University of Cincinnati Student Launches Hashtag Campaign to Start Conversation on Accessibility

Emily Ash is pictured with a dog wearing a service dog vest

Emily Ash, 24, is a University of Cincinnati student with a disability. She uses a wheelchair or sometimes a power scooter to get around campus and her neighborhood of Clifton. A few weeks ago, Emily was on campus and encountered a ramp with a very steep incline and a strange ridge at the top and a bump at the bottom.

These flaws made it impossible for her to use the ramp. Emily was struck by the irony that an intentional attempt to make the environment more accessible had actually become yet another barrier. She snapped a picture, used #thisisnotaccessibility as a hashtag*, and published the image on Instagram.

curb cut with concrete lip at the bottom

Image caption: A curbcut between two bricked surfaces is pictured. The curbcut is steep and has a ridge at the top and a bump at the bottom. 

Once Emily was home, she reflected on how many times she’d encountered barriers like the ramp. “It then occurred to me that I could probably find examples of poorly done attempts at accessibility all over campus, and for that matter, the city,” says Emily. About 12 hours after snapping her first picture, she launched a Facebook event to invite others from around the country and the world to join in a conversation about improving access.

The Facebook event serves as an online meeting place for people with disabilities (and their friends and family) who encounter failed accessibility attempts. Participants are encouraged to share their observations and images with the hashtag #thisisnotaccessibility on their own pages as well as the event page so that others can join the discussion around the need for better accessibility. In addition to physical barriers, participants are encouraged to post about policies and resources that need improvement.

sign that reads ADA Accessible Restroom on 2nd Floor

Image caption: Sign that reads “ADA Accessible on 2nd floor” above sign for women’s restroom.

The campaign reaches beyond merely reporting problems. The experience has also reminded Emily and its members of the value of support within the disability community. In less than a month, more than 1,300 people have joined Emily’s event. “Being able to be part of a community that understands what I go through on a day-to-day basis is huge for me.”

People with and without disabilities are invited to join Emily’s event and the hashtag campaign. There’s no end date. While the Instagram campaign and Facebook event were just recently launched by Emily, #thisisnotaccessibility has also been used on Twitter to spread awareness about the lack of accessibility. In just the last week, more than 3,500 people have been reached by tweets with this hashtag. While there’s still so much work to be done for a more inclusive society, it’s also important to recognize well-done accessibility efforts in our community. Far less popular than its counterpart right now, #thisisaccessibility is a hashtag we’d like to see more of in the future! The conversation around accessibility continues to grow across multiple social media platforms. Pick your favorite and join the dialogue!

Image caption: An image shared using the hashtag #thisisaccessibility. One of several sinks is shown with a step stool available so children or people of short stature can reach the sink independently.

*A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound (#) sign is used to group posts by topic or theme. The hashtag becomes a searchable link. This allows people to see what’s been posted about the topic even when the posts are made by people outside of their network. 


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