As a disability ally, when the initial rendering plans for the new Harborplace were announced, my first question was: “How are they planning to make it inclusive for disabled Baltimoreans?”
After reading the masterplan and the most recently released community engagement report, I was left wondering if hearing the input of disabled Baltimore community members is a priority or if it will be an afterthought.
Numerous public spaces in Baltimore continue to be inaccessible to a significant portion of the population due to accessibility and design limitations. In 2021, 66% of Baltimore city sidewalks were not wheelchair accessible. Baltimore Harborplace can be a model of inclusivity. To fully understand the barriers faced by disabled individuals, MCB Real Estate must initiate an ongoing conversation.
I applaud MCB’s efforts so far to engage with segments of the Baltimore community. But I hope MCB will prioritize engaging with the disabled community and consider ways to have its perspectives included throughout the project. It’s important to note that everyone benefits from accessibility, not just disabled people. Ramps allow wheelchair users access while also making life easier for the parents with a stroller or the tourist with wheeled luggage.
The absence of input from disabled Baltimoreans during all stages of this project, but especially now, would inevitably result in barriers to access for many and require costly renovations later.
I encourage MCB Real Estate to consider going above the limited Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and have this project Universal Design Certified. Universal design is a framework that promotes inclusivity and accessibility for all individuals, regardless of age, ability or disability.
Everyone who believes in the importance of having our Harborplace be a leader of inclusion should make themselves heard. We can submit feedback on the project’s website. The development team has also launched a Facebook page, Our Harborplace, as an additional way to submit feedback.
Lydia Moro works for a disability-led advocacy group, RespectAbility, in its National Leadership Program.