SASL Newsletter - Winter 2019 Issue Issue 16 - Winter 2019

The Power of ASL A Society Supporting Language, Literacy, and Performing Arts in the Signed Modality Winter 2019 A Newsletter of the Society for American Sign Language Issue 16 Secrets to the Impact of ASL Hidden in the Story of Sidewalks By Chad Jardine This is a story that really begins back in the 1960s. “Curb cuts” were a design innovation featured in a story from 99% Invisible. It’s the story of how one idea’s influence spread far beyond the original intentions of those who came up with it and those who promoted it. What in the world is a curb cut? Curb cuts are the now-ubiquitous ramping corners of city sidewalks. Before the 1960s there were only a handful of places using curb cuts and they certainly were not widespread. The new approach to sidewalk design wasn’t merely convenient. Around this time electric wheelchairs began to be more common. Why did that make any difference? Before self-propelled wheelchairs, the wheelchair itself was not just a tool deployed for the use of its rider. The mobility of wheelchair riders was tied to an attendant as well. Another person was required if they wanted to go anywhere. Motorized wheelchairs meant that, for the first time, wheelchair riders could ditch their attendants. Self-propelled chairs meant independence. That is until you got to the first sidewalk corner where a 6” concrete drop created an impenetrable obstacle for wheelchair riders. So, a small group of wheelchair-bound activists at Berkeley led by Ed Roberts campaigned for curb cuts. They wanted something familiar to members and allies of the Deaf community. They wanted access. (Continue on page 7) The Power of ASL 1 Winter 2019 – Issue 16