Sunday, September 29, 2013

AXSmap volunteers upload reviews about Wheelchair accessibility

Today I took part in AXS Map's first Vancouver community mapping day, doing Yelp-style reviews about the degree of wheelchair accessibility being offered by some stores and restaurants. We were helping to test an application being developed by Jason Da Silva, an independent film maker and activist (and fellow Emily Carr alumnus). The above 1 1/2 minute video describes the project.

Jason lives and works in New York City. He started this mapping project as a positive, useful response to the frustration of trying to live an ordinary life using a scooter in a place with few public services that are truly wheel-chair accessible. He visualized a tool that would save him time by telling him whether or not he could get in a door before he found himself blocked by a couple of stairs. Working with Google Maps he invites people to contribute Yelp-style reviews that filter the range of available establishments for accessibility. Stars are assigned regarding washrooms and ease of access from the street, and reviewers can also choose to comment further.

I had a good time, seeing my familiar territory with a new perspective, in the company of Ray, another volunteer reviewer, and Tom, who was capturing us on video.

It didn't take us long to drop in and upload reviews on almost a dozen establishments on Granville Island. I was glad that I could recommend the GI Gelato and Coffee shop, for more than their Sugar-free Raspberry!

This is just the beginning of the mapping process in Vancouver, as well as other cities in North America. If you would like to sign up to become a reviewer, follow this link to the AXS Map website

Jason is also here at VIFF, the Vancouver International Film Festival, to screen his award winning film "When I Walk", about his life with MS. Here is the 2 1/2 minute trailer.

Art in the Face of Dementia

My dad, Fred, is the star and cameraman of this video, "Tipperary", made in 2009. Dad died the following year, but he showed up tonight at the Emily Carr Alumni Reunion, along with the dad of my conversational companion. We were talking about how we were using skills we learned at art school to find a creative response to the daily, relentless good-byes associated with losing a parent to Dementia.

Even though he was already deeply affected by dementia, I invited my dad to my 2008 Emily Carr graduation ceremony. By doing so in his own life, he had been my inspiration to take the plunge and quit my job so that I could finally go to art school while there was still time left in my life to enjoy the benefits. Dad and I got lots of family support so that we could share my big moment. My sister and her husband shepherded Dad off his plane and stayed by him the whole weekend. It was only later that they told me that most of the time Dad wasn't aware that he was in Vancouver. I was given the best seats in the house -- the box right over the stage -- but nobody got more than two tickets. So my son, David, did double duty as my photographer as well as taking care of dad. Sadly, there are very few unblurred photos of walk across the stage, since my dad kept elbowing David and exclaiming (loudly) "There she is! There she is!"

Reunions are a time to reflect, and this is my five-year mark. I feel privileged to have been able to live the dream that I was cooking up while working on this blog as my grad project. I visualized myself as a Community Artist, using the digital media technical skills I'd acquired to support elders in creating projects that were meaningful to them. I've not only been doing this, but also do my own work as part of a collective, Quirk-e (Queer Imaging and Riting Kollective of Elders). I now am writing and performing, as well as continuing with video and photography. When I stand up there and emote, I imagine Fred elbowing some angel and saying "That's my daughter!"