Contributing to an Inclusive Downtown Raleigh

John Samuel, Fred Johnson, and Philip Woodward standing next to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance podium
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John Samuel, Fred Johnson, and Philip Woodward standing next to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance podium

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Downtown Raleigh Alliance‘s (DRA) State of Downtown conference where they celebrated individuals, businesses, and organizations whose contributions are making a significant impact on Downtown’s success. The theme of the event was #OurStoryOurDowntown and it hit close to home for me.

 

I attended the event with fellow members of the Mayor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities, but I also mingled with people from various stages in my life – some of whom I had not seen in nearly twenty years!

 

Although I hail from Cary, I did go to middle and high school (not to mention college) in Raleigh, and my bus would go through the streets of downtown on my way home from school. As a kid, I use to love looking at the skyline, which existed of just one larger building – the BB&T building. Our city has changed a lot over the past 20 years, and it is exciting what has become of our once sleepy Downtown.

 

As a high schooler , downtown was the ideal location to skip school, because no one was there and you were not going to be caught! Now, I find myself regularly visiting downtown with my two little boys, visiting Marbles Children’s Museum (like I did this past weekend), or visiting one of the new Food Halls, which are bringing new flavors to the city. Not only has my family life changed over the past two decades, but I have also developed a visual disability, which has affected the way that I engage with the city.

 

At the event last week, they highlighted several of the things that Downtown has done to make the city more inclusive of people with disabilities, most notably their accessible parking efforts, but one thing that was not emphasized was the fact that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance worked with our team at LCI Tech, to ensure that their new website that they launched earlier this year was accessible.

 

When people think about efforts they can take to make a city more accessible, they are thinking primarily about the sidewalks, parking, and other physical barriers. However, we now live in a digital world, where we rely on websites and mobile apps at every stage of our downtown experience, even before we place a single foot on a downtown sidewalk. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance understood this, and did something about it.

 

When I was told I was going blind, I thought my story was over in Raleigh, and that was one of the hardest parts of my diagnosis. However, like downtown Raleigh, I have been revitalized, and I am ready to contribute to #OurStoryOurDowntown!

 

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