People with different disabilities on a boat.
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The story of Bhupendra, user of Planet Abled travels

“Travelling alone is possible and transforms you.”

I am Bhupendra and I lost my eye sight just two and a half years ago. Since then I have never traveled alone. The prospect of me travelling on my own with a group of strangers was unthinkable for my close ones, but Planet Abled gave me the opportunity to travel from Ahmadabad to Rishikesh as part of a carefully curated and customised tour that addressed my special needs. I would describe this experience as “liberating” as it enabled me to do what was thought to be impossible. I felt a strong bond with the other people on the trip, and the journey was a homecoming for me in the true sense of the term.

I would like to think of Planet Abled as more than just a leisure travel platform, as there is a profound inner transformation that happens when a disabled person travels. It imbues one with a rare sense of satisfaction and self-confidence. What makes it even better is that you travel with people from various walks of life: the mobility impaired, the hearing impaired, and people with no disabilities all travel together, which makes one more accommodative as an individual.

Read more about how Planet Abled provides accessible travel solutions and leisure excursions for people with various Disabilities by reading the factsheet.

Nicéforo having a video call with someone else, using sign language.
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The story of Nicéforo Andrés Amado, user of Centro de Relevo

“I am working at Corona and can now even participate in team meetings.”

My name is Nicéforo Andrés Amado and I am 32 years old. I was born in Anolaima, a town of about 300,000 people located in the Colombian Department of Cundinamarca, very close to the capital, Bogotá. When I was born I was able to hear, but after a few months I lost my hearing due to an accident.

Before encountering the FENASCOL “Centre for Change: Technologies for Inclusion” project I was highly dependent on the support of others to access information, and it was frustrating to communicate with people. I did not always have the funds to hire a face-to-face interpreter, and so I had to make people understand me in other ways. That changed, however, seven years ago when a friend told me about the FENASCOL project. That’s when I started using their call relay service. I called my mom and she could not believe it was me! Later, I started using the Online Interpretation Service (SIEL), and it became my daily tool, since it allows me to communicate with my fellow listeners of the Corona Company, where I currently work. Thanks to the SIEL interpreter, when the company holds team meetings I do not miss any information and participate actively.

The “Centre for Change” really changed my life. It gives me peace of mind and, most importantly, it gives me the opportunity to be independent.

Read more on how FENASCOL enables telephone communication between deaf and hearing people by reading the factsheet.

A group of wheel chair users playing basketball.
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The story of Matthew Chaffee, user of Mary Free Bed YMCA

“It means I can enter at ground level, same as my able-bodied friends.”

My name is Matthew Chaffee and I am a 27-year-old multi-sport wheelchair athlete. As such, I spend a lot of time at the Mary Free Bed YMCA in Grand Rapids for practice and tournaments. Before the YMCA opened, I had never participated on a wheelchair sports team because they just weren’t convenient for me. Now that everything is centrally located at the YMCA, and because I work out there anyway, I participate in basketball, rugby, softball, and handcycle.

The Mary Free Bed YMCA is built around the principles of Universal Design. For me, it means I’m able to enter the building at the ground level, same as my able-bodied friends, instead of needing to use a ramp off to the side. Similarly, I’m able to access the building’s various levels via a large ramp that serves as the primary form of vertical circulation. The gym equipment is also more accessible than other workout facilities I’ve belonged to, with seats that slide away, allowing me to gain access from my chair. Another big advantage that speaks to the planning of the YMCA includes a specific wheelchair storage area where I and my teammates can store our sports chairs. This makes getting into and out of the building much easier, eliminating the need to navigate with the extra chair when coming in for practice or a tournament.

The most noticeable difference at the Mary Free Bed YMCA is that it feels like it was truly built for everyone. Most buildings that are only compliant to existing laws seem to be designed for the able-bodied, with modifications made afterwards. The difference is amazing and is felt by everyone who enters the facility.

Read more on how the Mary Free Bed YMCA built a community centre on Universal Design principles by reading the factsheet.

Persons with physical disabilities sit in rows of chairs, awaiting a presentation

A message from UNAPD, ZeroCon18 awardee

The Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD) are a very deserved awardee of the Zero Project 2018 in the category of Innovative Policies.

Apollo Mukasa, representative of the project, was unfortunately unable to make the trip to Vienna but we are pleased to share details of the project with our dedicated network and celebrate the excellent work:

“Uganda National Action on Physical Disability presented a By-Law on Accessibility in Nabbale Sub-County and was selected by the Zero Project among the most innovative policies in Accessibility for 2018. The summary of the project presentation is below;

In 2010, the Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD), a non-profit organization, developed and launched the Accessibility Standards in line with Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Building Control Act (2013). In an effort to promote the effective implementation of the standards at the local level, UNAPD worked together with Nabbale sub-county local government in the Mukono district of Uganda to develop a By-Law on Accessibility.

By working closely with the respective local government officials, the organization was able to translate national laws into local binding laws, which were subsequently developed into the By-Law on Accessibility and passed by the council in 2016 as a binding law of government. The law obliges the construction industry of the designated area to construct accessible buildings/facilities based on the Accessibility Standards.

Focusing on the high drop-out rates of children with disabilities, implementation of the By-Law started with primary schools in the area. Since the passing of the law, six newly constructed primary schools and one secondary school are now in line with the Accessibility Standards, thus meeting the needs of all persons – including children – with disabilities. In addition, two existing schools and one health centre are currently undergoing crucial modifications to comply with the standards. Since 2016, 249 children with disabilities have been enrolled and retained in the six new primary schools.

All these actions have also led to increased awareness regarding accessibility rights and needs among service providers and the construction industry in Nabbale. The policy is the first of its kind among the eight sub-counties forming the Mukono district. Since each sub-county can develop and pass its own By-Law, the policy is expected to be replicated in other sub-counties in the future.

Read more about the project by reading the Zero Project factsheet or by visiting the UNAPD website.

A picture of Gunaraj, using crutches, standing outside an accessible toilet.
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The story of Gunaraj Khatiwada, counsellor for accessible homes

“Wheelchair users are now participating in local planning processes.”

I am Gunaraj Khatiwada, residing in the rural community of Dhading, one of the most earthquake vulnerable districts in Nepal. I was not prepared for the unexpected, and I have seen both of my houses collapse in a flash. I am now living in a temporary shelter with my seven-member family, including my elderly mother and my children.

Despite my hardship, I have been featured in an episode of Classic FM radio, and the story of my engagement in supporting persons with disabilities touched thousands of listeners. I was privileged to participate in the “Inclusive Post-Earthquake Reconstruction: Public Building Safe and Accessible for All” project of the non-governmental organization Action on Disability Rights and Development, which is supporting thousands of persons with disabilities to utilize state services and benefits. Currently, I am engaged in rehabilitating persons with disabilities in their own communities, helping to construct their accessible houses through government schemes. I am particularly pleased to see many wheelchair-user-colleagues participating independently in local planning processes in the District Development office, which, like many public places, has been made accessible during the post-earthquake reform process.

I am now being encouraged by the local community to represent them politically, and I have devoted myself as a paralegal to supporting persons with disabilities to enjoy their rights and secure dignified lives in an accessible environment.

Read more about how ADRAD ensures inclusive post-disaster reconstruction by reading the factsheet.

A group with and without physical disabilites walking together in the woods.
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The story of Anne-Lise Dahl, a daily walker

“Those daily trips give meaning to my life.”

My name is Anne-Lise Dahl. I am 79 and have lived alone since my husband died six years ago. During the last years of his life he had difficulty walking because of illness. I have been an active person all my life. I love being outdoors walking my dogs. I love nature, the fresh air, physical activity, and meeting nice people. My husband had the same interests.

When my husband was alive, we became less able to continue walking together. But the dogs helped us to get out every day, despite the weather. If not for the dogs, we could have been both mentally and physically less satisfied.

At least two important things happened to us. My late husband got an electric wheelchair – more like a scooter for being outdoors. Second, a functional footpath into the nature preserve close to our house was created. The footpath incorporates Universal Design elements, without compromising the experience of being close to nature when walking on it.

Even though my husband was in a wheelchair, we went for walks in the woods every day – in rain and sun, in windy or quiet weather. But not when there was snow and ice.

I now use a wheelchair myself because of a hip surgery, but I still take my daily walks on this lovely path. Getting inspiration from green nature, fresh air, and meeting other people, these daily trips give meaning to my life.

Read more about how Telemark’s County Council makes footpaths accessible for leisure and daily use by reading the factsheet.

A picture of Issei accessing the app.
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The story of Issei Kizu, Bmaps user

“Bmaps has enabled me to be out and about with peace of mind.”

My name is Issei Kizu and I live in Tokyo. I have a congenital disease that makes my bones fragile; they are prone to break and bend easily. I use a lightweight electric wheelchair to go out. During my free time I take great pleasure in visiting new places and trying popular restaurants. As a wheelchair user, however, I used to give up trying to enter certain places because of steps, to my disappointment.

With Bmaps I can check the number of steps of the places I want to visit in advance, so now I don’t have to wait until I reach my destination to find out if it is accessible or not. It is particularly helpful when I go out with another wheelchair user, as we wish to move around by ourselves without having to ask for assistance.

The reviews by other users make me feel assured and encouraged to go out. I make it a rule to log the accessibility information of the places I could enter, hoping it will help others like me. Bmaps has enabled me to be out and about with peace of mind.

As a suggestion, it would be even better if Bmaps users could communicate with each other on a common platform, as this kind of interactive feature would be very useful in exchanging more detailed information and connecting Bmaps users.

Read more about how Mirairo Inc. has developed an application With accessibility information for a range of users by reading the factsheet.

A picture of Maja Reichard.
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The story of Maja Reichard, elite swimmer and Scandic Hotel customer

“I do not need to say anything; it just works automatically for the staff.”

My name is Maja Reichard and I am an elite swimmer. I am also blind. When I lost my eyesight I could have just crawled into a corner, but instead I chose to accept the challenge, and that’s why today I have several European and world championship medals as well as a Paralympic gold medal.

As someone who is visually impaired, the most important thing is the services that are available – that there are people around – and to know that I am welcome to ask for help. For example, it is important to feel that I can travel to a hotel without having to bring anyone else with me. I might go to a hotel for work or just to relax and feel independent. The hardest thing for me when I come into a hotel environment that I don’t know is to find that first point of contact, in this case the reception. I really appreciate when the staff recognize you – that they can see that there’s someone standing in the entrance perhaps looking a little bit lost, that they come up and ask if they can help.

A very telling experience that I’ve had at a Scandic Hotel was when I had dinner in their restaurant. I was there with my family, and when we were served the food the waitress told me that “at three o’ clock you have the potatoes, at six o’ clock is the salad” and then kept describing the whole dish to me. She told me afterwards that she had seen my folded-up blind stick under the table.

It was so great that I didn’t need to say anything; it just works automatically for the staff at Scandic. They know their stuff!

Read more about how the Scandic Hotels Group has developed a comprehensive approach to accessibility by reading the factsheet.

A picture of Omar Hesham.
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The story of Omar Hesham, user of the Entaleq app

“I am not surprised by inaccessibility anymore.”

My name is Omar Hesham. I am a 24-year-old wheelchair user and a graduate of the Faculty of Commerce at Ain Shams University.

For many years, the possibility of my going out, whether to go to school or simply to hang-out with family and friends in various venues, such as restaurants, coffee shops, and malls, was very limited due to the lack of accessibility in many places. So, either I had to go to the one or two places that I knew for sure were accessible or I had to have someone always with me to help when needed.

All this changed in March 2016, when I received an invitation from the Helm Foundation to attend the launch event for their Entaleq application. This event was my first introduction to Helm, and thus to Entaleq, and after that I downloaded the application and started to use it.
Entaleq has helped me increase my independence to move around more freely by allowing me to know the degree of accessibility of various venues and locations beforehand, instead of being surprised by their inaccessibility once I have arrived. As a result, the app helps me determine which places I can visit on my own and which ones I need help in reaching and moving about freely.

Entaleq has been continuously developing and updating its services; and I am happy to know that it is spreading to other governorates, such as Luxor, not just Cairo and Giza, as this will help many more people with disabilities to go out more and lead a more independent life, just as it has enabled me.

Read more about how Helm promotes the full inclusion of persons with disabilities through crowd-source reviews by reading the factsheet.

Keiichiro Nozaki
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The Story of Keiichiro Nozaki, user of Wheelog

I think this is an amazing breakthrough for us”

My name is Keiichiro Nozaki. I am 37 years old. Seven years ago, I had an accident which resulted in paraplegia. I’ve been using a wheelchair ever since. Before I found out about “WheeLog!”, I could do my job normally in my wheelchair, but I still came across a lot of obstacles whenever I went out. For example, there were very few toilets and parking lots for people with disabilities or wheelchair-accessible restaurants. What’s more, it was difficult to get information about barrier-free places even if there were any.

However, since “WheeLog!” was released in May 2017, getting information about barrier-free places has become much easier. Users of “WheeLog!” can now post information about barrier-free spots, such as elevators, toilets, parking lots, hotels, restaurants or leisure spots onto the map in the application. Users can also record their wheelchair tracklog on the map. Therefore, wheelchair users can share experiences with wheelchair-accessible places and routes using “WheeLog!”. I think this is an amazing breakthrough for us!

Thanks to “WheeLog!”, I could go on a trip by myself more easily than before and I also posted about leisure spots and restaurants which I could go to. If we all did this, we could help accessible information accumulate on “WheeLog!” and the number of places where wheelchair users can go would increase. We could then expect the quality of our lives to improve.

Whether you’re a wheelchair user or not, you should definitely give “WheeLog!” a try!