Universal Design: World’s Best Practices Will Help Ukraine to Become More Inclusive

14 May 2014

More than 60 representatives from 26 government entities and NGOs, as well as leading Ukrainian  journalists, learned about the world’s best practices and solutions aimed at inclusiveness and accessibility for all at the two-day interactive workshop "Universal Design: International Experiences and Best Practices". UNDP Ukraine, within the Joint Programme "Promoting Mainstream Policies and Services for People with Disabilities in Ukraine", brought Dr. Olga Krassioukova-Enns, a renowned expert from Canada, to share international know-how in Universal Design and to discuss how government policies and community actions can ensure social inclusion of people with disabilities. The workshop participants also had an opportunity to discuss the ways to apply examples from the US, Canada, and Ireland to the Ukrainian context.

 According to the WHO World Report on Disability, 15% of the world's population have disabilities. The number of elderly people is also growing rapidly. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy’s report, there are 2.6 million people with disabilities in Ukraine and 164,000 of them are children. In addition, 40% of Ukrainians are elderly, 5% are children under seven and 2% are pregnant women and parents of small children. These groups increasingly suffer from the lack of access to key infrastructure and basic services. 

 “We must aim to remove all barriers that affect the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups in society. Social exclusion not only impacts the lives of vulnerable groups, but affects the development of communities and society as a whole. Universal Design, also known as Design for All, is a worldwide recognized concept that involves designing products and spaces so that they can be used by the widest range of people possible. It can be an effective tool for making Ukraine more inclusive, where everyone has a voice and can participate on equal terms. We hope that this workshop will help Ukrainian policy-makers and experts to take incisive steps towards building an inclusive society in Ukraine”, underlined Ms. Inita Paulovica, the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Ukraine.

 "It is mistaken to think that Universal Design serves only people with disabilities. In fact, it can be helpful to all of us. We all share a similar life cycle with different levels of mobility in each of its stages, depending on age and circumstances (such as pregnancy or trauma). For example, children under seven might not be able to open a heavy door. A pregnant woman or a parent with a stroller might face a difficulty using the stairs or the street underpass. Similarly, an elderly or a young person with an injury or certain medical condition might face an accessibility obstacle that many people would not even be aware of. Universal Design aims to make the world accessible and convenient for all, regardless of physical ability or age", said Dr. Olga Krassioukova-Enns.

 "There is a certain similarity between the concepts of Accessibility and Universal Design. However, they are not the same. Universal Design is a strategy that aims to ensure that buildings, products, communications and information tools and services are equally accessible, understandable and can be used by all. Universal Design is also a very cost effective approach. It requires public entities, private companies, architects, web designers, teachers and  many others to take into consideration human diversity and challenges faced by many people at some point of their lives", added Larisa Baida from the National Assembly of the People with Disability in Ukraine (NAIU).

 "Unfortunately, Universal Design is not a part of everyday life in Ukraine. Its fundamental principle stating that “needs of all users should be considered at the initial stage of the design planning” is widely neglected. This is manifested in many areas, ranging from government policies to construction of a new school", noted Volodymyr Azin, Executive Director of the National Active Rehabilitation Group.

 "Ukraine has made a significant step forward in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with regard to Accessibility and Universal Design. The government adopted a number of regulations that provide for realization of rights for people with disabilities and people with limited mobility. However, often these laws are not being implemented and our cities remain inaccessible and full of barriers. Accessible environment will create a better society for all", said Yaroslav Grybalsky, the head of the Lviv Department of PWD Rehabilitation Foundation.

 The Joint Programme “Promoting Mainstream Policies and Services for People with Disabilities in Ukraine” is implemented in Ukraine by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, and the National Assembly of People with Disabilities of Ukraine (NAIU).

 The Programme’s main goal is to promote Accessibility and Universal Design standards and to address existing barriers that prevent or limit equal access for persons with disabilities to services and facilities. The Programme works both on national and local levels, and promotes comprehensive capacity building and raising awareness to support the Ukrainian government in implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.