Center Update

Community Spotlight:
Pittsburgh’s “Oakland For All”

Oakland For All - Beyond Accessible is an initiative promoting accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. Oakland, home to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, is an urban area with a lively business district.

Oakland For All (OFA), founded in 2015 in honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, is facilitated by the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID) and the Oakland Transportation Management Association (OTMA). OFA is a collaboration of stakeholders, advocacy groups, non-profit organizations, universities, and businesses. Their mission statement is "Together, we are opening a pathway to a community without barriers." 

Georgia Petropoulus, Executive Director of the OBID, answered some questions recently about Oakland For All.

How did your organization get involved?

There was a very active advocacy group called Accessible Oakland that reached out to the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID) regarding help to work with businesses to improve access to their storefronts. Accessible Oakland is made up of employees, students, and residents of Oakland. The issue of storefront access was the first issue, and over time we also captured additional community issues such as bike lane policies.

What kind of support have you received from the city and community?

​Enormous! We have a very active group of stakeholders representing various Oakland and city entities such as universities, hospitals, museums, libraries, and city government. We have received support from city offices and departments with regards to policy and infrastructure changes (such as bringing back blue paint to mark ADA on-street parking spaces). We have also raised over $50,000 in support from local and state government and from local foundations to support our various efforts. 

Tell us a little something about the grants available to businesses in the community to improve accessibility.

​To improve storefront accessibility and encourage business patronage from all Oakland stakeholders, OBID received $35,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Keystone Communities Fund and the City of Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority to provide matching grants to Oakland businesses to remove any storefront barriers, such as adding a ramp or adding a power door.

How did the idea of the Ramp Crawl come about?

sidewalk sign for "Ramp Crawl 2017" in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood(Oakland For All organizes an annual "Ramp Crawl" to raise awareness of accessibility of Oakland's businesses.)

The idea was suggested by a member of our Oakland for All Stakeholder Committee during an idea-generating session about how to celebrate business owners that have made efforts to be accessible and to attract more people with disabilities to patronize our businesses.

Can you give us a few examples of some positive outcomes from the initiative?

​Plenty! We completed an extensive promotion and outreach campaign. We’ve hosted the Oakland Ramp Crawl for three years and the event continues to grow. For the first time, this year's event included a performance from a local artist with a disability, and we are planning to celebrate more artists in future. Two businesses have removed access barriers by adding ramps and two more are in the application process. We worked with the city to update its bike lane policy to accommodate public and private access vehicles, and we brought back blue paint along curbs to denote on-street ADA metered parking.

Is there anything new coming up?

​Current advocacy efforts are occurring around access needs and the Allegheny County and City of Pittsburgh's proposed Bus Rapid Transit system that will capture the Oakland community. More business owners are applying for the Storefront Barrier Removal program and we are planning Oakland Ramp Crawl 2018!!  ​

Tell us your story! Do you have a program or project in your community that has made an impact on accessibility and inclusion? Let us know!