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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Access 4 All seeks to make Spokane more accessible

by Lynn Swedberg, Contributing Writer

Dave Reynolds coordinates Access 4 All Spokane.

Every time he hears that someone was excluded from a place of business because of a disability, Dave Reynolds’ heart hurts. 

For five years, he has been the founding and guiding force behind Access 4 All Spokane, a group working to make the region a more welcoming place for people with disabilities. 

“This isn’t about ADA compliance,” he said, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act that forms the basis of accessibility guidelines. Dave feels that eliminating barriers that exclude others is about social justice.  

“It’s about spreading welcoming and accessibility because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Rather than point out what is wrong, which raises defenses of an organization or business, Dave identifies what is being done right and steps to improve.  He uses positive approaches, appealing to those who understand it isn’t right to shut out the 20 percent of the population who live with a visible or hidden disability.  His focus is on building relationships with organizations that want to change.

“If they have the right mindset, they can learn to do the right stuff,” he said.

Access 4 All Spokane grew out of events in 2012.  Dave wondered why Spokane never received an Accessible City award and what the criteria were. 

In a meeting, he heard of a client who loved to shop but whose wheelchair often didn’t fit through store aisles. Clerks were reluctant to assist her and once told her assistant they had to leave. 

Believing there ought to be a way to identify disability-friendly businesses, they found the group Blue-Path.org, a website developed by the Northwest ADA Center in Seattle to list accessible businesses. 

Dave and Alisa Padgett, who is an advocate with the Coalition of Responsible Disabled—now Spokane Center for Independent Living—reviewed local businesses for accessibility. They quickly realized they could never make sufficient progress in a city the size of Spokane, so they invited organizations to send representatives to an informational meeting.

The response was overwhelming.  Thirty-five people, some of whom are still active today, attended the first meeting in October 2012.  Participants came from local colleges, state agencies, advocacy organizations, service clubs and agencies serving people with vision and hearing loss.

After meeting for several years, the group learned Washington State had funds to develop county Accessible Communities Advisory Committees.  With county support, Access 4 All applied to be the Spokane County committee. 

Fifteen people representing various disabilities were appointed to serve on rotating terms.  This status allowed Access 4 All to apply for state grants to carry out accessibility work.

Dave is now completing the second grant cycle and has applied for a third grant for a day-long regional conference.  Both monthly meetings are open to visitors and new members any time.

The work of both committees involves many community partnerships.  Volunteers serve as an advisory committee to the City of Spokane Parks Department and are involved in plans for the inclusive playground to be built at Riverfront Park. 

Others participate in the Community Organizations Active in Disasters committee, explaining needs of people with disabilities related to emergency preparedness. 

Dave has trained people who have completed accessibility reviews at the Spokane County Fairgrounds, other county buildings and some businesses. 

Access4AllSpokane.org is beginning to list accessible and disability-friendly businesses endorsed by people with disabilities.  

In collaboration with other Access 4 All members, Dave offers a course called “Making Welcome,” which helps employees overcome their fear of making an embarrassing mistake when interacting with a person with a disability.

The class provides tools for employees to feel confident serving customers who face challenges related to disabilities.  Persons living with disabilities help class participants learn how some businesses can meet their needs.

For instance, a deaf man said round or oval tables are easier for reading lips or using sign language, and keeping TV captions on helps everyone have access. 

A woman who is blind relates her pet peeve: servers who walk away without telling her they are leaving, so she continues talking when no one is there. 

Finding Accessibility is another course in which Dave trains people to look for and point out accessible features of the environment. 

Advocacy for All teaches collaborative problem-solving so participants learn to generate solutions to barriers they find. 

Dave believes his approach has parallels with ministry, and churches also need to be welcoming.

When Access 4 All representatives visit, businesses are often pleased to learn many changes cost next to nothing.  For example, they can lower a restroom sign to be more visible to a person using a wheelchair and can add a lower hook in the accessible stall. 

The checklist reflects local priorities.  Eastern Washington University disability studies students conducted focus groups and learned more through an online survey and interviews.  The students are building a platform for recording reviews. The program will generate a report, increasing the speed of the review process.

In addition to working for Access 4 All, Dave works part-time for the Arc of Spokane, which supports his efforts. They released him to do the two grant projects and let him work out of his office. 

Dave has served individuals with disabilities throughout his career, beginning with helping some find employment.  He serves as an advocate for his clients.  He likes to “be the one who helps them realize what potential they have.” 

He trained agencies on Positive Behavior Support in 11 counties.  He edited a daily Disability Rights News service from 1999 to 2016. 

For his work, he received an Access Spokane award for advocacy in 2016. 

“I’ve always been a disability rights activist without realizing what that was,” Dave said. 

As a child, Dave wondered why some classmates didn’t understand a friend who had a speech impediment.

“You just had to take the time and listen and ask him if you didn’t understand,” he said. 

It didn’t dawn on him why he never saw some friends at his school or that they had “labels.” 

Except for attending George Fox University, where he earned a degree in human resources, Dave has lived in Spokane County.  He graduated from Liberty High School.  His family has lived in the region for nearly 150 years.  

His grandmother took him to the Four Square Gospel church when he was a child.  He now attends Manito United Methodist Church, where he discovered cousins.  He has also joined Manito’s Inclusivity Committee. 

The church’s theology resonates with his focus on the positive, said Dave, whose wife, Joyce, supports his work. 

What the future holds is unknown, but Dave believes he will take the next steps and Access 4 All will continue to help the region become more welcoming. 

From interest shown when people stopped by the Access 4 All booth at a recent national conference, he hopes the model will be replicated around the U.S.

For information, call 216-2611, email dave@access4allspokane.org or visit www.Access4AllSpokane.org. 





Copyright © February 2018 - The Fig Tree