Wastewater Treatment Division employees help design a world for everyone 

Pictured: The Coal Creek natural area

The Community Services (CS) team in King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) is known for comprehensive, creative, and thoughtful outreach. CS team members solve problems and find ways to work with diverse communities throughout WTD’s 400-square mile service area. The CS team takes the County’s True North initiative seriously, engaging residents through trusted community-based organizations and expanding translation and live interpretation services every year.

CS team member Monica Van der Vieren found ways to address a need that all of us will face at some time in our lives: accessibility.

Monica leads community outreach for the Coal Creek Sewer Upgrade Project. This project will provide needed wastewater capacity to a growing area of Bellevue and Newcastle. It also gives King County the opportunity to move much of an active sewer pipe away from a creek with fish habitat in a beloved natural area.

Pictured: King County will restore the trailhead with more accessible signage and seating.

The Coal Creek project will require closure of a popular trailhead for up to three years during construction. The City of Bellevue improved this trailhead in 2015, increasing parking and accessibility for people with disabilities. King County, like the City, will need to restore the work area to current accessibility standards.

Monica identified ways to improve accessibility when the work area is restored, including trail surfaces, signage and seating. She learned that accessible maps and online content could help people with disabilities plan their visit to the area.

Monica realized that the project could go a step further to foster awareness of how accessibility supports community members living with disabilities. When the Department of Natural Resources and Parks hosted Rooted in Rights (RIR) to talk about their video projects, she saw an opportunity.

RIR is a team of disabled video producers, editors and digital organizers working as part of non-profit Disability Rights Washington. The team creates vibrant, authentic stories about people living with disabilities, mental health issues, and chronic illness. They have created stories about how nature and recreation benefits disabled bikers and hikers.

King County’s engineering consultant brought the RIR on board for the Final Design phase of the Coal Creek project. RIR was tasked to create 5 videos focused on recreation and in-person meetings, events, and programs.

Pictured: Program Director Anna Letitia Zivarts (back right) and the Rooted in Rights team.

“We are thrilled to be able to work with King County,” says Anna Letitia Zivarts, Program Director at Rooted in Rights. “For us, it’s a learning experience to work with government contracts, and we hope we can help the County improve processes for working with disabled creators.”

The team prepared to jump into gear as soon as spring weather painted a backdrop of flowers, greenery, and sun to showcase our beautiful area. Then the coronavirus pandemic arrived, just as the team got started. Public health guidance prohibited people from working in person and gathering at filming locations.

Undaunted, the RIR team found a way create timely content aimed at improving accessibility. They proposed a project to help hosts make video calls and online meetings, a staple of remote work and outreach, more accessible. The team completed the project with all team members and actors working remotely.

“It’s really important to create videos that highlight some of the access issues disabled people face in our daily lives,” Anna says. “Together, we can be part of building a more accessible and inclusive community.”

Celebrating a historic day

Pictured: Monica’s goal is to make outreach events like this one accessible for everyone.

The Coal Creek team was determined to support King County’s celebration of a historic day. On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. King County and local cities will observe the 30th anniversary by hosting online events in July.

Beyond the celebration, WTD’s Community Services group will continue to promote awareness and improved accessibility where possible.

“Accessibility is so important for every single one of us,” says Monica.

“Everyone will experience disability, whether it is temporary or permanent, impacting us or one of our loved ones. We help every community and person if we each become more aware and considerate, and improve design and practices as much as we can.”

Watch the video below for some great tips from real experts to welcome everyone to your online meetings and events!