Improving research and training on urban accessibility and Universal Design
- Teaching Universal Design
- University of Belgrade, Faculty of Architecture
- Country of Implementation
- Central and Eastern Europe
- Start Year
- First published
“Awareness is changing. People with disabilities are now seen as active participants in daily life.” Jelena Kostic, a student
In 2018, the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Belgrade began a multi-method approach to improve knowledge of professionals, particularly architects and urban planners, to integrate Universal Design principles into their work, focusing on physical accessibility. The project involves publishing research on Universal Design, improving the curricula and training of planners and surveyors undertaking university study, plus assessing cities on accessibility criteria. As of 2019, two research studies and one research paper have been published, and four university courses have been modified to include Universal Design or urban accessibility topics.
Urban areas are often not accessible for people with disabilities due to a lack of education on inclusiveness among those responsible for planning, construction, and maintenance.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
The “Expert Support for the Development of the Design for All Practices in Serbia” project is a multi-method approach to educate future urban planners on accessibility. It was created through a partnership between academics at the University of Belgrade and the Serbian disability organization LIMITLESS, along with support from the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans Affairs, and Social Affairs. The goal is to use scientifically based research to support and educate future professionals to solve physical urban accessibility problems. The first phase was a university research project on the cities of Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Nis, where the accessibility of around 2,000 public service points was analysed and published. The analysis looked at features such as the dimensions and shape of pedestrian crossings, ramps to access buildings, and the height of sinks in public bathrooms. The second phase was to improve Universal Design in architectural curricula. Study within the courses included furthering the review of urban accessibility to an additional 29 cities in Serbia, and examining cities rewarded under the EU Access Awards. In addition, 140 volunteers from high schools and organizations of person with disabilities were trained in undertaking the urban accessibility reviews.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
The Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans Affairs, and Social Affairs covers the organizational and material expenses of publishing the research, plus the IT equipment and the surveying of urban areas for accessibility. The University of Belgrade covers the costs of those employed by the project and provides the facilities for carrying out the work. The education and research programme are suitable for replication in other universities as it relies on published scientific academic studies.