Colleen Starkloff Talks Disability with Visitors from Hungary

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When anyone wants to learn about issues, quality of life and organizations with a disability focus, Colleen gets a call. Colleen Starkloff Talks Disability with visitors from around the world who come to St. Louis for international exchanges.

This year the international visitors were from Budapest, as well as other cities in Hungary. They were hosted by the World Affairs Council of St. Louis. The objectives of their visit included:
1.) Examine U.S. public and private sector approaches to ensuring accessibility in housing and public spaces;
2.) Illustrate how people with disabilities collaborate with urban planners and architects to improve accessibility;
3.) Explore the role of academic and practical training programs in promoting inclusive design and best practices; and
4.) Analyze a variety of issues relating to accessibility for schools, public transportation, recreation and community centers, as well as entertainment and commercial venues.

The group included: The Legal Advisor for the National Federation of Associations of Persons with Physical Disabilities in Hungary; the Curator and Chief Development Officer for the Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Center; the President of the National Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired; an architect with REHABEXPERT, Ltd.; four members of the Never Give Up Foundation of Hungary; and three simultaneous interpreters.

To successfully talk disability, Colleen took these guests to see 6 North, an 80-unit apartment complex in the Central West End which is totally universally designed. Universal design (UD) is the design of products and spaces to be used by the greatest number of people with the least amount of adaptation or specialized design. This means that design can be created in such a way that access features are inconspicuous, beautiful and very welcoming to all users, including people with disabilities.

All of the visitors were eager to see and experience the universal design features that abound at 6 North. They took a lot of pictures! The architects were especially keen to see the building, since they wish to promote UD broadly in Hungary.

The group was also interested in accessibility in public transportation systems, so Colleen then walked with them from 6 North to the Metro Link train station at Cortex. They rode the train to the Starkloff Disability Institute’s downtown office for a further discussion about programs offered at SDI, and a comparison to what is offered in Hungary.

Friday night, they continued Talking Disability at Colleen’s home where she hosted a dinner party in their honor. Sarah Schwegel, our Youth Transition Coordinator, joined this dinner party. The group wanted to know more about organizations, services, attitudes toward disabled people, housing, employment options and programs that promote disability hiring, as well as attendant services for people with significant disabilities. Federal and state sources of income to support disabled people was also something they were curious about.

Some members of the group wanted to take a deeper dive into employment issues and asked Colleen to Talk Disability employment with them at breakfast on Saturday morning. Of particular interest in that conversation was how blind people can convince employers that they are employable.

The Starkloff Disability Institute is grateful to have been able to learn from them and share what has been accomplished by the Disability Rights Movement in the U.S. “This was a great group to spend so much time with!” Colleen professed.

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