“The work I wanted to do was to figure out how to support people who are living with chronic health conditions as they manage their health in home and community spaces, [and] how to design systems to support them and their families,” said Valdez, who’s a member of UVA’s Disability Advocacy and Action Committee, a subcommittee of the Diversity Council.
For the last decade, she has had to adapt the way she works in order to fulfill her academic duties, such as by using dictation. Her reduced mobility also has required her to find accessibility in travel – for example, attending academic conferences. That has included identifying accommodating places to stay.
“It just became more difficult to find information about places and spaces that were accessible,” she said. “I was having to call many places, and then we’d show up and find out it wasn’t accessible. I remember thinking, ‘I just wish there was a place to go online where I could find information that I needed about accessibility.’”
Thus she started Blue Trunk Foundation, fitting the nonprofit work in around her other tasks. The foundation’s focus is a website that includes information for travelers, businesses and educators.
The website is still a work in progress, Valdez said, because the disability community is so diverse. She has had conversations with many people to determine what they need.