A picture of Simon van Steyn.
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The story of Simon van Steyn, New Media Producer at the Department of State

“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.

Melissa Malzkuhn and Roberta Cordano pose for a photo with Martin Essl with their Zero Project award

Melissa Malzkuhn named an Obama fellow for 2018

We want to say a huge congratulations to Melissa Malzkuhn of Gallaudet University who has recently been named as an Obama Fellow for 2018. Malzkuhn, 2018 Zero Project Awardee, was selected as one of just 20 fellows, from a pool of over 20,000 applicants from 191 countries.

Melissa Malzkuhn presenting

Melissa Malzkuhn presenting at the Zero Project Impact Transfer

 

Obama Fellows are selected as powerful examples of the many pathways we can take to improve our communities and Malzkuhn was selected for her exceptional work in designing digital tools to give deaf children equal access to language, literacy, and expression.

Find out more about the fellows themselves by visiting the Obama Fellows website and find out more about the amazing work being done by Malzkuhn and Gallaudet University’s Science of Learning Centre by read the Zero Project factsheet.

 

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.

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.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation logo

Make your application for the Gulbenkian Prizes

The applications for the 2018 edition of the Gulbenkian Prizes are open until 30th of April.

The Gulbenkian Prizes aim to distinguish individuals or non-profit organisations in the following categories: Human Rights, Cohesion, Knowledge and Sustainability.

Specifically, in the Human Rights category, the Gulbenkian Prize aims to distinguish an individual or a non-profit organisation with international impact in promoting human rights. This year, this category focuses on the issue of freedom of expression, information and press.

Don’t miss the 30th April deadline! Make your nomination now and find out more information by visiting the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation website.