Report of the International Expert Seminar Building Concept for the Handicapped Stockholm, Sweden, April 10-12, 1984

CIB is the abbreviation of the French title of the International council for Building Research, Studies and Documentation. This portion of the report of the International Expert Seminar on Building Concept for the Handicapped in Stockholm in 1984 includes: a table of contents with links to individual presentations; and presentations by Mr. Bengt Lindqvist, Member of the Swedish Parliament, Chairman of the Central Committee of Organizations of the Disabled in Sweden, and by Professor Sven Thiberg, coordinating chairman of CIB/W 84 (the working commission). Internet publication URL:

CIB logo

PDF (92 KB)


Table of contents

Presentation of the organizers.

Opening Address by Mr. Bengt Lindqvist, M.P.

CIB/W 84 Background and Purpose by Prof. Sven Thiberg.

Prerequisites for Independent Living by Adolf Ratzka, Ph.D.

Steering Systems and Their Application by Hanne Weiss-Lindencrona.

Costs and Benefits of Accessible Environments by Adolf Ratzka, Ph.D.

Research Profiles and Strategies by Prof. Sven Thiberg.

Conclusions: Summary of the Seminar Discussions edited by Adolf Ratzka, Ph.D.




List of Participants

About CIB


Presentation of the organizers

Organized by the International Council for Building Research, Studies and Documentation Working Commission W 84 in cooperation with the Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm, Department of Building Function Analysis 100 44 Stockholm, Sweden

CIB is the abbreviation of the French title of the International council for Building Research, Studies and Documentation. CIB’s purpose is to encourage, facilitate and develop international cooperation in building and housing and in planning research, studies and documentation covering not only the technical but also the economic and social aspects of building and the related environment.


W 84

In May, 1983, the CIB Program Committee and Board approved the establishment of the Working Commission W 84, "Building Concept for the Handicapped". The following objectives and scope are presented for consideration:

  • To promote the realization of a barrier-free environment by collecting, analyzing and distributing knowledge and experience based on research and development work, taking into account differences in economic, social, cultural and technical conditions.
  • To utilize the results of research and development work and develop methodology in order to strengthen the quality of work in this field.


The Department of Building Function Analysis

Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

The Department

  • is engaged in research and training
  • studies the relationship between man, environment and society 
  • starts from the user’s knowledge, demands and abilities
  • strives for equal opportunities in the built environment 
  • aims at economizing human and material resources
  • suggests standards for the built environment
  • investigates alternative solutions
  • develops democratic planning methods

Opening comments

by Mr. Bengt Lindqvist, Member of the Swedish Parliament and Chairman of the Central Committee of Organizations of the Disabled in Sweden (HCK)

Let’s Go For Equality

Ladies and gentlemen: "More than 500 million people in the world are disabled as a consequence of mental, physical or sensory impairment. They are entitled to the same rights as all other human beings and to equal opportunities. Too often their lives are handicapped by physical and social barriers in the society which hamper their full participation. Because of this millions of children and adults in all parts of the world often face a life that is segregated and debased."

What I just now have said are some of the first sentences of the unique document called the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in the autumn of 1982. The purpose of this program is to realize the goals of full participation and equality for disabled persons. Many people might ask what it means to link the concept of full participation with the situation of disabled persons. Isn’t it obvious from the very beginning that full participation is impossible due to the existence of the disability? And what’s the sense of linking equality with disability? Isn’t it inherent in disability itself that equality is impossible? We all know that a blind person cannot see, an paraplegic cannot walk and a deaf person cannot hear what we say. But this is a too mechanical and static way to view things.

In the context of the World Programme of Action, full participation means to share the joys and sorrows of your own family, to take part in the social life and development of your community, to share the rights and obligations with others and to have the same freedom and responsibility as other citizens.

Equality between disabled persons and others has many dimensions. Basically, however, it means to regard the needs of all human beings as of equal importance, to make the needs of all persons the basis for planning and development, and to distribute your resources in such a way that each and every one has an equal share.

If you accept this interpretation of equality to be used in all planning and development in our communities, it means that you must include the needs of disabled persons in all future planning and development. It means that everything must be done which can be done from a technical or practical point of view to eliminate physical or social barriers which prevent their participation.

The World Programme of Action is certainly no luxury which you apply when you think you can afford it. It means "opportunities equal to those of the whole population and an equal share in the improvement in living conditions resulting from social and economic development. These concepts should apply with the same scope and with the same urgency to all countries regardless of the level of development".

The World Programme of Action is a unique and progressive document which deserves much more attention than it has received so far. The fact that all member states of the UN have unanimously adopted this programme gives great moral and political support to disabled persons the world over, and to all those who want to contribute to the improvement of their conditions.

To improve the situation of disabled persons we must work in many different ways. One main area is rehabilitation. This means supplying the disabled persons with technical aids, training and knowledge of how to reduce or even eliminate his functional limitations. But we very well know from experience that rehabilitation is not enough. The rehabilitated disabled person - he might be blind, deaf or physically disabled - who wants to integrate into his community very soon meets with obstacles and difficulties which are due to the fact that his situation has not been taken into account when the community was planned. The adaptation of the physical environment therefore forms a key to progress. I will once again turn to the World Programme of Action, and quote what it says about physical environment.

It says:

"Member states should work towards making the physical environment accessible to all, including persons with various types of disability. Member states should adopt a policy of observing accessibility aspects in the planning of human settlements, including programmes in the rural areas of developing countries. Member states are encouraged to adopt a policy ensuring disabled persons access to all new public buildings and facilities, public housing and public transport systems. Furthermore, measures should be adopted that would encourage access to existing public buildings and facilities, housing and transport wherever feasible, especially by taking advantage of renovation."

ladies and gentlemen, in my view the World Programme of Action forms an excellent platform for the activities which are now being initiated by the International Council for Building Research Studies and Documentation. We all know that it takes knowledge, resources and careful planning to achieve the goals of this programme. It also takes the political will to do it. However, governments all over the world are now under an obligation to start planning processes to reach these goals. This, I think, gives special emphasis to the seminar which is now being started. I am sure that organizations of disabled persons all over the world will note this initiative taken by CIB with great satisfaction. I hope that all you who are participants at this seminar will feel involved in a great and world-wide campaign to improve the conditions of disabled persons. In doing so you will make this world a better place for everyone.

I wish you all success in your work during this seminar and in the future. 


CIB/W 84 Background and Purpose

By Prof. Sven Thiberg, coordinating chairman of CIB/W 84

In March 1983, the CIB Programme Committee and Board approved the establishment of the Working Commission W 84, Building Concept for the Handicapped.

In accordance with the rules for the work of CIB (see annexes to this document), it is incumbent upon the Co-ordinator of the Working Commission to formulate the Work Programme, including the Terms of Reference.

This document is intended to give a background to the work at the Committee’s first meeting. The document also contains proposals for tasks of immediate interest and a time schedule for their implementation.

The object of these proposals is not to anticipate the Commission’s decisions but to create a concrete basis for the discussions at the meeting in April 1984.

Corresponding proposals are expected from the delegates during sessions 4-5. The delegates’ various proposals will constitute the basis for the final decisions in session 6.

1. Basic considerations

The physical environment affects our ability to function as individuals and as members of society.

This is most obvious when it comes to those whose physical or mental capacity is restricted. In such cases the physical environment can be a handicapping factor and an additional impediment to a normal life. On the other hand, a physical environment designed and equipped to meet the needs of a wide range of the population supports equality and full participation.

2. Proposed objectives

The basic objectives of the CIB working Commission W 84, Building Concept for the Handicapped, are to promote the realization of a barrier-free environment by collecting, analyzing and distributing knowledge and experiences based on research and development work, taking into account differences in economic, social, cultural and technical conditions. The objectives include the exchange of experiences intended for development of research methods and information processes. Direct cooperation with organizations representing the handicapped will be aimed at.

3. Activation of CIB’s members

The work of the working Commission shall be done in the first place by members of CIB. These are mostly national building research institutions, usually with a predominantly technical bias, building enterprises and building consultants. The majority of members presumably do not conduct research in this field of concern and probably have little influence on or interest in it. The fact that the matter has been brought up in CIB should therefore be viewed as a positive development, which should be actively taken advantage of in the organization. CIB/W 84 is faced with a "pioneering" task. We must make it clear that the problem field has a relevance for the members, that they can make important contributions, and that CIB/W 84 is a competent and rational forum for these efforts.

4. Work with a global outreach

The work of the Working Commission must be relevant to countries with differing economic, social, cultural and technological conditions. If the developing countries are to benefit from the work, it must not be limited to high-technology solutions or to urban problems in an industrialized country environment. The work should be directed to a study of how the general goals formulated by the UN and by the disabled persons’ organizations can be made operational in CIB/W 84 and implemented at different technological and economic levels and in different social and cultural situations.

5. An international framework

The W 84 work will benefit from international activities within other organizations and institutions.

UN Organizations.
An encouraging challenge is provided by the experiences of the world-wide activities undertaken within the framework of the International Year of Disabled persons. Resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly call for action in the field of physical planning and building. The CIB Working Commission is fully in agreement with the standpoints taken by the UN and its Advisory Committee. (AAC.197/L.19/add.4, 11 August 1981.) The UN ECE, Committee on Housing, Building and Planning, has recently supported a Research Colloquium: The Built Environment and the Handicapped. The Summing Up of the Colloquium stresses the necessity of international research cooperation, exchange of recommendations and priorities, research results and experiences. (Report and Proceedings, Stockholm and Gothenburg, 1982)

Political organizations at regional level.
At the regional level important political organizations stress the necessity and possibilities of using the physical environment as a means to narrow divisions in society. The Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers, has agreed on a resolution concerning the adaptation of the physical environment to the needs of disabled persons. (Resolution AP(77)8, November 1977.)

A high level of competence is available in such specialized organizations as Disabled Peoples International, Rehabilitation International and the Council of World Organizations Interested in the Handicapped. It is essential that the Working Commission should establish meaningful cooperation with those organizations.

International standardization.
Technical work is in progress within the ISO Organization. The aim of ISO/TC 59/WG 1 is to promote the incorporation of specifications meeting the requirements of the handicapped in ordinary building standards.(ISO/TC 59/WG 1, N16).

This short survey stresses both the necessity of collaboration between international bodies and the impressive resources available through uniting their efforts. To reap full benefit from this international network is a challenge that confronts the working Commission.

6. Proposed programme of work

The programme should take into account the following types of functional disorder:

  • reduced locomotive faculty
  • defective vision
  • defective hearing
  • mental retardation
  • allergy

The various forms should be given equivalent importance, but the work should be adapted to the knowledge situation and to the way in which available knowledge is applied in practice.

The work should be directed principally to general measures in the physical environment and in the last resort to individual-associated aids. Information about the performance of individual aids can, however, be included as a prerequisite for general measures.

7. Priority of areas for immediate measures

The work of the working Commission shall consist of research, studies and documentation. Practice shows that it is a matter of dealing with both research, experiments and model projects with evaluations. Application of research results through standards, regulations, financing systems etc. is an important aspect to be studied. CIB/W 84 thus has the right and reason to deal with a very broad field of activities. Restrictions must be made strategically in relation to what the Commission considers important and effective, and to the fields in which it possesses capability.

8. Time schedule for measures decided upon

A plan of work should be drawn up in the form of a rolling three-year programme, the first period being 1984-1987. The Commission should conduct a number of parallel projects to be reported upon at its next meeting.

For each project a project leader should be appointed who, together with the Co-ordinator, is responsible for its implementation and for reporting upon it.

Time schedules both for the projects and for the Commission’s joint work should be decided upon at the meeting in April 1984.

9. Proposed tasks

The following proposals concerning tasks should be presented for discussion:

a) There exists an extensive material of international and national standards and recommendations for the design of buildings and the local environment to meet the needs of the orthopaedically handicapped. There has been intensive R&D in this field and very extensive data are available to planners. Differences in results and conclusions are sometimes rather bewildering. A comparative study of different design rules and their scientific background should lead to a greater degree of consensus.

b) Some research is being done today to improve the physical environment with regard to orientational handicaps such as defective vision or hearing and certain types of mental retardation. The research efforts and the level of knowledge, however, differ greatly from country to country. International exchange can therefore save resources and lead to quicker application of existing knowledge.

c) Allergic ailments due to building and furnishing materials and to air conditioning are considered to be increasing. Because of new materials and new construction principles, knowledge of the effects on persons susceptible to allergy is inadequate and must be constantly renewed. International exchange in this field can have great economic significance for the building industry and should therefore be of especial interest to CIB’s members.

d) Integration of disabled persons in an ordinary housing and working environment requires a combination of general accessibility, special adaptation and a flexible service organization. In many countries experiments to this end are being made, with different objectives and different forms of organization. Exchange of information about such experiments can accelerate progress towards full participation and equality in social life.

e) The condition for available knowledge being put to practical use is that it is incorporated in the planning process in an active way conformable to the requirements. Different forms of presentation of this knowledge should be studied and evaluated.

Of special interest are educational and informational materials, standardization, norms, regulations and financing conditions.

The participation of disabled persons and their organizations in the planning and decision processes should be supported.

f) Cost factors are often used as arguments against an increased general adaptation of the environment. Assessments are often made on deficient premises and based on suboptimizations. Total cost-benefit studies can cast light on the effects of different measures. For this purpose a well developed technique is needed, and a discussion of what factors should be considered in this type of analysis.

10. Final comments

This brief account of the background, objectives and conceivable tasks for W 84 is intended to serve as a backdrop for our three days’ discussion in Stockholm.

The goal for the meeting is that we shall together arrive at a concrete work programme which both indicates the direction for the Commission’s long-term engagement and specifies concrete and realistic tasks for which the persons and institutions present take responsibility, in respect of both content and time schedule. This is a difficult assignment, as we are meeting for the first time and time is scarce. On the other hand I know that all delegates have experience, capability and enthusiasm for this work. I therefore have great expectations that we shall achieve a satisfactory result. It is desirable that in our informal conversations during breaks, mealtimes and excursions, we consider the questions of our future work and in this way prepare for the formal deliberations in the last three sessions.


Stockholm CIB Report Contents | About CIB