Class assignments provide opportunities to learn, practice, and demonstrate acquired knowledge, and sometimes they do more than that by planting seeds of creative and entrepreneurial inspiration for developing new products or services.
It was a class assignment, combined with her own personal experiences as a disabled person, that gave Professional and Public Writing major Charlotte Bachelor the inspiration she needed to establish the Detroit Accessibility Project (DAP), a nonprofit organization that serves as an online resource for accessibility information on several venues located in downtown Detroit.
The DAP website, which launched in October 2022, currently contains accessibility information on more than 40 art and entertainment venues in Detroit with the goal of adding even more. For each of these venues, the website includes information on elevators, parking, restrooms, ASL interpreters, listening devices, service animals, wheelchair accessibility and rental, and sensory kits. An app version of the DAP website is also currently in the early stages of development.
The DAP serves as a resource for people who have oftentimes been forgotten and was founded by Bachelor on the belief that a disability should never stop anyone from visiting a cultural space or hinder their ability to experience the overall joy of the city.
“No one should be forgotten, be a second thought, or lack the resources to live as themselves.”
“No one should be forgotten, be a second thought, or lack the resources to live as themselves,” said Bachelor, who in 2019, during her sophomore year, took a medical leave from Michigan State University and soon was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which impacts her energy and mobility levels on a daily basis. Later, she also was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Bachelor described the diagnoses as “bittersweet.” She now has a name and an explanation for everything she has experienced and was able to seek treatment, which allowed her to return to MSU for the Spring 2020 semester.
It was during the Spring 2021 semester in her Community Publishing class (WRA 483) taught by Kate Birdsall, Associate Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures and Director of The Cube, that Bachelor was assigned to write two articles to send to different publications. For this assignment, she focused on her own online dating experiences as a disabled person.
“I decided to write the second article about accessible date night locations and, as I started researching, I realized there wasn’t accessibility information for downtown Detroit compiled in one place,” she said. “Instead of writing an article, I created a Google Doc organized by venue type and copied information from each website. Everyone in the class thought it was a great idea.”
Bachelor took on the project as an independent study, working under the supervision of Birdsall, and became the Project Manager for the DAP. With Birdsall’s guidance, Bachelor presented the project at the 2022 Digital Humanities THATCamp and received funds for the DAP from the Creating Inclusive Excellence Grants program and the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF).
“Kate really gave me the first set of tools on how to become a project manager and my first introduction to grant writing and hiring people,” Bachelor said. “The Cube is such a nebulous entity here at MSU, but it makes it easy for students to put their ideas into the world.”
“I feel incredibly proud that my work is now a resource to others…It’s a bit intimidating to think about considering this all started from a school project and now I have a nonprofit before even graduating college.”
The grants allowed Bachelor to delegate the user experience and web design work to a group of 10 students who were able to execute the final site build in a timely manner.
“It was a win-win situation; I got help with my project and other College of Arts & Letters students got a great experience to put on their resume,” Bachelor said. “This isn’t something I could’ve done on my own.”
Bachelor’s work with the DAP has since garnered the attention of Visit Detroit, a visitor’s guide to the Detroit metropolitan area, which asked her to be a freelance writer on accessibility issues for its website.
Bachelor is looking forward to graduating in May 2023 with a B.A. in Professional and Public Writing and a minor in African American and African Studies. She plans to move back to Detroit and continue to spread the word about the Detroit Accessibility Project by connecting with local venues. She also hopes to partner with other local disability-focused organizations to bring her model to the greater metropolitan Detroit area in the hopes of inspiring venue owners and local governments to rethink accessibility.
“I feel incredibly proud that my work is now a resource to others, and the response has been incredibly positive, from family, friends, and other community organizations,” Bachelor said. “It’s a bit intimidating to think about considering this all started from a school project and now I have a nonprofit before even graduating college.”
To learn more about the Detroit Accessibility Project, follow the nonprofit organization on Instagram.
Written by Kseniya Lukiy