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Report of the Third International Expert Seminar
on Building Non-Handicapping Environments:
Accessibility Issues in Developing Countries

Tokyo, September 10, 1988

Download the Tokyo proceedings as a PDF file (92 KB)

Planning Regulations in Uruguay

Eduardo Alvarez, Susana Cora, Jorge Galindez, Mabel Ubiria
Inter-American Children’s Institute, Montevideo, Uruguay

The number of persons throughout the world with some type of permanent disability has been estimated at 10 per cent of the total population. In Uruguay there are no complete and reliable data, but studies indicate that 10 per cent also apply to our population.

This presentation advocates the application of townplanning and building design regulations to bring about full integration and equality through the elimination of physical barriers.

Up to 1985, Uruguay did not have a comprehensive and coherent set of building norms. In order to change this situation, PLENADI, the National Plenary Committee of Organizations of Disabled Persons, proposed to the Municipality of Montevideo the appointment of a special committee to deal with this subject. This multi-disciplinary committee started to work in March 1985. It is composed of representatives of various municipal divisions such as the Studies and Projects Division, the Works and Services Department, Traffic and Transport as well as the Institute of Design of the School of Architecture of the University of the Republic, the Society of Architects of Uruguay and PLENADI.

The Special Committee prepared the draft of Decree 22463 approved by the Town Council on October 24, 1985. Decree 22463 reads as follows:

Article 1:  The construction, enlargement and remodelling of public and private buildings, open to the general public as well as the planning of public streets and parks must be designed such that these facilities are accessible to and can be utilized by persons with disabilities.

Article 2:  Already existing facilities, buildings, streets and parks with still a long service life ahead must be gradually adapted to the same purposes as above.
Article 3:  Places of work of physically disabled persons must be adapted such that these persons can function to their maximum level of performance.

Article 4:  The Municipality of Montevideo, through regulations, shall establish the requirements to be met in each paricular case. Also, the municipality will be responsible for the enforcement of these regulations.

Article 5:  Public organizations in charge of initiating and implementing townplanning projects must also abide by these regulations where applicable.

Article 6:  Housing projects to be undertaken by public or private organizations shall mandatorily include a minimum of 3 per cent of the total number of dwellings which shall be specifically intended for disabled persons such that these units are accessible to and can be used by these persons as homes ensuring the integration of disabled persons into the community.

PLENADI, the National Plenary Committee of Organizations of Disabled Persons, was founded in 1984. Various associations of disabled persons, parent groups and voluntary support groups channel their efforts toward the integration of disabled persons into society in this federation.

Study committees are presently dealing with legal aspects such as the Integral Rehabilitation Bill proposed in 1985 to the Legislative Authority of Uruguay and subsequently submitted to the Labor and Social Security Affairs Commission of the Senate.

In considering research studies undertaken at the international level, developing countries in particular must adjust the findings to their own socio-economic and technological realities.

In the implementation of building norms, coherent criteria will permit a continuous development with the advice and support of the Special Municipal Committee and the Institute of Design of the School of Architecture of the University of the Republic.

Among the first achievements is Decree 22463. PLENADI in promoting the application of these norms throughout the country and acting as direct advisor, proposes a national approach which is viable, coherent and effective.

Presently, many architectural works are carried out such as pilot projects in barrier-free environments including adaptations in the principal football stadium of Uruguay, the National Airport and bus terminals. Montevideo’s main avenue in its busiest section will be remodelled to ensure barrier-free use by disabled persons.

The incorporation of the building norms established in the decree shows very encouraging results. The regulations have been considered in recent competitions for architectural projects. Accessibility measures have been adopted in public buildings. The directives of the decree are taken into account in building projects financed through international loans. In the housing program of the National Mortgage Bank 3 per cent of all produced housing units are accessible to disabled persons.

It is of paramount importance that any measure to improve accessibility in the built environment for persons with disabilities be conceived not as an isolated act or as a problem in itself but be seen within the context of social and urban integration of all members of society. Any such action has to encourage user participation from the very first development stages.

Kobe, A City on the Way to A Barrier-Free Environment

Naoto Tanaka, Development Bureau, Kobe, Japan

I am happy to have this opportunity to speak to you about Kobe. I would like to talk of new developments in the city and forthcoming events such as FESPIC (Far East and South Pacific) Games for persons with disabilities which takes place next year. In anticipation of the great many people, we are attempting to make Kobe an accessible city for all people.

Kobe has developed as an international port city surrounded by beautiful mountains and the sea. Behind the city stands Mt. Roko from which we have removed portions for use in land reclamation along the coast. The new area is about 436 hectares with a bay-related area and a city function area lying inside surrounded by the bay area. It has several international convention centers and hotels making it an international city.

A new man-made island-town called Portopia was built in 1981, developed for the exposition that year. It was a large-scale and successful event, in part due to its transportation access. There is a computer controlled train known as Portliner. It has a barrier-free design using double doors as in elevators.

An arcade connects the station to the shopping centers and bus terminal allowing smooth transport in inclement weather. The path from the station to the exposition site is also covered and a hotel stands nearby. The park includes wheelchair seating in the event place with ramps. A braille guide is available for the visually impaired. We have attempted to make it beautiful and spacious not only for persons with disabilities, the aged and very young, but for all people. Long after the expo, the center continues to be a multi-purpose facility.

In the shopping center of the inner city the barrier-free design exists everywhere with ramps to accommodate wheelchairs, baby carriages and bicycles. Already existing facilities such as washrooms have been modified for persons with disabilities. Modifications are also being made on the pool and in administrative offices. This remodeling comes under a law requiring this for public buildings though we are trying to have this extended to private places as well. We would like to extend this barrier free design to transportation as well, including bus and train systems. There are two things I desire in barrier-free design:

With this we can hope for improved communications and a safe society for all.

Questions and Answers

Q.: Commenting on the ramps, I can not help but notice that instead of having both stairs and ramps, ramps alone might satisfy everybody and it would not be necessary to have both.

A.: There are persons who feel more comfortable using stairs. People with crutches, for example, find stairs easier than ramps. Therefore, in attempting an integrated design we try to use both.

The Situation of Non-Handicapping Environments in Taiwan

Li Chu, National Society of Rehabilitation of the Disabled, Taipei, Taiwan

I am glad to join you at this seminar to collect information for our country’s non-handicapping development. We all understand that the provision of a barrier-free environment and transportation system can never become a reality, if all levels of groups in our society refuse an active response to reach the goals of equality as set forth in the United Nations Human Rights Declaration. Unfortunately, authorities in many developing countries, including Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China, usually respond by saying that the design features will cost too much and will be used by only a few. In our nation the Law for the Welfare of Persons with Disabilities was only formally promoted in June 1980 after a long struggle by professionals in the field of social education and rehabilitation. This legislation specifies that the living and working conditions of persons with disabilities have to be improved and that public buildings and activity centers should be renovated and equipped with facilities offering accessibility to persons with disabilities including wheelchair users.

In the following I will present the situation in Taiwan and outline the improvements of public facilities for access of persons with disabilities including those temporarily disabled.

Taiwan’s present government has supervised and instructed 14 of the 22 counties and cities in the province to improve and revise their public buildings to make them accessible to all. These buildings include community centers, activity centers, official buildings, city halls, parks, art galleries, railway and bus stations. Some walkways have also been paved with special tiles for the visually disabled. Emphasis has been placed on the overall improvement of the environment for better living and working conditions for persons with disabilities.

As for transportation means for persons with disabilities in Taiwan, Article 20 of the National Welfare Law stipulates that a qualifying disabled person shall receive a 50 per cent discount on public and private transportation by water, land or air. Unfortunately, not all those who are physically disabled and fly qualify for the benefit as only the blind receive the discount. At rest and refreshment stops along the national highway there are ramps leading from the parking lots to the washrooms and refreshment areas. This has been brought about through suggestions by many volunteer organizaions and associations for persons with disabilities. Many telephone booths on city streets are equipped with braille for the blind.

It is worth mentioning that a Rapid Transit System (RTS) is under construction in Taipei City with facilities for persons with disabiliies. It is scheduled for completion in 1992. In its planning, the government had originally decided to build the RTS without faciliies for persons with disabilities claiming a saving of over 3.5 billion N.T. dollars - about 120 million U.S. dollars. Persons with disabilities and welfare organizations protested and petitioned against the government’s failure to carry out social reforms for persons with disabilities. As a result, the government has since revised its original plan and will include facilities enabling persons with disabilities to use the RTS.

Now, though the international airport, public buildings, activity centers and some parks are built with accessibility design, some new hotels, private enterprises and commercial buildings still lack facilities making them accessible. This is a most unfortunate result of designers and planners disregarding government regulations and pursuing their own style. On a hopeful note, the government has decided to revise and upgrade the present regulations concerning construction and development.

With regard to government housing projects for the general public, as far as I am aware, most of the housing units are not easily accessible to persons with disabilities, the aged, pregnant mothers and similar groups. Here at this seminar, we hope to be provided with information and documentation regarding the laws and provisions for architecture and construction in your countries which can be recommended to the Taiwanese government in its revisions of laws for persons with disabilities.

Transportation for Non-Handicapping Environments

Tetsou Akiyama, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Japan

I would like to begin by presenting an overall view of the transportation system in Japan before exploring the details. Changes to our transportation making it accessible to all have been slow-coming in Japan, though improvements have been make. In railways, for example, a system for persons with disabilities has been initiated and escalators for wheelchair user have been put in. As for bus transit, we have not yet developed anything for use by wheelchair users. The same is true, unfortunately, for paratransit systems. Compared to other countries, our use of computerized systems is weak, whereas we are further ahead in the use of physical aids such as braille blocks on the streets. But today I would like to explain Japan’s plans for progress in transportation for all people.

Classification of Physically Disabled Persons Based upon Mobility and Transport

Existing classifications of disabilities are based on the welfare or medical model. Mobility and transport of persons with disabilities have been given insufficient consideration in these schemes. In the following, a classification consisting of four categories is suggested which considers the aspects of mobility and transport.

The History of the Development of Transport Policies

I would like to discuss the development of disability policy and awareness in Japan through three stages: the preparatory stage 1950-1970; the beginning phase from around 1971; and the expansion phase beginning during the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981. During the first period, the normalization idea was born, though it grew slowly. The first transportation policy was simply a discount system and for the following twenty years no other concessions nor developments were made in regard to persons with disabilities. The normalization idea spread into the second term, the starting period, supporting various policies which were implemented then. Instead of living in institutions, the outside world was opened to persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Health and the JNR took action to normalize the life of persons with disabilities in the real world. During the third stage, the expansion term, the problems of our aging society had become a serious consideration as a result of a change in social attitudes since the first term.

Accessibility Policies and the Railway System

Regarding JNR’s policies, in 1952 the discount program was introduced. In 1972, the Ministry of Transportation allowed persons using wheelchairs and guide dogs onto trains. In 1981, the Ministry submitted a policy for long-term transport for the ’poor group’, though this label has been ill-contrived I feel. In 1983, the JNR introduced the use of braille blocks for the blind. Technical advances paralleled these measures. In 1972, the renovation of buildings to accommodate wheelchair users began with Sendai Station. In 1973, a visually disabled person fell from the platform of a train station which motivated the JNR to set up two stations for the visually impaired. The now popular Silver Seat system was introduced in 1973 and in 1975 wheelchair seating was introduced. Elevators were installed just before the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981. In 1983, station names were set up for the visually handicapped as a guide system instead of braille blocks. The escalator with wheelchair steps was introduced in the Yokohama City subway though it turned out to be not very popular. Stations were renovated according to guidelines set up in Tokyo.

Retrofitting the Japan National Railway (JNR)

Equipment for vertical transportation consists mainly of elevators which are few in numbers. Controversy surrounds the decision of whether the existing transportation system should be adapted or a new system be created. The problems are finding criteria for the decision of which stations should be retrofitted first, which agency should pay for it, and which technical solutions should be used.

Special Transport Services

Regarding special paratransit systems I would like to talk about door-to-door service. For this service vehicles have been donated by a television network that has supplied about 100-200 a year. However, in institutions that have not received funds for covering the operating costs, 80 per cent of the vehicles are not used. This is the case in privately operated paratransit systems which receive no government funds.

Questions and Answers

Q.: I had the pleasure of riding the Shinkansen (bullet train) and was amazed by its ease. Apart from the step at the entrance of the train and the fact that I had to sit with my wheelchair in a special tiny compartment and could not join my fellow travellers, I felt it was a very comfortable ride. In Sweden, definitely, we do not have such trains. Mr. Akiyama noted that the principle of normalization has been around since 1950. This principle was begun in the Scandinavian countries, including Sweden. So, as you can see, the motherland of normalization has not produced accessible trains which brings me to the point that in only a few places do we have transportation we can use. In most places, like the railway stations here, we are dependent on assistance and as your slides have shown it is assumed that we always have to have assistance. Now, normalization as a principle has not been producing the equalization of opportunities that we demand. I propose that instead of normalizaion, we propagate another concept, the concept of self-determinaion. I would like to enjoy the same ease of transport as others without having to ask for special assistance. We do not want charity, for as the Japanese railway demonstrates, for other people it does not operate on charity either. We demand equal opportunities.

Q.: Regarding special transportation systems, some countries, including Australia, have modified the taxis and they are operated by the main taxi company, avoiding the problem of 80 per cent usage as in Japan.

A.: In some places modified taxis are used. These cabs are cheaper to run than special paratransit services which are operated mainly by charity organizations or municipal governments. I know that in London some taxi companies have started with accessible cabs for persons with disabilities. Our Japanese taxis are not as large as English taxis. Therefore we need a new vehicle type for that.

Q.: You mentioned that there are escalators exclusively for persons with disabilities. I am wondering why this is when others might benefit from these solutions too, such as parents with baby carriages or tourists with heavy baggage.

A.: The escalator was installed for wheelchair users. However, in order to use it you must call the station personnel and it takes time, especially during peak periods. For example, in Yokohama Station there are five levels and it takes five minutes to get through one level. Therefore, in order to use the escalator in Japan, you must have somebody to help you because safety regulations are severe. This is one problem hampering development in Japan.

Q.: I have noticed many busy intersections in Tokyo and I was wondering how the blind negotiate these crossings.

A.: At the intersections in Japan there is music or special tunes that signify a green light. Also, there are braille blocks at each crossing.

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