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How Equitable Infrastructure Investments Benefit Everyone

A call for the country to focus its infrastructure investments to the most vulnerable and neglected populations—and watch the benefits compound.
December 21, 2016, 7am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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ADA Ramp

Angela Glover Blackwell writes of the "Curb-Cut Effect"—the benefits to the general welfare as an effect of laws and programs designed to benefit vulnerable populations.

The article starts with an anecdote about a guerilla mobility action in Berkeley in the early 1970s, when Michael Pachovas and a few friends "poured cement into the form of a crude ramp" as a political action to support the mobility of the disabled community. The action later became referred to as "the slab of concrete heard 'round the world," paving the way for the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The curb cuts required by the ADA, however, precipitated a new era of mobility for the larger population as well. "When the wall of exclusion came down, everybody benefited—not only people in wheelchairs. Parents pushing strollers headed straight for curb cuts. So did workers pushing heavy carts, business travelers wheeling luggage, even runners and skateboarders," writes Glover Blackwell.

From that example from the physical environment Glover Blackwell expands the argument to the demographic realm, noting that "[p]olicymakers tend to overlook the ways in which focusing on one group might help all groups and strengthen the whole nation." More examples and arguments focusing on the physical environment, like bike lanes and bus service, follow later in the article.

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Published on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 in Stanford Social Innovation Review
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