On August 28, OCALI’s Office of Policy led a conversation. But this wasn’t just any conversation. It was part of The Big Table, an initiative created by the Columbus Foundation. It’s a day-long event where community-led conversations take place across central Ohio. Individuals, businesses, nonprofit organizations sit around a table, share a snack, and have a conversation about a topic important to them.
For OCALI, choosing a topic was easy.
Based on Microsoft’s successful efforts to make accessibility and inclusion part of its mission, Teresa Kobelt of OCALI’s Office of Policy, challenged more than 30 Big Table participants to “imagine a future where accessibility and inclusion are in our DNA…what does Columbus look like?”
For one group, it took the form of glasses. As the group spokesperson explained, “We all look at the world through glasses – either physical or metaphorical. What if we all looked through the lenses of empathy, education, compassion and awareness. Then accessibility and inclusion would certainly be part of our DNA.”
The conversation, broken into two parts, included representatives from across central Ohio – from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the Columbus Convention Center to faith-based organizations such as Young Life. The first part of the conversation focused on community-based experiences – transportation, hospitality and events, while the second part was focused on how the faith community could impact accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.
As one participant shared, “The struggle for civil rights and social justice has always started in the church – from the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to women’s suffrage to our country’s current struggles. It would then stand that accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities should be embraced and advanced by the church as well.”
The conversation was broad and yet specific – with people sharing their own personal experiences and perspectives, but also offering up ideas and solutions to help shape the future of accessibility and inclusion in central Ohio. Participants met new people, shared existing resources and even began to talk about creating new services and opportunities in the local community.
In follow up to her time at OCALI, one participant said “I am so glad I participated. There will be many more conversations taking place as a result.”
We hope so. That was the goal all along.