A picture of Tony Murray accessing the elevator.
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The story of Tony Murray, Senior Solution architect

“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.

A picture of Bernardita Santa Cruz.
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The story of Bernadita Santa Cruz, designer and entrepreneur

“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.
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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.

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.