Students lead peer-to-peer discussions on creating universally designed public spacesFeb 16, 2018
How often do we think about whether public spaces are comfortable and accessible? Are the stairs too steep? Does the bus have a special place for a baby carriage or a bulky suitcase? Is there a ramp near the pharmacy or a metro station? Is there an adequate time slot for crossing the road at a green light? Situations could be different. However, applying universal design principles, we could avoid or minimize barriers and limitations in everyday life and make the surrounding spaces comfortable for all.
Over 200 students from seven Kyiv universities have learnt about universal design and brainstormed the possibilities for applying these principles in their future jobs. They participated in the workshop ‘Creating the World Comfortable for All’, organized by UNDP in Ukraine. 22 graduate students from the Kyiv-Mohyla University’s School of Social Work who had had a special training on universal design were sharing their knowledge with the peers.
The concept of universal design is quite intuitive – one needs to put oneself in the shoes of others living realities much different from one’s own, analyze their capacities and needs, potential obstacles they might face, and try to find smart solutions that would address these challenges.
“By teaching others, we learn ourselves. That is how the peer-to-peer method works. By engaging in the UNDP’s initiative ‘Y2Y Learning Friday’, our students/trainers could look deeper into the issue. When we talk about universal design, we mean not only physical accessibility of public spaces for people with disabilities, but also the necessity to make the spaces comfortable for different populations. After all, people with low mobility may happen to be parents with a baby stroller which cannot pass everywhere, elderly people who have difficulties climbing high stairs, people who have recently recovered from an illness,” says Natalia Gusak, Head of School of Social Work.
Indeed, all of us need a comfortably organized spaces. To illustrate this point, the workshop participants gave personal examples of situations when they faced barriers and were limited in their movement and brainstormed solutions together.
“I believe that all people should be on equal terms, regardless of their gender, health, and other circumstances. Society is responsible for creating spaces accessible for all citizens,” wrote one of the workshop participants.
Apart from accessibility of physical environment, universal design also looks into whether provision of services and information is organized in a convenient and smart way, as well as whether design of objects and goods meet the criteria. Future specialists should keep these aspects in mind, especially those of them who plan to work in service provision.
“I have never heard about universal design principles before. As a future HR manager, it was important for me to learn how to use spaces and time of employees in a more efficient way,” wrote another participant of the workshop ‘Creating the World Comfortable for All’.
The workshops were organized under the project “Mainstreaming Policies and Services for People with Disabilities in Ukraine”, implemented by UNDP in Ukraine, International Labour Organization, and World Health Organization in cooperation with Kyiv-Mohyla Academy’s School of Social Work and National Assembly of People with Disabilities.