A group picture at a music festival.

“I can still enjoy my passion for live Heavy Metal.”

My name is Christina and I am 45 years young. I live in a small village close to Hamburg in northern Germany. Since 2008 I have been restricted to a wheelchair, which has changed the way I live my life. Or that is what I thought until I met a group of volunteers who have given me back my mobility to go almost anywhere and to enjoy the freedom of festivals and concerts!

They are called “Inklusion muss laut sein!” Thanks to them I can still enjoy my passion for live Heavy Metal! Attending the Wacken Festival is no longer a problem for me in a wheelchair. For “Inklusion muss laut sein!” it doesn’t matter if it is raining and the ground is so wet that you are up to your knees in mud. The volunteers carry me in my wheelchair through the worst conditions to get me to the performances. They are the best group of people you could ever have helping you.

This year I was at a live gig that was on an old ship with no accessibility measures. Normally, it would not have been possible for a wheelchair user to attend, but as usual the volunteers from “Inklusion muss laut sein!” carried me onto the ship.

I get the help I need with even the smallest of things, like getting food or going to the toilet – the team is always there to help me. I can´t thank them enough. Without you, life would be only half so good.

Read more about how “Inklusion muss laut sein” has provided a buddy service for persons with disabilities to enjoy music festivals by reading the factsheet.

A picture of Harker with his daughter.

“I began to see that my daughter could thrive in school and in life.”

My name is Travis Harker and I am the father of a girl with dyslexia, a lifelong condition that makes it difficult for her to read. She first began noticing in kindergarten that her peers could read better than she could, yet she continued to love learning. But over the next few years, despite working very hard, she lost confidence and began to resent school. My heart broke when she came home one day in tears and asked, “Why is everyone in my class smarter than me?”

I felt lost and helpless. I was losing the vibrant, inquisitive, intelligent daughter that I knew. I was worried about her future and felt like a failure as a parent. I felt powerless to help her – until I found Understood.org.

Understood provided information that helped me navigate the school system. With Understood’s resources, I learned how to advocate for my daughter and how to partner with her school to get her the support she needed. Back then, I felt so alone. I blamed myself and was afraid to talk with my friends and co-workers about her challenges. But through Understood, I found a community of families just like mine. It was comforting to know that there were other parents with similar experiences and to hear that their kids were able to succeed.

Most importantly, Understood gave me hope. I began to see that we’d be OK – that my daughter could thrive in school and in life. Today, my daughter loves school and learning. She is once again the curious, fun-loving girl I’ve always known.

Read more about how Understood.org has created a free comprehensive website resource for parents of children aged 3–20+ with learning and attention issues by reading the factsheet.

A picture of Simon van Steyn.

“We are able to reach a much broader audience and connect all people.”

My name is Simon van Steyn and I work as a New Media Producer in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs, which supports people-to-people conversations with foreign populations on U.S. policy priorities. To carry out this mission we leverage digital communications technology to reach across platforms – from traditional forms of communications to new media channels. We regularly utilize the services of the Department’s Video Captioning Program, which we feel is integral to ensuring these conversations reach individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing around the world.

While the Video Captioning Program team provides captions for all of our events, of which there are many, I would like to highlight one example that I feel is particularly relevant and illustrative of the important support they provide. In April of 2017 we hosted a live event that featured disability rights advocates and educators speaking with participants located throughout the Western hemisphere about the importance of law and education in protecting disability rights. Over 300 individuals from various embassies and non-governmental organizations participated. The event was entirely in Spanish and live captioned by the Video Captioning Program, which is managed by the Department’s Office of Accessibility & Accommodations, Bureau of Human Resources.

Ensuring equal access to information has been at the forefront of our communication and outreach strategy. The Department’s Video Captioning Program has made the process of captioning videos and live events easier for us – saving time and money, while ensuring our products are inclusive. We are able to reach a much broader audience and connect all people with policy through dialogue that is relatable, understandable, and accessible.

Read more about how the U.S. Department of State produces captioned videos for the embassies by reading the factsheet.

A picture of Tony Murray accessing the elevator.

“Using a building without even having to consider accessibility challenges.”

Being 100 per cent blind, when I went to work at my old building I encountered challenges associated with a lack of uniformity throughout the office’s floor-to-floor layout, the limited number of accessibility affordances that were available, and the various facilities that has not been designed with usability for all in mind. The bank’s new building at North Wall Quay, however, has removed all of these barriers to accessibility and usability. I enjoy the freedom to confidently navigate to any location in the building, as it has uniform floor plans as well as tactile navigation/orientation surfaces.

The building includes accessibility features that seamlessly integrate with the common infrastructure, such as smart lifts, accessible doors, and a completely usable cashless system. An open and non-cluttered environment extends to all areas of the building, including the food service and conference/meeting areas. This enables me to access all of the building’s facilities without having even to consider accessibility or usability challenges. To me, this is the greatest gauge of an environment’s success in terms of inclusive design.

Read more about how The Central Bank of Ireland has built a national central bank on Universal Design principles by reading the factsheet.

Bernardita Santa Cruz

“I could again move in my own house, and I will apply it to other spaces in the future.”

I am Bernardita Santa Cruz, a 26-year-old designer and founder of the shoe brand Mibe. I am also a painter and ceramist who has a busy life among my friends and family. In October 2016 I had an accident, and as a consequence I have become paraplegic. At that point I had to begin to know my body in this new condition; and in spite of the pain, I have been learning again to move, sit, dress, and drive. I work every day to overcome my physical limitations. However, I have often discovered that the barriers I face are not caused by my physical problems, but that instead they are caused by my environment.

The first barriers I encountered were inside my own house: I could not move from one place to another because there was unevenness in the interior (between corridors and living areas) and impediments in the exterior (e.g., accesses and terraces). Further, my bedroom and bathroom were incompatible with use by a person in a wheelchair. Even before I returned to my home after the accident, my parents realized that they had to make changes so that I could be as autonomous as possible. To that end, the assistance of Corporation Ciudad Accesible has been vital. The renovation of our home was based on its accessibility guides and manuals, which provided us with specific measurements, support materials, distribution ideas, etc. And these materials will also allow me to prepare other spaces wherever I move in the future.

Read more on how Corporacion Ciudad Accesible (CCA) provided accessibility guides to promote universal accessibility by reading the factsheet.

People with different disabilities on a boat.

“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.

“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.

“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

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.

“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.