10 people worldwide is affected by chronic kidney disease (CKD), and it is estimated that this number will continue to increase over time.

It is noted that even if only a small percentage of these individuals will require support through methods such as dialysis – such as hemodialysis – or kidney transplantation, in our country, these individuals amount to over 200 per year, a rate of inclusion that remains among the two highest in Europe over the past 10 years.

These rates are almost double the average for Europe and other Mediterranean countries, so “we observe an increase of 115% in the number of our fellow citizens undergoing hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis in our country during this period. This continuous and prolonged increase in patients with serious kidney health problems is accompanied by a significant economic burden on the healthcare system, which, combined with inadequate planning and timely and proper management of CKD in its initial stages, has led to many shortages in specialized medical and nursing staff, areas that also face shortages globally.”

The message of this year’s World Kidney Day, “Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere,” becomes even more important, it is noted. With the implementation of the General Healthcare System (GHS), it is added, access to healthcare services, both personal and specialist doctors, has become much easier for most residents of our island.

As stated, with more frequent and regular health checks, our primary goal of combating and timely addressing CKD, as well as other significant diseases that feed it – such as Diabetes Mellitus and Arterial Hypertension – becomes more feasible.

“A simple blood analysis to assess kidney function and glucose, a general urine examination to check for the presence of leukocytes (or albumin) or other signs of kidney damage, as well as blood pressure monitoring are often sufficient for the timely diagnosis and treatment of these diseases. As Diabetes Mellitus and Arterial Hypertension are contributory factors to the progression of CKD and affect more than 50% of the patients who are undergoing extrarenal dialysis therapies, it is also important to combat obesity and excessive salt consumption,” it is added.

In combination with what has already been implemented, the Nephrological Society of Cyprus (NSC) promotes and closely collaborates with the Health Insurance Organization (HIO) to adapt to Cypriot data and implement the guidance of the British National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the diagnosis and management of CKD.

This process, it is noted, is now at an advanced stage, and we have already committed as a scientific body to contribute to the training and education of healthcare professionals for their correct use and implementation. We also promote the integration of new drugs into the GHS, whose effectiveness in treating CKD is supported by numerous serious and large clinical studies. The evaluation process of these drugs, it is reported, by the HIO and the Drug Advisory Committee has already begun.

Finally, for those patients reaching the final stage of CKD, it is noted that kidney transplantation offers the best clinical outcomes as well as better survival and quality of life.

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“The Architecture of Disability: A Discussion with Architect David Gissen”

Reimagining a city from the perspective of disability is much more than creating ramps on sidewalks,” says architect David Gissen. As an architect with years of disability experience, he speaks about the need to reconsider the values that shape our cities and to broaden our view beyond the concept of accessibility to include notions related to the intersections of disability critique in architecture with environmentalism and postcolonial perspectives on the city.

Interview with Bella Okuya

Translation: Editorial team of pass-world.gr

David Gissen is a Professor of Architecture and Urban History at the Parsons School of Design at The New School. His new book, “The Architecture of Disability: Buildings, Cities, and Landscapes Beyond Accessibility,” presents a new way of thinking about the history of architecture and architectural theory, placing disability at the center and changing the way we see the everyday built environment.

David Gissen

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind this book

A: I’ve spent my entire career in the world of architecture as a person with a disability. I am a survivor of pediatric bone cancer, underwent treatment here in New York in the 1980s. I am also an amputee.

I went to undergraduate architecture school as a person with a disability, partially using a wheelchair and crutches at the time. I went to college, did a Ph.D., was a curator, a professional, a practicing architect, and then returned to school to become an academic.

As someone with a long career in the world of architecture, I believe that ideas about debility, disability, and physical weakness are much more complex than simply making buildings more accessible.

The way we think about architectural history, architectural ideas about nature and the environment, the way architects create and design through architectural form, and the way cities urbanize and construct buildings are all intertwined with ideas about ability, debility, and disability.

I wanted to develop what I would call a disability architecture theory rather than just focusing on making architecture more practical for people with disabilities.

The genre of writing known as architectural theory interprets architectural history, the aesthetics of construction, and concepts about nature and the environment. My goal was to provide a critique from the perspective of disability on all these issues, especially on the way I learned, was encouraged to practice, and was encouraged to teach these ideas. Writing this book allowed me to express thoughts I had long held in one volume.

Q: Could you speak more about a key concept in the book, the “urbanization of impairment,” and how it relates to this theory?

A: Typically, contemporary critiques of cities for disability focus on ensuring greater access for people with disabilities to movement within urban spaces, such as sidewalks, roads, and public spaces. All of these, of course, are extremely important.

However, in my chapter “The Urbanization of Impairment,” I question whether the critique from the perspective of disability in the contemporary city should simply target access to the city as it is, or if it should reconsider some of the values embedded in urban spaces.

Jon Tyson/Unsplash

For example, many cities like New York and London manage water based on the European perception of hydrological management. The recent torrential rains in New York highlighted the limitations of our Western model of paved roads with curbs. There are various environmental critiques of roads and sidewalks that support alternative approaches to urban wastewater management.

There is an opportunity for people with disabilities to form alliances with environmentalists and postcolonial urban theorists who are redefining the streets. Reimagining traffic in urban spaces will likely reduce barriers experienced by people with disabilities and introduce a more nuanced approach to how cities are envisioned.

Disability activism often overlooks how navigating the city is governed by predetermined ideas about property rights and trespassing laws.

For example, when I walk along Long Street in New York – which is 950 feet long – and encounter a passage between two apartment buildings or buildings that would make my journey more accessible, I often see signs that say “no trespassing,” which hinder my ability to pass through.

This forces me to take a longer route around the block. It’s a simple example, but it underscores that while many disabled writers focus on sidewalks that determine our movement within cities – which is certainly true to some extent – it is primarily property rights, easements, and trespass laws that dictate urban navigation and determine the placement of sidewalks.

The critique of the city from the perspective of disability that I am writing about extends beyond the physical infrastructure and delves into the values ​​that are rooted in urban space. It questions ideas about property, urban mobility, hydrology, and environmentalism.

From my perspective, this entails the potential for an extensive political dialogue that transcends the scope of accessibility.

Josh Appel/Unsplash

Q: After reading your ideas about the “natural” – or what we consider “natural” – I saw my environment in a different way. What does it mean when you say that “nature is produced”?

A: I began my architectural career with a strong interest in architectural environmentalism, also known as the green movement in architecture, environmental movement in architecture, or sustainable architecture.

Over time, I became increasingly disillusioned with this movement. About two decades later, I realized that my disillusionment was connected to what I would describe as a form of “soft eugenics” – or an overemphasis on harnessing capability that I encountered in meetings, where architects proposed changing building materials to “revitalize” people. Some even proposed designing office buildings to enhance the health of workers and reduce sick days, ensuring the return on investment through the use of healthier materials.

I was troubled by the evaluation of elements of nature solely based on their capabilities, especially the concept of biocapacity. For example, trees were considered “good” because they absorb carbon and release oxygen, and certain species of shellfish were valued for their ability to clean up urban river waters. As someone who often feels incapable, I wondered who advocates for the “weak” aspects of nature.

Then I read “Concrete and Clay” by geographer Matthew Gandy. It focused on how cities produce nature both as a physical entity – such as Central Park, a fully designed landscape – and as an idea, assessing specific aspects of nature according to the demands of an industrial capitalist society.

The book was unlike anything else the environmental movement in architecture was concerned with. I applied to become Gandy’s doctoral student and spent six to seven years collaborating with him.

The architecture of disability reexamines much of this rationale, but from the perspective of a disability critique. I begin the book, Architecture of Disability, with a discussion of the national parks in the United States, particularly Yosemite. National parks like Yosemite are constructed spaces, designed to offer specific aesthetic qualities and experiences to visitors.

The earlier inhabitants, the Native Americans – who lived there for thousands of years – inhabited a very different landscape, which would resemble more of an agricultural landscape rather than the idea of wilderness that has been incorporated into it in the last 100 to 150 years.

The last twenty to thirty years have seen significant activism for increasing accessibility in these national parks. One of the questions I raise is whether advocating for increased accessibility in national parks is the right path for disability leadership in the United States.

Why don’t these leaders consider forming alliances with those who are reimagining the history of these spaces, seeking ways to weave together the land, landscapes, and resources with concepts of reconciliation and other forms of politics?


Excerpt from the article published in Public Seminar.

David Gissen is a Professor of Architecture and Urban History at the Parsons School of Design at The New School.

Bella Okuya is a candidate for an MFA in Photography at the Parsons School of Design.