“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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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!
My name is Atif Jilany and I have a MBA in finance. I also have muscular dystrophy. I can still recall the days when my mother used to carry me in her arms all the way to my school. Falling from the overcrowded public buses has been a constant part of my life!
I always aspired to work in a place where I would be treated like anyone else – a place where people would see my abilities before they saw my crutches. I have recently joined the Abu Dawood Group through a disability inclusion programme conducted by NOWPDP, and I believe I have found the very place that I have been looking.
NOWPDP, in collaboration with Abu Dawood Group, has made special accessibility arrangements in the office and provided me with the appropriate transport service. Sensitization sessions and other trainings conducted by NOWPDP have made sure that the other staff members are well aware of my needs.
Through the project I have gotten the opportunity to work as an executive in human resources, where I facilitate the employees and ensure that the company’s code of conduct is maintained throughout the organization. I manage attendance, third-party recruitment, and various other tasks to facilitate the smooth operation of the HR Department, learning new skills and techniques through every task.
Read more about how NOWPDP is supporting businesses in creating accessible workplaces and infrastructure by reading the factsheet.
My name is Christian. I’m a young man who has mild autism and learning disabilities, and I have often felt socially isolated and wanted to get out more and meet new people. Three and a half years ago I became a Gig Buddy and got matched up with my volunteer, Jo.
It was a bit like a blind date. We were matched as people who lived close together and shared a passion for music. I rarely socialised with people outside my family before I found Gig Buddies. Gig Buddies has allowed me and Jo to experience so many great things. I introduced Jo to the beautiful voice of Gregory Porter and got to share my love of Kylie with her, too. So we both get a lot out of being Gig Buddies.
Gig Buddies has made me a stronger and more confident person. Before meeting Jo, I couldn’t be around so many people, but she is always encouraging me to get out there. I’ve even got to know Jo’s friends, and I’m comfortable talking to them without her there. I have got the best Gig Buddy out of it – friends for life!
Read more about how Gig Buddies is teaming up persons with learning disabilities or autism for leisure activities by reading the factsheet.