Kyiv, 12 February 2019 – Everything we design and produce should be done in a way so that every person is able to use it. The ways to translate this key idea of the Universal Design (UD) into practice were discussed at the Universal Design Summit. The participants shared their recommendations and practical examples of developing infrastructure, objects, services and information that would be accessible to all – in the context of health care, business, public spaces, education and culture.
The Universal Design concept implies not only introduction of smart, universal solutions that would bring benefits for all citizens. It is also an essential contributing factor to human rights, social equality and equal opportunities as well as to the Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is dedicated to Reduced inequalities (Goal 10). This idea was emphasized by Marcus Brand, UNDP Team Leader Democratic Governance. The UD is often narrowed down to ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities, whereas this concept has much wider application. “The Universal Design is not only about creating accessible spaces for persons with disability or low mobility. Universal Design is about everyone of 42 million of Ukrainians, about creation of an inclusive society where no one is left behind,” Brand said.
Universal Design initiatives, some of which were supported or inspired by UNDP Ukraine, represent a wide variety of sectors and topics and showcase potential for UD application in everyday life:
· a hospital accessible to the citizens with low mobility (Manevytska District Clinic, Volyn region); a medical centre with inclusive design (Kyiv City Children's Diagnostic Centre); a patient-friendly registration desk (health care facility in Mariupol, Donetsk region). The experience of these facilities are described in the manual Universal Design in Health Care Institutions;
· an inclusive coworking space adapted to the needs of clients with low mobility (Kharkiv Municipal Employment Centre); an inclusive library (Rivne regional library; Ocim 51 library in Kyiv);
· theatres and museums accessible to people with visual impairments thanks to audio transcription services (First Ukrainian Theatre for Children and Youth in Lviv; Pedagogical Museum in Kyiv); renovation of cultural spaces according to the UD principles (Molodyi Theatre in Kyiv; Kyiv-Mohyla Academy’s Culture and Arts Centre);
· inclusive education (an inclusive group in a kindergarten in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region)
Cafes and restaurants, eager to be trend-setters in the Universal Design, also introduce new solutions, for instance, offering their clients a menu in braille, on a tablet where the font could be enlarged, with photos of the dishes. In addition, they equip universal hygiene rooms comfortable for people with disabilities or limited mobility and for visitors with small children.
Socially responsible businesses also introduce such solutions as constructing accessible supermarkets, equipping accessible waiting areas in the banks and other institutions, installing voice-enabled ATMs, wide doorways, level landings at bottom and top of the ramps. More examples of inclusive solutions in different industries and spheres of life could be found at ud.org.ua.
Going to a theatre, a museum or a cinema with a kid is no longer a challenge if a space is designed according to the UD principles. Baby changing tables, lactation rooms, accessible and flat entrances, sufficient space for baby carriages and other adjustments could make it much easier for active parents to enjoy a cultural life, while culture and entertainment industries could make additional profit in the morning hours. The community “Kyiv, a city friendly to parents with kids” shared their lifehacks how to make cultural institutions more accessible for families.
Building a team and working space according to the UD principles also contributes to higher efficiency at work. Guest speakers at the Summit – representatives of business, civil society organizations and government institutions – explained how to create an inclusive workplace (adding a children's room, adjustable furniture, etc.), introduce inclusive policies and provide coaching for people with disabilities in the workplace.
Accessibility audit is a tool that helps to check whether a public space is accessible. The experts from the National Assembly of Persons with Disabilities of Ukraine, UD School graduates and other practitioners explained what are the main elements to pay attention to. In particular, it’s important to ensure there are proper security and orientation signs in place (tactile bands, tactile information pointers, colour marking of around the stairs or sharp corners), as well as proper design of ramps that would really make a space more accessible rather than being just a formality.
As e-services get more widespread, web accessibility becomes really essential. Whether a website is adapted to the needs of different users (colours, user-friendly fonts, logical navigation) will determine its usability and compliance with the UD principles. Specialists from Inclusive IT and a UD School graduate explained the typical errors and shared some practical tips on how to make web-sites more accessible.
As an international expert George Anthony Giannoumis, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway, has noted in his keynote speech on Universal Design for information society, “Technology should be usable for all people. It's simple but uncompromising view. Participatory processes – when users are engaged in design and development of technologies from the very beginning – are essential for Universal Design. It is not going to solve all our problems. What it does, it provides us a new framework, a new understanding how to design technologies accessible for all.”
The Universal Design Summit was organized under the UNDP, WHO and ILO Joint Program Mainstreaming Policies and Services for People with Disabilities in Ukraine with the support of the UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Summit is also a final event of the two-year second phase of the Program. During this time, the UD School was organized, engaging 43 University professors who were trained there and had already introduced 30 UD training courses for their students, and 28 young professionals who developed 4 practical solutions for a theatre, a library, a student hub and a medical clinic in accordance with UD principles. The best practices and recommendations on UD application are collected at the practice portal which is being constantly updated. Businesses, organizations and civic activists who are keen on improving spaces and services could also find some useful insights in the UD Manual. It looks into seven basic principles of the Universal Design, such as simple and intuitive use, flexibility of use, perceptible information and other, and includes practical tips and photo illustrations.
Universal design stands for the design of all things in a way that the needs and capabilities of different populations are taken into account. It is an innovative approach to designing spaces, premises, objects, information, services and policies that make them accessible to all. Universal Design has got its name because its principles could be applied to almost all spheres of life and contribute to accessible and inclusive environment for all.
Media inquiries: Yuliia Samus, Communications Specialist, Yuliia.Samus@undp.org, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Tetiana Fortushna / UNDP Ukraine