Curb cut effect: innovations that help us all

Nov 5th, 2017 | By | Category: 2017-2018, Lifestyles

By Dorian Grayson
Staff Writer

While Tinder is likely your go-to, one of the grandparents in the online dating scene is eHarmony. Since the turn of the millennium, eHarmony has offered its users a long survey which is then analyzed to match them with people they’re most compatible with.

Among its success stories, though, you may notice a lack of people with depression or anxiety. If your eHarmony survey results indicate you might be depressed or anxious, they will kick you off of the service. I’m not sure how long this policy has been in place, but I have found documentation back to 2009. I wasn’t even aware of it until it was offhandedly mentioned in an article about dating site algorithms.

Ableism can be frighteningly hard to see when you aren’t being directly affected by it, but correction of it can be incredibly important, and not just to disabled people. There’s a concept called the curb cut effect which means that changes made to help people with disabilities’ lives easier usually help those that aren’t disabled as well.

It directly refers to the phenomenon of “curb cuts,” or the way that street curbs are rounded so people using wheelchairs are able to get from the street to the curb. However, those with wheelchairs aren’t the only ones to enjoy the cut curbs. Delivery drivers using a wheeled vehicle to transport packages, skateboarders and that poor Montag employee wheeling the cart to Goudy at the end of the night all have their lives improved by curb cuts.

In fact, the curb cut effect is so powerful that you likely don’t even realize some things help people with disabilities. For example, the recent push of the “Internet of Things” — a move towards internet-enabled household appliances — helps people with disabilities who can afford it. When moving is difficult and painful, being able to change the thermostat on your phone can be a godsend.

Have you ever used Taskrabbit to get groceries when you could not be bothered? Did you consider that the delivery service might also help people who are unable to leave the house or deal with the people at the grocery store? You didn’t need to because you also got to benefit from this infrastructure.

One of the most important places that helping those with disabilities can help everyone is healthcare. Many disabilities require continual medical attention and access to this care is crucial for a healthy life in those cases. It is also something quite nice to have if you come down with the cold or the flu. Access to healthcare is a human need that needs to be protected, both for people with disabilities and otherwise.

People with disabilities need things, but these things end up helping everyone. So why don’t we put more effort and care into improving these conveniences? Who knows. Traditionalism? Conservatism? Disdain for those that fall out of the normal? No matter what it is, I know that there are people on eHarmony who haven’t found someone they love yet because someone with depression and/or anxiety was blocked from joining.

 

dgrayson@willamette.edu

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