At the time of writing this post the word is now six months in to a truly transformative global event with COVID-19. Large portions of society have moved to working from home while others navigate changing work environments to manage the risk of being exposed to a contagious virus. We behave differently in grocery stores, public transit and even on the sidewalk. As we dodge people to socially distance on crowded sidewalks, squint a little harder at a monitor for hours while working from home everyone is adapting around new barriers to living everyday life.
In many ways the pandemic has been a great unifier around accessibility as everyone experiences different barriers to their mobility or freedoms. Lockdowns, health restrictions, social / physical distancing and the use of face masks are changing how we interact as a society. Our newly forming habits combined with how we spend time are also starting a wider conversation around how we use public spaces both indoors and outdoors.
With the closure of many indoor spaces and more people working at home our streets, parks and public spaces have become prized real estate! Our provincial and national parks are increasingly seen as welcome escapes from cites not designed for social distancing. That is putting pressure on rural communities with people coming to their communities. Tiny condos or apartments once seen as resting space when not out socializing now become true homes and havens.
On the positive side this is getting more people interested in the importance of park spaces, wider streets for mobility, and other amenities and places where we can safely spend time. Cities across the country are making short term adaptations to accommodate the reallocation of space on streets to accommodate pop up spaces, patios and more. A recent guide outlines many examples and references for other cities to follow.
At the same time some innovations are putting up barriers to people with low vision and limiting equitable participation from people from all walks of society. Rules around social distancing can be challenging for someone with low vision or blindness who relies more on touch and physical contact to understand the world around them. Their ability to access public transit becomes more daunting both from fear of the virus and as service frequency is reduced in response to low ridership. Drive in only concerts and movies enable the show to go on but only for those who come with a required drivers license or access to vehicles.
As we move from the immediate health crisis to a managed opening of our economy that will be with us until a vaccine is available it will be important that health guidelines enable inclusive participation while balancing public health objective for the population as a whole. This is even more essential as we learn how COVID-19 has impacted lower income and less mobile groups in our society. Consider for a moment the priority given by governments to the re-opening of boat launches and golf courses against public parks, libraries and playgrounds.
So what can we do to keep the conversation going in support of a transformation that supports more accessible and inclusive spaces for everyone during and coming out of this pandemic?
Managing Eye Strain
For anyone working from time over the past few months you have probably felt growing pressures on your eyes. Whether using a monitor, tablet or smart phone most of us have seen a doubling or tripling in our respective screen time in our work hours alone. Screen time outside of work hours only adds to this demand. Combined this places more demand on our eyes and mental concentration with strain accumulating over time.
Below are some suggestions on how people can reduce and manage eyestrain.
Trained in town planning, an avid traveler and legally blind myself I write on issues and opportunities is see along my travels that could improve our cities from a visual perspective.