Achieving Public and Accessibility
A New Approach for Public Libraries
The Cambridge Public Library has taken a groundbreaking step by hiring a social worker, Marie Matthews, to assist people facing challenges in their lives. Matthews’ role goes beyond connecting people with books – she supports those who visit the library for purposes other than reading. This includes providing homeless individuals with information about available public services and helping immigrants with document preparation.
The number of libraries hiring social workers has significantly increased over the past decade. While there were only ten such libraries in the US in 2013, the number has surpassed 100 by 2019.
Matthews expresses her desire to transform the library, a hub of information, into an inclusive space where everyone can access information freely. A library that provides information without restrictions based on income, age, status, or abilities might truly embody the essence of a public space.
Public Policy for Minorities
Removing urban highways can improve neighborhoods blighted by decades of racist policies (The Conversation)
With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the rise of Asian hate, issues related to racial discrimination are gaining attention once again. Those who have protested have historically been excluded from urban transportation policies.
Urban highways constructed in the 1950s and 1960s are examples of discriminatory infrastructure development. Residential areas of racial minorities were intentionally isolated, leading to significant socio-economic damages.
Environmental scholar Robert Bullard terms this situation “Transportation Racism.” In St. Louis, Missouri, Delmar Boulevard divided white and African American neighborhoods, resulting in severe disparities in income, education, and health.
Harvard researchers concluded, based on the “Delmar Divide” study, that predicting health outcomes is more accurate using zip codes than genetic codes.
President Biden has proposed $200 billion investment for reconnecting isolated areas, and expectations are high for the allocation of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.
While racial discrimination might seem less familiar in Japan, there are many areas and people struggling with limited opportunities for employment and more. Physically and digitally connecting minority communities to various “opportunities” will likely be demanded in the future concept of “public.”
Chess Fosters Community and Education
What Role does Chess Play in Public Spaces? (arch daily)
In European countries like Germany and the Netherlands, you can find parks with giant chess sets. Chess, with a history of over 1500 years, now serves as a tool to enhance mental and social well-being for urban dwellers with busy lives.
Chess, playable regardless of language, age, gender, or physical ability, fosters encounters among people and builds connections. It has particularly important implications in alleviating loneliness among the elderly. It also provides spatial cognition training and effectively contributes to preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Moreover, various studies have revealed the educational benefits of chess for children. It helps them learn the importance of rules, understand the consequences of their actions, and develop imagination and communication skills.
The phrase “learning through play” holds significant meaning not only for children but for people of all generations. While the perception of “public” might vary, spaces where people interact through a common communication tool like chess could serve as a wonderful model of a public space.
Vaccination Outreach and Public Facility Access
In the United Arab Emirates, the vaccination rate has reached 93% of the eligible population. To protect citizens’ health, the Emergency, Crisis, and Disasters Committee has announced a policy to restrict access to public facilities only to vaccine recipients. This policy extends to a wide range of places, including restaurants, large commercial centers, theme parks, as well as gyms and entertainment facilities. However, supermarkets and pharmacies that sell essential items are excluded from this policy. Nonetheless, schools, childcare facilities, and research institutions are included in these restrictions. While this limitation doesn’t affect the majority, it significantly restricts access to public facilities for the remaining 7% of the population.
In some parts of Europe, areas where people are not vaccinated have limited access to restaurants. Vaccination against the novel coronavirus is spreading in Japan as well. However, not all citizens are embracing vaccination positively. Many people harbor resistance and mistrust toward vaccines developed under extraordinary circumstances. While the option to choose whether to be vaccinated or not should be given to citizens, such restrictions seem to apply invisible pressure on people to get vaccinated. Can today’s public facilities truly be considered accessible to everyone?