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Report of the Second International Expert Seminar
on Building Non-Handicapping Environments:
Renewal of Inner Cities

Prague, October 15-17, 1987

Download the Prague proceedings as a PDF file (420 KB)

Resolutions Adopted by the CIB W84 Expert Seminar in Prague

Inner cities have always been centers of human interaction. Constantly changing economic needs require physical adaptation to new functions. These changes present opportunities for increasing the accessibility of these environments to all citizens.

Rapid urbanization and increases in the population of old and disabled persons are global phenomena. A large part of these citizens live in inner cities. For this population accessibility is of decisive importance for exercising their basic civil right to equality and full participation.

Inner cities represent interconnected systems of functions such as housing, administration, commerce, culture, recreation and transportation including street network, parking facilities, pedestrian areas and mass transit. Accessibility to the built environment, therefore, has to be defined not only as access to single elements of the system but the uninterrupted access between all elements within the system. In the face of the diverging demands put on inner cities it is of paramount importance that accessibility is guaranteed by an over-all plan based on a system of laws, regulations, enforcement and monitoring procedures. The competent use of these instruments requires a highly developed professionalism and consumer input as well as a high awareness on the part of the public.

Based on these considerations the CIB W84 Expert Seminar has adopted the following resolutions:

Resolutions directed to national and local governments

1. We, the participants of the CIB W84 Expert Seminar consisting of both non-disabled and disabled persons, cannot accept anything else but the goal of a barrier-free environment and free movement within it for all. Accessibility must be enforced by national legislation.

2. Legal instruments should be developed to ensure accessibility both in new construction and in renovating, upgrading and expanding existing urban environments.

3. In recognition of their experience disabled people and their organizations should be actively involved at all levels in drafting, monitoring, and enforcing legal instruments for the planning and building process.

4. Public funds should be allocated for the development and maintenance of these instruments.

5. Governments shall provide funding for consumer organizations to allow them to build up their expertise in this area and to participate in the decision making and implementation of these instruments.

6. Recognizing the long-term benefits of accessible environments for all, governments should subsidize the development of products and methods that improve accessibility.

These resolutions are in accordance with the "United Nations World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons" that has been adopted by all member governments.

Resolutions directed to architects, the planning professions, builders and educators in these fields

7. Practicing architects, planners and builders should view accessibility as basic planning requirement and not as limitation. This view should be an integral part of professional training.

8. Instead of using the arguments of diminished esthetic values and high costs as an excuse for non-action, architects, planners and builders should consider accessibility as a basic civil right and ensure its implementation.

9. In order to stimulate professional interest in this field teaching materials should be developed showing good examples of accessible solutions that do not compromise esthetic or historic values nor the right to equal access. Planners, architects and builders must cooperate in their professional work with organizations of disabled people.

Resolutions directed to researchers
10. Research on accessibility in the built environment should encompass also the environment-society interface with its functional, social, cultural, psychological and economic aspects.

11. Research projects in this area which develop and evaluate legal instruments and their efficient enforcement, planning and design processes, consumer input, professional training and the social, cultural, psychological and economic effects should be given high priority.

Resolutions directed to consumer organizations
12. Consumer organizations should be aware of the political role of the planning and building process. In order to better realize their goals consumer organizations should actively involve themselves in the political and planing process and improve their technical expertise in this field.

13. Recognizing that developing countries have particular problems, we identify the urgent need for the transmission of information between disabled people of different countries and experience exchange between professionals concerned with disability issues. To ensure appropriate services all environmental planning must recognize available technologies.

Resolutions regarding services that supplement the physical environment

The W84 Expert Seminar in recognizing the superior quality of living in the community as opposed to an existence in institutions advises that investments in institutions are to be phased out and be replaced by services that allow old and disabled citizens a life in the community with equality and full participation. These services include financial subsidies, counselling and personal assistance in activities of daily life, work and leisure. By defining their own needs disabled people have articulated a new philosophy of personal assistance services which allow for choice, independence and the realization of equal rights. Recognizing the differences among countries in terms of available resources and culture, the W84 Expert Seminar adopts the following resolutions as long-term goals for personal assistance services:

14. Governments, preferably at the national level, should take the responsibility for adopting and financing national personal assistance policies in consultation with consumer organizations.

15. Services are to be organized in a way that gives the individual consumer the same opportunities on the housing and labor market as the general population.

16.Services should be organized in a way that enables the individual consumer to exercise maximum control over all aspects of the management of his or her personal assistance including hiring and firing decisions, preferably by being employer of the assistants. Peer counselling and support as well as consumer cooperatives are means to empower most disabled persons to acquire the necessary skills.

CIB W84’s Future Direction

At the CIB W84 Program Committee meeting in Prague directions for the future work of the Commission were discussed. The Committee members agreed that accessibility of the built environment for old and disabled citizens is a relatively new field for research and development. In many countries consumers put increasing demands on legislation and standardization to safeguard accessibility of the built environment as a basic human and civil right. This development points out a rising need for information, training and continuing education for the planning and building professions and requires increasing efforts in research and development work.

The United Nations International Year of Persons with Disabilities in 1981 and the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless in 1987 have amply demonstrated the need for incorporating accessibility requirements at an early stage in the planning process regardless of a particular country’s development stage. The United Nations Expert Seminar on the evaluation of the midpoint of the United Nations Decade of Persons with disabilities in Stockholm in August 1987 placed the highest priority on the need for equalization of opportunities of disabled persons where accessibility of the built environment is one of the most basic requirements. The recent United Nations activities have served to stimulate interest in international exchange of experiences and to create a rising awareness of the benefits of cooperation across all borders.

In trying to meet this interest the CIB W84 Program Committee identified a series of possible projects. Funding for these activities is presently applied for from CIB W84’s sponsor, the Swedish National Council for Building Research. The time schedule should be such that the completed projects are reported on at a planned plenary meeting and seminar in 1990.

Planned Projects

CIB W84 Newsletter

The secretariat is planning to publish twice a year a 4-page newsletter. The newsletter is to report on on-going activities within the CIB W84 area, to serve as a link between researchers and to recruit interested individuals and institutions to the CIB W84 community. Depending on available space recent research results will be abstracted. An initial edition of 2,000 copies is planned for 1988.

CIB W84 Examples of Accessible Inner City Renewal Projects

At the Prague Seminar a number of interesting accessible inner cities renewal and renovation projects were presented. The discussions showed that problems can arise in renovating old inner city structures as a result of the often conflicting aims of preserving cultural and historic values on the one hand and accessibility for old and disabled citizens on the other hand. In the experts’ opinion there is a great need for informative and inspiring examples of good accessible solutions.

The collection of examples will consist of some of the case studies presented at the Prague Seminar as well as several other carefully documented interesting existing projects which can be secured through CIB W84 contacts with architects and institutions in various countries. It is desirable to select projects from different countries and present examples from housing, public spaces and transportation systems. The report consisting of richly illustrated and detailed presentations including an introductory essay will be published in English and is scheduled for completion by W84’s next meeting in 1990.

CIB W84 Workshop: Accessibility Norms for Public Buildings

The United Nath disabilities emphasizes the right of disability organizations to participate in the planning process and the formulation of the laws and rules which govern it. On the international level it is mainly DPI, Disabled Peoples International, that has this watchdog function. In order for these organizations to work effectively they need to build up their own independent expertise.

At the regional and international level existing national building norms and standards are undergoing harmonization efforts with the aim of arriving at uniform international standards. In this work the input from disability organizations is often underrepresented owing to a lack of technical expertise. At the Prague Seminar it was suggested that CIB W84 should organize a workshop where representatives for DPI assisted by experts from CIB formulate international accessibility norms for public buildings which organizations of disabled people can use in order to influence standardization efforts.

CIB W84 Workshop: International Standards for Accessibility Guides

Accessibility guides, i.e. information on the accessibility of buildings, transportation systems, etc. that enables individuals with disabilities to determine beforehand whether they can use a certain facility, are now available in many cities around the world. The reliability of such guides as well as their comparability could be considerably improved, if there existed a commonly accepted uniform international standard for structuring the information and defining accessibility. Such guides could be expected to greatly facilitate travel opportunities for persons with disabilities.

At the Prague Seminar the suggestion was made that CIB W84 take the initiative in organizing a workshop with the purpose of establishing international standards for accessibility guides.

CIB W84 Regional Seminar for the Asia and Pacific Region

While planning for the Prague Seminar the CIB W84 Secretariat received registrations from over 40 experts and representatives of disability organizations from developing countries. Only 3 persons, however, were able to participate on account of the high travel costs.

There is a growing interest in accessibility issues in developing countries the reasons being rapid urbanization, an increase in the old population and such disabling conditions as warfare, high accident rates and malnutrition. In recent years organizations of persons with disabilities have been gaining increasing strength in developing countries and their demands include research and planning measures for improving accessibility of the built environment. Literature and case studies in this area are almost non-existing. Efforts are required to identify research needs, to examine the transferability of existing knowledge and methods and to increase the awareness for accessibility issues among decision makers and planners.

CIB W84 in addressing these needs is planning a series of regional seminars in the regions of the world with the aim of introducing accessibility issues to the political and scientific arena. The first seminar in this series is planned for Tokyo in September 1988 in cooperation with ICTA, the International Commission on Technical Aids, Building and Transportation in connection with Rehabilitation International’s 16th World Congress.

CIB W84 Regional Seminar for Latin America

In cooperation with DPI, Disabled Peoples International, CIB W84 is planning a regional seminar for the Latin American Region to take place in 1989. A suitable time and location will be in Bogota, Colombia in fall 1989 in connection with DPI’s World Congress.

CIB W84 Workshop on Training for Professional Architects, Planners and Builders

At the Prague Seminar participants emphasized the need for exchanging teaching methods and materials for improving the awareness and expertise of environmental professionals. It was suggested that interested members of the W84 community under the coordination of the Secretariat gather materials for a workshop on teaching methods to be held within two years.

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