What this study on the accessibility of U.S. cities gets wrong - Generocity Philly

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Oct. 4, 2016 8:12 am

What this study on the accessibility of U.S. cities gets wrong

Philly ranks 63 out of 150 on a list of best U.S. cities for people with disabilities. Local accessibility advocate Ather Sharif says Philly isn't perfect, but the study is a bit flawed.

Access.

(Photo by Flickr user The West End, used under a Creative Commons license)

Ather Sharif has traveled the United States “quite a bit.” The EvoXLabs and Accessible World Conference founder claims Philadelphia is one of the “better cities for people with disabilities” to live in.

Yet, a recent WalletHub analysis of the best U.S. cities for people with disabilities ranks Philly 63rd out of 150.

Sharif’s not buying it.

“For me this study is a collection of facts based on finances and economy, which prematurely predicts the best places for people with disabilities,” said Sharif.

Generally, these analyses should be taken with a grain of salt. They’re published frequently (see here, here and here) with relevant metrics about cities thrown together and slapped with a catchy “best of” title. This particular analysis considered 25 metrics ranging from park access to percentage of people with disabilities.

Some metrics are qualitative. Others are quantitative.

“The percentage of disabled people living in a city, to me, surfaces curious questions as to why that is. Low living costs is a generic reason for anybody to live in that area. Low doctors fees is an insignificant metric as being disabled is not in any way synonymous to more frequent doctor visits.”

As a whole, Sharif said, the rankings “do not mean a lot.” It might have meant more, he said, if it had taken a few of the follow points into consideration:

  • “Is it a metropolitan city? A metropolitan city has more jobs, better healthcare and more rehab facilities and resources in general.”
  • How old is the city? An older city would have older buildings, which would definitely not be accessible.”
  • How accessible is the city? Accessibility of buildings, public places, etc.”
  • How sensitive is the community to such matters? Are there active support groups? Are there activists? Is the city listening to people with disabilities?”
  • How disabled-friendly is the city? The community in general. Are people uneducated and discriminatory?”

There are individuals, organizations and businesses (many of which Sharif is involved with) dedicated to making Philadelphia a universally designed city, Sharif said. The city isn’t perfect, nor is it close to being perfect, but it’s still “one of the better ones” despite the work that still needs to be done.

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But that’s not easy to measure.

“The disabled along with the local leaders and entrepreneurs give back to the city and run grassroots initiatives to do what they can,” said Sharif. “Unfortunately, there’s no metric for that but I’ll take that any day over a collection of facts tied to a chair and being forced to produce a sexy outcome.”

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Tony Abraham

Tony Abraham is Technically Media's special projects reporter, where he regularly writes for Generocity. He's a former reporter for Technical.ly in Delaware and Philly and a Philly News Award winner for "Community Reporting of the Year." A proud native of Allentown, Pa., the Temple University alumnus calls Fishtown home.

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