Name: Farinaz Rikhtehgaran
Role on MAP team: I am a graduate research assistant working under the supervision of Dr. Atiya Mahmood on the SWAN (Stakeholders’ walkability/wheelability audit in neighbourhoods) project.
1) Where are you from and where/what do you study?
I am from Iran, and I recently moved to Canada in August 2021 to pursue my second master’s degree in Gerontology at Simon Fraser University. Previously, I studied Urban Planning and Design, and currently, I am working on walkability aspects of age-friendly cities.
2) What motivates you to make the world more accessible?
I believe everyone deserves a decent life and has a right to the city regardless of their level of abilities. As David Harvey says, the right to the city is not just about accessing what already exists but changing it. I want to change our perspective on how we create our cities, as we tend to design them for young, healthy men in the best weather. But we must consider all groups who live in cities, use public spaces, and contribute to our lives. We all deserve to be welcomed in all urban areas.
3) In a short and simple language, describe your research project or the project you are working on.
My research project for my master’s degree in Gerontology is about identifying barriers and facilitators to walking for older adult immigrants in urban neighborhoods. I will design a comparative pilot study to explore the similarities and differences between Canadian and Iranian older adults’ walking behavior in Metro Vancouver to help remove barriers and foster facilitators.
In the SWAN project, we are exploring the impact of neighborhood environments on mobility and social participation of people with sensory and cognitive disabilities using the SWAN tool. The project uses a community-engaged approach where people with lived experiences of disabilities are involved as co-researchers in tool development, data collection, and knowledge mobilization efforts.
4) What is your hidden talent and greatest quality?
Since I’m an urban designer and I love designing graphics, my hidden talent would be graphic design. I like to convey complicated meanings, concepts, or processes through visual illustrations in my presentations. My greatest quality is my perseverance in achieving my dreams. For example I always wanted to study in a developed country to gain high-quality knowledge and life experiences and here I am now!
5) What is the best way to make you smile?
The best way would be to throw me a party especially with gifts! I love surprises! 😊
6) What do you like to do in your free time?
I am still very new to Vancouver and Canada. So in my free time, I often go for site visits to different neighborhoods or local trails to see how people live differently here in comparison to my home country.
7) What place in the world do you dream of visiting?
I dream of visiting Paris to take millions of photos with the Eiffel Tower, drink coffee in cafes, walk in Champs-Elysees, and enjoy the city’s atmosphere. Even looking at pictures of Paris cheers me up!
8) What’s the best book you’ve read or movie you’ve seen that inspired you?
One of the movies that made me think deeply about the meaning of human life and the game of politics is “Don’t Look Up,” directed by Adam McKay and played by my favorite actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. This movie shows the end of life on earth due to the collision of a gigantic meteorite with the planet. It depicts the decline of humanity and reminds us to take life easy and enjoy it.
9) If you could have dinner with a known researcher/scientist/clinician/person who would it be and why?
If I was able to move in time, I would like to have a dinner with Jane Jacobs. She was an American journalist who first started critiquing the design of urban spaces which were in favour of automobiles and pushing back pedestrians to the margins. I enjoyed reading her best-known book, Death and Life of Great American Cities where she makes these critiques to the 1950-60 rationalist urban planning. I wish I was able to hear more from her.