"To live in a comfortable world, we need Universal Design experts who are able to develop people-oriented designs. Nowadays, there are not that many such specialists in Ukraine, and almost no training in Universal Design is available. That is why we came up with an idea of the School of Universal Design to bring this knowledge to professionals. It depends very much on them whether we will be able to build a society of equal opportunities," says Olena Ivanova, the organizer of the first Universal Design School in Ukraine, Social Sector Reform Officer, UNDP in Ukraine.

The UD School was launched under a joint program called “Mainstreaming Policies and Services for People with Disabilities in Ukraine” implemented by the UNDP in cooperation with the WHO and the ILO with the support of the UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Forty-two lecturers from 30 universities in nine regions of Ukraine graduated from the first School of Universal Design (UD). The UD School was held in Kyiv on Aug. 28-31, 2018. Academic staff were the primary audience, as they are the ones who could promote the concept in their universities. The participants are going to develop Universal Design courses or integrate modules on UD principles into existing courses. The creators of the six best courses will receive grants for their development.

If each lecturer participating in this school teaches at least one course on Universal Design to a group of 30 students, we will have almost 1,400 young specialists per year ready to introduce the Universal Design principles in Ukraine.

"UD concept is not just about architecture and physical accessibility for people with disabilities, it's about equality, justice for everyone, and respect for diversity," says Tamara Martsenyuk, a sociologist who participated in the school.

Guided by the experts, the school participants studied basic UD principles and their application in designing environments, equipment, transport infrastructure, information, web spaces and services to make them accessible and user-friendly. Lecturers also learned more about applying UD principles in education practice and about UD learning concept to organize the learning process more efficiently, and to make it more productive and focused on the individual learning styles.

We are all different, we look different, and have different preferences: some enjoy walking, others prefer riding a bike, some people use wheelchairs or crutches. There are people of different heights and body size. There are vegetarians, and those with lactose intolerance. There are people of different ages, with different experiences and levels of expertise. Still, all of us deserve to live in the comfortable world.

"The main idea behind the UD concept is to apply design principles that would make “dis-” in the word “disability” unnecessary and turn it into “ability”, through creating a comfortable environment for everyone," explains Olena Skrypko, a UD School coach.

Universal Design takes away barriers to equal participation in community life, makes the environment multifunctional and adaptable to the needs of different people.

The learning program also included practical examples in achieving universality and accessibility, for instance in designing smart devices, software and hardware. According to Dmytro Popov, a school coach, software developer and civic activist, "to ensure web accessibility, for example, for people with visual impairments, you do not necessarily need sophisticated and expensive devices. Well-designed software is enough." Some developers install it by default, while installing some additional applications on a smartphone, tablet and computer could make them really universal.

UD School was organized in partnership with Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, the NGO Change Agents, and the UNDP project "Restoration of Governance and Reconciliation in the Crisis-Affected Territories of Ukraine," which is funded by the governments of Sweden and Switzerland.

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