Hello Upham Woods Community!
My name is Katie, and I am the Accessibility Intern at Upham Woods this summer! I am in the third week of my internship and have already learned so much about accessibility in camp settings, potential barriers to access, and ways to adapt programs to be more inclusive.
A little background on me: I am originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin though I am attending school in New Hampshire to receive my master’s degree in Environmental Education. I became connected to Upham Woods through a project I worked on last semester on Universal Design. For this project, I interviewed Upham Woods Accessibility Coordinator Rachael Lewandowski-Sarette, on the concept of Universal Design and how Upham Woods incorporates this goal into their programs. Rachael shared with me some of the efforts currently being done at Upham Woods, alongside a few of the barriers and difficulties that can come with this. After our interview, she mentioned the opportunity to intern this summer, and the internship turned out to be a perfect fit (I also get to be in Wisconsin, which is an added bonus)!
Diving a little deeper into Universal Design and how Upham Woods incorporates this concept: Universal Design is the goal of removing as many barriers to participation as possible. Some examples of barriers to participation are financial, physical, societal, and educational. Another element of Universal Design is that it acknowledges that accessibility and inclusion are goals to always work towards. I find this to be very exciting! Looking at a vast concept like Universal Design as a goal encourages the active application of evaluation and acknowledges all the efforts that add to the overall goal.
This leads me to some of the work I have been doing this summer, alongside Upham Woods staff, to further accessibility initiatives and overall add to the goal of Universal Design. One project I am particularly excited about is assisting in creating updated trail maps for the property. Currently, Upham Woods trail maps do not include information on which trails are accessible and what accessible means regarding trails. For example, some of our trails are accessible with the all-terrain wheelchair we will be getting in July, others are accessible by a standard wheelchair, and some are not accessible by wheelchair. We hope to get this trail map created and posted on our website so that people who want further information about the trails and the property can easily find it online!
Another element of my position is assisting with Upham Woods’s adaptive gear. I have had few opportunities to learn about adaptive gear in person, so most of the gear Upham Woods has is new to me. I appreciate Upham Woods’s mentality surrounding adaptive gear, as it is one I believe more organizations could apply. With previous organizations I have worked for, it was not uncommon to hear people reject the idea of adaptive gear because they were unsure how much use the gear would get. Upham Woods takes another approach. Instead, Upham Woods makes efforts to purchase adaptive gear, train staff on how to use it, advertise that it is available, and provide communities with opportunities to use the gear. I appreciate this approach as it acknowledges that accessibility is not about just purchasing gear and hoping people will use it, rather, it is a process that requires active effort.
Though there are many elements of this position I am enthusiastic about, I have been reminded of a valuable lesson surrounding accessibility: it takes time! I can get excited about new ideas and want to implement them all right away, though realistically, this process is much longer as accessibility requires thoughtfulness, collaboration, cultural responsiveness, and communication. I am grateful for this reminder as it challenges me to practice patience while maintaining excitement and joy for the work currently being done.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and I will be excited to share more updates later in the summer!