International Seminar on Environmental Accessibility, Beirut, 1999
II. SUMMARY OF DISCUSSION
G. Social, cultural and institutional aspects of universal design
Prof. James Harrison described universal accessibility in the context of environments, systems and services, which can be fully used by as many people as possible regardless of ability. In that sense, universal accessibility is an integral part of Universal Design.
Inclusive environments and accessible design benefit everyone. Exclusionary environments are handicapping.
Barriers are part of any built environment and may be placed for safety, security and guidance functions. Barriers with a legitimate purpose may at the same time be handicapping to a user with a disability. Non-handicapping environments need to be assessed in the light of their equipment, services and management, which will allow them to be usable by all.
Creation of user-friendly environments requires an understanding of the relationship between the accessibility features of a building and the abilities and limitations of its users. Two distinct approaches are required: (a) the use of personal assistive devices by which users extend their personal abilities (mobility, vision, etc.), and (b) making buildings more accessible by systematic design to remove barriers and to provide accessible routes, facilities and user-friendly detailing.
The greatest single physical barrier that persons with disabilities face is a change in level: a single step or a curb for instance.
Universal accessibility and barrier-free environments require strategic approaches, holistic plans and full and effective involvement of all parties concerned. Universal design principles need to be incorporated at the outset as a basic design parameter; otherwise universal accessibility will require costly remedial action.
Universal accessibility applies all aspects of life: (a) housing, (b) transport, (c) leisure, (d) education and (e) work place.
Universally accessible horizontal and vertical circulation entails certain basic guidelines: