The ‘curb-cut effect’ is a phenomenon that is not talked about enough, even though it has been around for decades.
But what is curb-cut effect? And how does it affect (in a positive way) almost every single person in society?
Hopefully, if more people understand it, it will allow all of us to open our minds about certain features that we see in society today that, although are not primarily for us, we ended up benefiting from it too.
To understand more on what I’m talking about, you can watch the video below…:
…listen to the podcast here (or on your podcasting platform of your choice)…:
…read the transcript.
What is curb cut? And what is ‘curb-cut effect’? And how does it influence pretty much every single person on the planet?
This is a very interesting topic because it’s something that people don’t really think about. And I love those things; where you experience it every single day, but until someone highlights it, then it opens your mind a bit more. And this is where we talk about the ‘curb-cut effect’
What are “curb cuts”?
Just to break it down a little bit; curb cuts are those ramps that you see at the end of pavements (or sidewalks for my American/Australian friends), those are the ramps that allow wheelchair-users to get on and off the pavements.
And we see them everywhere, don’t we? Wee see them in most major cities and towns across the globe. And they’re very useful.
They do have many names. I believe they are also called curb ramp, depressed curbs, curb drop, kerb and kerb ramp as in kerb…K-E-R-B.
That’s how I believe we spell it in the UK.
It seems like a normal thing, doesn’t it? To have curb cut, and it’s just a standard feature. But obviously it wasn’t there forever.
When it was originally introduced in the 1940s in the U.S. It was originally designed to help disabled veterans who were also wheelchair users to get around, to get out and about.
But it wasn’t until the 1970 when it really became prominent. And it really came about when a group of disabled activists led by Ed Roberts from Berkeley, California, and they’re all students from University of California in Berkeley.
And basically they wanted to show an act of defiance, a political statement about how inaccessible it is for wheelchair users to get around the city.
And they did that by doing things like pouring cement at the end of pavements so that you can create a ramp for them to make it easy for them to get on and off. Or even just breaking it down a little bit to make it easier to get on and off the pavement when you are on a wheelchair.
And it’s just to highlight it. It’s to show that this is what they want, it’s so inaccessible as it is. And they wanted to make a point. And it was an acts of defiance to the city council and to make their voices heard.
But it did a little bit more than that because then it became a city policy in 1971, and Berkeley became the first city in the world to have a so called curb cut that back then nobody knew of. And it seemed like a normal thing, isn’t it? We see it all the time and it’s good.
What are “curb cut effects”?
But have you really thought about the curb cut effect of it?
Ah, well this is where I’m going to get into the definition of that. The ‘curb cut effect’ is the phenomenon where a feature or an item that is originally for disabled people or it’s like a disability feature, it actually has a wider use that is universally beneficial for a big group of people. So it’s not just focus on disabled people.
So if we talk about the curb cut again, it end up being very useful for those who are, for example, pushing a stroller or pram on and off the curb, or those who are pulling their suitcases on and off the curb or the cyclist or skateboarders. Or maybe those who just happens to be delivery drivers and workers who have big rack of parcels and they want to push you on to the curb to get into the building.
That kind of useful for them as well. So it ends up being called the curb cut effect, because the original purpose actually became a much more beneficial thing to have for a much wider group of people.
A few more examples of items that have the curb cut effects: grocery delivery. Now, of course it’s convenient, it’s handy, but it ends up having a bigger thing for people who, for example, disabled themselves. But people who also maybe just have some kind of social anxiety disorder or depressive disorder and it’s a struggle for them (to go to supermarkets).
Maybe people who don’t have cars or it’s very difficult to get public transport to the supermarket. They can get their groceries delivered.
Maybe single parents; they really don’t have that much time left after looking after children, so they just get the groceries delivered. So many benefits…curb cut effects.
Another example are the voice-activation tools, the Alexa’s, the Siri’s, the Cortana’s; all these tools that have been around for a while now and they seem to be quite handy.
But then if you think about it, they are extremely handy for people who have mobility issues, and they can’t do the basic things that maybe we take for granted, ike turning on the light, you get up to turn on the light.
Well, if you have all these tools connected, you can just shout out the command and there is the light are on. That’s actually quite cool.
And then a simple one is like elevator. Do I need to explain the benefits elevated and how it can help many people? I think you get the point.
But what does ‘curb cut effect’ have anything to do with deafness?
But what does this have to do with deafness and deaf awareness if I’m talking about curb cut effect. How is that linked to deafness? Well, it actually does. And there are a few examples of them.
The big one for me is when I talk about the benefits of captions or subtitle. Because originally people thought they are useful for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and that’s that’s it. That’s who are going to benefit from it.
But if you have been watching or listening to me or reading my stuff, you know that I’ve been talking about the benefit of captions and how it can help a lot of people.
For example, you could have a sound processing disorder.
You could be learning a new language and you just find it easier to read it.
You could be in somewhere in a noisy environment, like on a bus or a plane or something and you can’t hear it. But you can put on the captions.
Or maybe you need to be somewhere quiet and you can’t turn on the volume, but you want to watch a video, turn on the captions.
And maybe you want to help your children to not just watch TV but improve their literacy rate. Well, you know what? Having captions can help with that as well.
There are so many benefits and there are more are actually, and that is the curb cut effects of captions.
Another one that has a wide appeal across the world now…huddle. As in when people huddle around together in sports. Because the origin of huddle, the way it was started was because of Deaf students in Gallaudet University for American football, they were playing against another deaf team and they wanted to communicate in secret in sign language, of course, and they did that by huddling.
And that is the origin of huddle, which now, we see it all the time in a variety of sports and they are not used by deaf people. Actually, everyone can use it; they all huddle around, communicate, get the message across, encouragements…“Let’s go! Break!”…and you win the game or stuff like that.
But you get the point. That has a curb cut effect with the original purpose of it was to sign in secret, but it has a much wider appeal.
The curb cut effects proves that inclusivity benefits everyone
Now there is a more detailed article about curb cut effect here. But what is really the point of this, is that inclusivity helps everyone whether you notice it or not. And most of the time we don’t notice it.
So next time you think about some kind of accessibility feature or adding something on a website or in a society somewhere where you think “urgh, it’s only going to help X number of people or small group of people”.
Well, actually it may have that curb cut effect where it will help a wider range people, it will have a benefit to society. And most likely it will do that. It will have a positive knock-on effect to so much more people than you think. So consider that when you’re thinking about should we or could we or should we? But really you should do it. I mean it, just do it!
But at least you know now you are many more benefit to it. Consider the curb cut effects.
If you have any more examples of curb cut effect, let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear them. I would love to see different sources and mindsets and what you see in the wild that you thought “you know what? That actually helps”. You know, more people than originally targeted for.
Let me know in the comments. And while you are at it, I would appreciate it if you also Subscribe, Follow, Hard, Love, Hug, High Five, Fist Bump…all of these things. Whatever you can do, I would really appreciate it if you can do that.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
- What is ‘audism’? Plus my personal experiences of facing audism - October 27, 2021
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- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021
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