The Cuban and Latin American Health Initiative is an extension of the Faith and Community Wellness Initiative. It is based on the premise that housing and delivery of health services in underdeveloped neighborhoods in the United States and those in the Caribbean and Latin America are similar. Therefore, multistate studies, including the United States, of these problems can produce knowledge that is useful to the various countries regardless of the socioeconomic system and stage of development. The Center for Urban Studies has been working with the Cuban Health and Housing Center to create a multistate team to develop a joint proposal and pursue funding for such a project.
The Center for Urban Studies is working in partnership with the King Urban Life Center (KULC) and the surrounding neighborhood to create a neighborhood plan to regenerate its “shattered urban design” and bolster the housing market for both the homeowner and renter classes in the target area. During the spring of 2015, a group of graduate students enrolled in Dr. Henry L. Taylor’s Race, Class and Gender course (URP 508) embarked on a semester-long research, data gathering and planning process to create a preliminary neighborhood plan for the KULC neighborhood. By “shattered urban design,” the class was referring to “a neighborhood setting characterized by numerous parcels of vacant (unbuilt) lots, abandoned structures combined with many poorly maintained rental properties.” The work on this project is continuing during the 2015-2016 academic year with funding received from a UB Civic Engagement and Public Policy (CEPP) fellowship grant. One of the limitations during the preliminary planning process was the lack of participation on behalf of the renter population in the neighborhood, which makes up around 50 percent of the residents of the target area. The research being explored through the CEPP grant looks at the challenges faced by low-income renters and homeowners in a shrinking, underdeveloped neighborhood in the City of Buffalo. The primary focus of the research will be on the renter class and how the fate of homeowners is linked to their plight. The secondary focus is to understand how the challenges facing the renter class impact homeowners and the overall viability of the housing market in underdeveloped neighborhoods. The Center for Urban Studies believes the findings of this study will provide insights to the challenges faced in neighborhoods across the city and that the recommendations will map out strategies to assist the renter class, help homeowners, strengthen the housing market in an inner-city community and spur neighborhood development.
The East Side History Project (ESHP) is currently supported through a SUNY Networks of Excellence grant received by the Center for Urban Studies in June 2015. The center is collaborating with SUNY Buffalo State’s Archives, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library (BECPL), King Urban Life Center and Randforce Associates to develop a neighborhood-based strategy to collect historical documents from East Side residents to expand a current collection to include archival documents on neighborhood life and culture in a section of the City of Buffalo. This is a public history project based on the East Side of Buffalo that seeks to interview residents about their everyday life experiences and collect documents like photographs, videos, letters and historical ephemera about the city. The project uses history to shed light on current neighborhood planning and development issues facing residents of the East Side. These historical documents will then be scanned, organized and added to a larger body of documents pertaining to the development of modern public housing in the City of Buffalo. Initially, the project was funded in part by an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant to the BECPL. From 2012 to 2014, the Center for Urban Studies digitized, indexed, and categorized over 8,000 historical documents from the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) and residents of the BMHA Commodore Perry development. The project included arranging, preserving and describing a collection of historical documents to current archival standards. These historical documents pertain to urban life, culture and city building in Buffalo during the first half of the 20th century. This collection was generated during the onset of modern city planning and represents the choices made by urban planners and leaders in the building of the post-industrial city.
The Center for Urban Studies and the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior have partnered with the Greater Buffalo United Ministries (GRUM) and the Greater Buffalo United Affordable Healthcare Network (GBUAHN) to test the effectiveness of a neighborhood-scaled intervention model in a predominantly black, urban neighborhood in helping blacks rise above their cost benefit analysis approach to life, which is based on a present orientation to engage in preventive behavior, use primary care services regularly, and participate in clinical trials, in order to lessen the health disparities of this group when compared to the rest of Erie County. This model is novel because it partners a faith-based organization, a network of minority physicians and a research university. Together these partners can collaborate to improve access to preventive and primary care, as well as clinical trials by facilitating extensive relationship building between community health workers, parishioners and residents of the target neighborhood. The Center for Urban Studies has conducted a Community Health Needs Assessment to inform the design and implementation of this neighborhood and faith-based health care delivery system for Medicaid eligible residents in GRUM neighborhoods. The purpose of this Community Health Needs Assessment was to identify the unmet health challenges for GRUM communities in Erie and Niagara Counties. It outlined a strategy for addressing those needs by developing a set of health indicators and metrics to monitor progress in meeting those needs. The assessment provided GRUM and GBUAHN with the framework needed to forge an implementation strategy to address these unmet health needs in the GRUM community. The long-term goal of the project is to assess the role that aggressive outreach can play in improving health outcomes in a neighborhood and refining this model so that it can be replicated locally and across the United States.
The Academic Summer Camp on Neighborhood Development is designed to improve the skills of middle school students in reading, writing, research and computer use. By working on a neighborhood development project on the East Side, the students also develop skills in critical thinking, teamwork and problem solving. The camp is hosted annually by the Center for Urban Studies on the South Campus in partnership with the Erie County Youth Bureau, UB’s Liberty Partnerships Program, UB’s Community Relations and Say Yes to Education Buffalo. The summer program has an open enrollment policy for students from across the city, although children from East Side zip codes, highest in need, are its prime target population. The Academic Summer Camp on Neighborhood Development is a problem-based and project-centered learning program. It seeks to reinforce skills in reading, writing, research, computer use, critical thinking, teamwork and problem solving by having students work on real-world projects during an intensive six-week summer program. This program is based on the nationally recognized “Mini-Education Pipeline” program developed by the Center for Urban Studies and has four interrelated goals: (1) stop the summer loss of learning, (2) increase student motivation, (3) build interactive relationships with the students’ parents and (4) instill college-going culture in students and their parents/caregivers.
The Community as Classroom (CAC) is a project-based program at PS 37 Marva J. Daniel Futures Preparatory School (Futures Academy) in the Fruit Belt neighborhood of Buffalo that involves the children in solving real-world problems that are related to neighborhood development and creative place-making. The CAC attempts to motivate 5th-8th grade students in an underperforming school by showing them the connection between lessons learned in the classroom and their abilities to build better neighborhoods and cities. This is done through action-based projects that grapple with real issues facing the Fruit Belt, the East Side and neighborhoods across the Buffalo and Greater Niagara Region. The goal is to increase student learning by showing them the utilitarian value of education, and demonstrating how knowing and learning can be used to improve the quality of their lives. The program is not only unique in how it approaches teaching and learning — utilizing UB undergraduate and graduate students from various departments across campus as instructors — but also the way in which it uses children as catalytic agents with the capacity to change the neighborhoods in which they are embedded. The CAC is a place-conscious approach to education that creates highly interactive linkages and connections between home and family, school, and neighborhood. It also teaches inner city elementary students about neighborhood development and urban planning and how they can help redevelop the communities in which they live and go to school if they are willing to put forth the effort. It produces not only good students but also civically engaged residents dedicated to building a better city.
This project organized and developed a comprehensive evidence base on boarding and disembarking public transit vehicles, completed research to address key policy and design issues, and identified new research needs. The IDeA Center, as part of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Accessible Public Transportation (RERC-APT), conducted laboratory research on the usability of access ramps in transit applications by employing a full-scale simulation of a low-floor transit bus and an adjustable ramp. One study evaluated the usability of ramps of different slopes during ascent and descent. The second study focused on the ease of boarding, fare payment and disembarking under different conditions of fare payment and available floor space at the front area of a low-floor bus. The data collected in this study established a model for evidence-based practice in this field for the development of policies, standards and design tools. This project was part of a larger effort to research and develop methods to empower consumers and service providers in the design and evaluation of accessible transportation equipment, information services and physical environments. Data collected in this project was used to design and evaluate vehicle features, boarding technologies and design of stops and stations. Research on the anthropometry of wheeled mobility devices and their users indicated that current dimensions prescribed in U.S. accessibility standards for transportation are inadequate, e.g. clear floor area and ramp slope. The researchers included these findings when they submitted comments in response to the U.S. Access Board’s proposal to revise and update its accessibility guidelines for buses, over-the-road buses and vans. Findings from the research were also used to provide the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) with recommendations for new bus designs; two of these recommendations were incorporated in two new buses.
In an effort to attract awareness to this housing crisis and increase the supply of inclusive housing, the LIFEhouse™, a universally designed concept home, was built in Newport Cove on northern Illinois’ famed Chain O’ Lakes. This project is a collaboration between suburban Chicago custom builders, New American Homes Inc., and the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center) at the University at Buffalo. The LIFEhouse™ is based on a special concept home that emphasizes universally designed features and promotes safety and accommodation for people of all ages, throughout the lifespan. The IDeA Center’s staff collaborated with New American Homes Inc. to modify a typical Newport Cove house to include universal design features, while still reflecting neighboring houses in the community. This research/build partnership is working to develop residences that adapt to a person’s changing needs throughout his or her lifetime. Specifically, the house and site incorporate multisensory perception with universal design principles. Features include an unobtrusive bricked ramp; 42-inch wide front door with stepless entry; kitchen appliances all within reach, whether a person is sitting or standing; Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant faucets, sinks and cabinets; two fully accessible baths; special lighting; memory niches; and easy-to-use handles on doors and cabinets. In 2012, the LIFEhouse™ team was selected to receive the Gold Award from among over 50 projects for the Best Universal Designed Home at the National Association of Home Builders International Home Builders’ Show in Orlando, Florida. This award recognized the LIFEhouse™ project for producing a home that addresses the lifestyle and physical requirements of the baby-boom generation. LIFEhouse™ for a Hero is a second home currently under construction. When finished, the house will be given to an injured veteran through the Wounded Warrior program. The LIFEhouse™ for a Hero project is possible thanks to an anonymous donor who suggested the idea after visiting the original showcase.
As part of this study, investigators at the School of Architecture at University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, and the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center), University at Buffalo, are conducting research to investigate the most effective means to develop and deliver a program of continuing professional development (CPD) in Universal Design for Irish architects and architectural technologists. There are a number of key policy documents in Ireland that reinforce the need for Universal Design to become an integrated part of everyday architectural practice in Ireland. In response to these policy developments, and supported by the Center for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD), the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) is seeking to introduce a new CPD program in Universal Design to support the respective roles of architects and architectural technologists as the lead professions advising on Universal Design in the built environment. This first phase of the project is research to inform the development and delivery of that CPD program. The research will include a detailed investigation of national and international good practice in the area of CPD and other postgraduate education and training in Universal Design for built environment professionals, with particular focus on architects and architectural technologists. Another key element of the research will be identification of the needs and preferences of RIAI members in relation to Universal Design CPD. Surveys, workshops and a prototype course are planned as part of the research.
IDeA Center staff are currently serving as universal design consultants to the design of Explore & More’s new site at Canalside. IDeA Center staff serve in the following roles: provide universal design education to museum staff and the design team; review schematic design plans for opportunities for more inclusive elements/practices; assist museum staff and the design team with planning for the incorporation of inclusive practices throughout all aspects of the museum, including its design, provision of services and community relations; contribute to the planning and execution of workshops with museum staff, museum board members, the design team, community members and local advocate groups to brainstorm strategies for ensuring the inclusiveness of the new museum.