The mission of the National Ability Center (NAC) is “to empower individuals of all abilities by building self-esteem, confidence and lifetime skills through sport, recreation and educational programs.” During our weekly SpO Committee meeting, Andrea Stack, the Camp, Community and Education Senior Manager, conducted a Zoom training for us all.
One of my takeaways from the session is that the environment we are living in is flawed. It is full of dangerous and inconvenient structures that hinder people from accessing it fully. Thus, we need to alter our infrastructure to allow all of us, despite our abilities and disabilities, to live together. This reminds me of how Michigan State University, the University of Northern Colorado, and some other colleges build their sidewalks. In the beginning, these schools left their campus with bushes and trees and wait for the students to find their desired paths, then they built the roads based on that. If you look at the school map from the satellite view, you would see a spiderweb of pathways and they don’t look the prettiest. However, they were the most effective ones identified since ancient times. So, in the case of these universities, nature was transformed to fit humans’ needs and infrastructure was in place to improve people’s life quality.
But then this reminds me of the series “Extreme Homes” on Netflix. The majority of the buildings here won several awards and they blend themselves into nature. The architects tried their best to minimalize their impacts on the surrounding environments, yet make the houses extremely desirable to live in. I remember this one house being built in the forest, where there resided many tall, precious trees, the house owner tasked their architect to be creative with the shape of the house so that it’s spacious without harming a single tree. The architect ended up designing a mansion that was any shape but rectangular and integrated some trees into the house. It was absolutely stunning. Instances like this make me question the statement that Andrea made in the disability panel. What rights do we have to transform nature so that they are what we need and want?
At the end of the day, I think both ideas are right, depending on the context and purposes of the infrastructure. However, no matter what the results are like, infrastructures are humans to use and they are only truly friendly if we humans are respectful of each other and know how to act right.