Choosing Designs That Choose Everyone

Choosing Designs That Choose Everyone

How could places be better designed for everyone?

After the Chicago fire city planners had the chance to redesign the city so that it could support all the people that had come to call it home. That's why Chicago is so grid-like. But this isn't the only instance of design being used to alter cities, in fact, almost every aspect of a city has been designed for one purpose or another.

It probably sounds simple now, but the fact that streets and sidewalks are designated for cars and people respectively wasn't always the case. Back in the day, people shared both spaces, and in some places, this seems to be the trend again. Some places are getting rid of road signs and letting people and cars share the road again. In many cases, this is letting people (on foot, and in cars) get to where they are going faster, and with fewer accidents.

In place of intersections, there is typically a round-about style crossing, where cars and people share the space, moving in whatever direction they need to go. Cars are forced to slow down, and pay absolute attention, no driving on "auto-pilot" and so there are fewer accidents because drivers are more cautious. But since cars don't have to wait for traffic lights, they usually get to where they are going faster - it sounds like a win-win.

But as we have seen this used so far there have been some concerns, namely for people who are visually impaired. Right now people who are visually impaired use road signs to navigate cities, and many of these road signs even have the ability to "speak" so that those who have trouble seeing at all can hear when it's okay to walk.

There needs to be more research before we see a design that works for everyone, a concept known as universal design. Universal design is designing things so that everyone can use them equally - and it is not easy.

Some of you may have noticed that in public restrooms newer toilets are usually higher, and this is pretty useful for people maneuvering out of a wheelchair, but what if you are a Little Person? What if it is now too tall for you? How do you live in, and explore a space that has been designed without you in mind?

Other design choices are made intentionally to exclude people. I know of no person who loves park benches, although the hard strips of wood (with wide gaps between them) aggressively pushing me in some places, which is made worse by the areas I am left with no support, rarely ruin my day (although sometimes make for an uncomfortable lunch). But what if these "benches" where your only place to rest for the night?

With armrests just big enough to stop you from lying down, they are made with the intent to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them, not unlike the tops of statues that have spiked to prevent birds from resting on them.

Design can not only make places more beautiful, or more efficient, design can dictate who space is for. When we design a city so that it is harder for people with visual impairment, or for Little People, then we are saying that they don't belong in this city.

When we design places, cities, our environment, we need to make choices that work for everyone, we need to choose designs that don't choose certain people for certain areas, we need to design for everyone.

Cover Image Credit: Insta_chicago

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Poetry On Odyssey: Some Days

A poem that reminds you that you're not alone.


Some days,

You dread the sound of your alarm. You snooze and snooze and snooze and snooze.

When you finally pull yourself out of bed, pressed time forces you to throw on stained sweats

you find yourself chugging a cup of coffee.

You sit on the couch and contemplate calling out of work

You caught the stomach bug,

Or perhaps the flu,

Maybe you broke your collar bone

Or need a new phone

The endless list of excuses repeats through your head as you sit on the couch, wishing you were still in bed.

It takes every ounce

Every breath

Every fiber of your being to pull yourself off the couch

And into the car

And into the building where you work

Some days,

This is just how it goes

You are not alone.

Some days,

You awake to the beautiful sound of birds

Chirping outside your window

The sun sneaks its way into your room

A smile creeps across your face as you realize you are awake to see a new day

You make a good breakfast

You read a few pages of your favorite book

You get your mind ready for the things it will accomplish today

Before you know it you've worked an entire day

Your job is done

As you pull into your driveway,

you take a few breaths

Feeling grateful for another meaningful day.

Some days,

This is how it goes

You are not alone.

Every day is a gamble,

Every day is a gift

The key to getting more good days

Is believing that everyday is one.

You are not alone, this is just how it goes.

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