Connection Spotlight with Executive Director, Marissa Vogel

Marissa Vogel : Executive Director and Co-founder

Marissa Vogel : Executive Director and Co-founder

In our ‘Connection Spotlight’ series - we ask members of the Open Up community what accessibility and inclusivity means to them…

Tell us a little bit about your community:

I'm lucky to identify with a few communities. Most of my day to day is spent in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh where there are streets filled with local businesses, innovative and creative people, and great historical roots from the Civil War era. Then there's my fitness community! I love to sweat with friends at places including the Jewish Community Center, One Point One Yoga Studio, Zenergy, Meraki Studio, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. My community of friends and family is spread throughout the city and it's suburbs but and we come together to celebrate food, fresh air, and laughter as much as possible.

What does accessibility in your community mean to you?:

First and foremost, I think that safety is at the heart of accessibility. Being able to live as you'd like without fear of physical or emotional distress should be a human right. Accessibility means being seen, heard, and accepted. I think that an accessible community begins with self-awareness as well opportunities to connect with the diverse perspectives of others.

How might inclusivity be amplified in your community?

I would like to see inclusivity amplified in my neighborhood through more events and social experiences that consider barriers that people living with disabilities might experience. For example - food tours are very popular in Lawrenceville but many of the sidewalks leading up to restaurants are filled with cracks or too narrow for a person using a wheelchair to navigate. Looking at my fitness communities, there are very few offerings that consider physical or communication accommodations that could lower barriers to participation. Within Pittsburgh's art and cultural community there are some great efforts taking place to cater towards people who identify with specific disabilities but often these events occur within a silo and members from the 'general public' do not attend or support. In an ideal inclusive community, we would celebrate that there is great benefit for ALL from intentional actions that welcome intellectual, physical, and sensory diversity.