Independent Living Institute

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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

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Dr. Mickey Milner

Immediate Past Chairman of ICTA, International Commission on Technical Aids, Building and Transportation

Just some very broad comments from someone who does not come from the world of architecture but rather from the world of technology and rehabilitation service delivery and education. I thought I would like to make some general comments about my experience here today which has been a rather special one in the sense of gaining some deeper insights to architectural concerns which, for me, certainly have an international flavor.

I was quite intrigued with Michael Fox’s comments relating to the development of community awareness. To begin to involve local communities together with individuals drawn from the disability community so that there might be partnerships forged which would ensure that the appropriate benefits would accrue in the interests of individuals with disabilities. His handout is rather illuminating and I think it could be very helpful as a model in other countries.

Mr. Mathur, in his presentation, emphasized the need for standards, codes and guidelines, particularly in developing countries. We saw some examples in the various presentations that were given today of how social and cultural conditions need to be considered. It strikes me that the methods of developing guidelines will be quite complicated because of these cultural aspects. Nonetheless I think one needs to be sharing information of this kind with a view to gaining ideas from each other. It is surprising to see, for example, that when you consider the adoption of the western toilet, how it becomes very useful as people begin to age. So sharing these types of things is extraordinarily helpful.

Mr. Alvarez gave us some ideas from Uruguay and it was interesting to notice the advantages of some formalization in a country like that to make available appropriate kinds of rules to ensure accessibility. I think these are what one needs to focus on in one’s own land to make sure that once we have made some progress that there will be no retrograde.

We enjoyed Mr. Tanaka’s presentation with excellent slides regarding Kobe and the development of the new center there, a truly remarkable project.

Mr. Li Chu from Taiwan presented some interesting ideas and I think he came as I did, rather more wanting to learn than to conribute; nevertheless, he made a very interesting contribution.

Dr. Akiyama gave a magnificent presentation on the progress of Japan’s transport system and having yet to travel it myself I can only compliment the enormous progress and exemplary model that has been set. While there are difficulties in making sysems universally available, the pracical issue of getting from point A to B in a country such a Japan is incredible.

We heard from Professor Ogawa about old persons and how they cope with the environment of a rural community. Naturally, the habitats for rural areas are quite different than for those areas which are much more urbanized and developed and one has to pay very careful attention to these issues.

From Drs. Hagita and Adachi we got some details of independent living housing projects and realizations attached to those projects.

From Dr. Kose, more realizations that I think were exciting specific examples of the kind of progress that can be made. One realized that in presenting examples of this kind that there will be critics in the audience and sometimes it is not always possible to present the full details of the terrain one has to deal with. But the concepts and ideas of integrating family into these particular concepts was especially exciting.

Dr. Iwai gave us some ideas on the developments in Southeast Asia, emphasizing the social and technical developments that are needed and made the point strongly about the use of existing materials as scrap materials and local technology and the fact the technology had to be appropriate. I sense there was this kind os sensitivity in practically all of the presentations, that one needed to take advanage of circumstances to be able to support these aspects.

We had an interesting question towards the end from Mr. Lagerwall relating to the issue of costs and I think that these are the issues that will continue to concern all of us; the issues of economy, associated with the realizations we have heard about.

In one of the presentations I was very much intrigued to learn about the very careful experimental approach that was used in examining changes and in evaluating those that have taken place, then taking subsequent steps. We make significant progress through a scientific approach to examining the consequences of any development. Documenting our experiences and making available that kind of documentation to an international community is exceedingly important. I also noticed that there is a significant concern for persons with disabilities in general but everyone is conscious of the aging population which will be a growing problem for all of us.

I noticed as well the significant attempts at community living which is clearly the direction we should be moving. But we still have impediments to overcome. These are some fairly general comments and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to spend time with you and I want to express my appreciation and thanks to the organizers for putting together such a very significant event.

Mr. Ramesh Biswas, Austria

There is an increasingly greater proportion of disabled people in developing countries due to rapid industrialization, poor traffic safety and industrial safety standards and insufficient medical care and therapy as a follow-up to accidents. Although integration in the family and society is highly desirable, increasing urbanization is leading to greater isolation and the break-up of the family. In such a situation the tendency is towards more institutionalization. While some charities undertake to run such institutions as a last resort, some governments are proud of them and may indeed consider themselves progressive now that they are copying what the indusrial nations have been doing so long.

But the importance of integration, which can be partly influenced by design as well as by overall policy, can not be emphasized sufficiently. As long as disabled people are visible and present, it forces the rest of society to confront them, draw consequences in their attitudes and employment policies, as well as in the pace and nature of their industrial development.

Solutions should be small-scale and culturally acceptable to the community. This requires more emphasis on the whole issue in the training not only of architects, builders and construction workers, but also of community health workers and development workers. Only such a process can lead to sensitive and appropriate solutions.

As far as the education of the public in general is concerned, awareness should be brought about that better accessibility is good for all. Houses and workplaces that are built of adaptable, ecologically harmless and economical materials, which have a human scale and are therefore more accessible, are good houses and workplaces for everybody.

Concluding Remarks

Professor Thiberg

CIB’s main task is to promote research and development, training and documentation within the wide field of building and planning. Technical issues dominate its activities. Our Commission, W84, is an exemption. W84 puts man in the center and works for building and planning which does not create handicap.

When we at the Secretariat started this work, we set as goals to inegrate the users, i.e. persons with own experience of handicapping environments, and to meet the justified demands of developing countries for support in this area.

The first goal we reached at CIB W84’s meeting in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1987. At this event, a large number of persons with disabilities participated in presentations and debates. The guidelines for W84’s future work which were formulated then reflect the users’ interests.

The present meeting in Tokyo was intended to be the first in a series of regional seminars focusing on the problems of developing countries. We did not quite succeed in this. The main reason is the lack of resources of individuals from poor countries for participating in international conferences. Also, experience and knowledge of physical planning in these countries is still limited. Despite these limitations we all have received valuable contributions here in Tokyo and inspiration for our continued activities.

Thus, we return to Stockholm with new knowledge and the intenion to continue struggling for a global understanding of the issues we work with. This effort also means to inspire to find technical solutions which are appropriate for each country’s technology.

Finally, it is now my pleasure to thank the organizers in Japan for this seminar. Without your commitment and efforts it would not have been possible. Thanks, first to Dr. Hayashi and all the other individuals who worked for this event. I also would like to thank all the speakers and participants and, finally, our friends in their glass cubicles who helped us understand each other despite our different languages.


Resolutions Adopted by the CIB W84 Expert Seminar in Prague

The resolutions adopted at the Prague Seminar in 1987 serve as guidelines for the work of CIB W84. It might be useful to remind the members of our growing CIB W84 community of the commitment to equal rights for all citizens expressed in this document. Hopefully, at future meetings we can start from this common ground and proceed directly to the means of how to guarantee equal rights to citizens with disabilities.

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 guarantied 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 construcion 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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, archiects and builders must cooperate in their professional work with organizations of disabled people.

Resolutions directed to researchers

  1. Research on accessibility in the built environment should encompass also the environment-society interface with its functional, social, cultural, psychological and economic aspects.
  2. 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

  1. 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 acively involve themselves in the political and planing process and improve their technical expertise in this field.
  2. 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 acivities of daily life, work and leisure. By defining their own needs disabled people have articulaed a new philosophy of personal assisance services which allow for choice, independence and the realization of equal rights. Recognizing the differences among counries in terms of available resources and culture, the W84 Expert Seminar adopts the following resolutions as long-term goals for personal assistance services:

  1. Governments, preferably at the national level, should take the responsibility for adopting and financing national personal assistance policies in consultation with consumer organizations.
  2. Services are to be organized in a way that gives the individual consumer the same opporunities on the housing and labor market as the general population.
  3. 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.

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