Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Visual Advocacy: Initial Research

I am researching local issues and major social problems within the Kansas City community so that I can brainstorm some possible topics to pursue. Eventually, I will be designing a concept to ignite a positive change to an important issue within my community. There are general issues that immediately jump to mind such as poverty, crime, violence (domestic), gangs, drugs, racism, gay rights, discrimination, gun control, pollution, going "green," recycling... and hmmm teen pregnancy.

I've spoke with friends who are involved in the community—whether through their volunteer work, profession or cultural interests—and found some issues that seem more on target with this project.

1. Mail carriers are often at risk of being bitten by dogs and their safety needs to be brought to attention.

2. The swine flu is still putting pregnant women, infants and their families, children and young adults at risk. Many people are oblivious to the threat of this virus and need to be informed of the H1N1 vaccines becoming available in October.

3. There seems to be a lacking supply of public information concerning the prevention of contracting HIV. One of my best friends has HIV and I want to find an innovative way to spread knowledge to the gay community about this issue.

4. Many drivers's safety is being put at risk due to the large number of teenagers who are irresponsibly cellphone texting while behind the wheel. Safety precautions need to be emphasized so that this issue can be kept under control.

5. The "panhandlers" on the plaza and surrounding intersections obnoxiously beg for money from sympathetic people and rack in $25-45 K tax free dollars annually while the city government seems to not want to address this issue. Most of these "homeless" people are crooks and have homes, families and fancy cars. I think there should be a ban, ordinance, or movement to make this illegal so that people start donating money to people who truly need it or to charities.

6. There is a gap here for homeless teens, especially with HIV, and the existing places like a covenant house are limited and due to their religious funding sources, they will not embrace condom HIV related education. Not too mention the legal and practical challenges of housing youth that technically may not be emancipated from a parent and not under a court order. The funding to house them doesn't exist like it would in a group home for offenders or people on disability. Is there a way to direct the community's attention to these kids in need?

7. Blind adults who want to engage in fitness activities and exercise have limited resources and are often disabled from the opportunity to work out like normal "seeing" people can. Ironically, I have seen a dedicated and determined blind man at 24 Hour Fitness being escorted around the gym by a trainer everyday while his walking dog is kept in an office. This is extremely rare, yet inspirational. There needs to be a better system to orchestrate and facilitate all blind people who are interested in fitness.

8. Cell phones have revolutionized life for most people, but for people with vision loss, finding a cell phone that they can use is nearly impossible. For example, features such as keys that can be identified by touch, displays that can be read by people with limited vision and phones with speech output for people who cannot read the phone's display are not widely available. Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires cell phones and phone services to be designed to be accessible for people with disabilities. However, far too many cell phone manufacturers and carriers are not taking seriously their accessibility obligation. The iphone has a new application that does make cellphone use easier for the blind. (see video)
What other ways could cellphone technology be improved to help local blind people use mobile devices to communicate.

9. The issue of Marriage Equality is a war of words, the definition of marriage, but also a question of rights. Are we all equal under the law? Why is Missouri not jumping on the bandwagon and joining the other states who are pushing for equal rights for gay Americans who want to marry their loved ones? There needs to be a strong campaign in Kansas City to instigate and spread open mindedness among a conservative midwest community, in order to open a doorway for passing a gay marriage law.

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