Grundtvig Learning Partnerships
Project title: „Universal Design – Barrier Free Environments“
Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme: Grundtvig Learning Partnerships
- Lithuanian Association of People with Disabilities, Lithuania (Lead Partner)
- The League of Rheumatology Affected Patients and Persons with Disabilities of the Tarragona Region (Spain)
- Centre for Accessible Environments (United Kingdom)
- Estonian Union of Persons with Mobility Impairment (Estonia)
- Latvian Multiple Sclerosis Association (Latvia)
Summary of the Project:
Social inclusion for persons with disability means being an active and equal member of society, participation in all aspects of community life. However, for many people with disability this is not possible due to various physical and attitudinal barriers. The cooperation by disability organizations will focus on the topic of universal design and barrier free environments.
The partner organizations have a wealth of experience in accessibility and universal design, some countries are more advanced whilst others not so. Through this partnership it is sought to share knowledge, experience, expertise and tools that have been developed to date, where appropriate to adapt them to local situations and to create new tools to ensure universal design for all (case studies of good practices in universal design, a compendium of tools for promoting community participation, websites on universal design and recommendations for decision-makers.
The partners through this learning partnership want to explore how to make accessibility a given and not utopia or a dream, how to involve all sectors of the community in designing accessible, user-friendly environments not just for persons with disability, but for the elderly, mothers with young children and others who come face to face with physical barriers in daily life. Through the partnership we will look at how to go beyond thinking of accessibility as just building accessibility, but looking at it through the prism of universal design whereby persons with disability can participate in community life due to barrier free work environments, information accessibility, technology accessibility and so on. Participants of the project will also gain new knowledge and advance their skills through the workshops and meetings in partner countries.
Aims and Objectives:
The concrete objectives of the partnership include:
- to share knowledge, information, expertise and best practices in universal design;
- to apply knowledge gained to the local context (partner country and partner organization’s activities) seeking barrier free environments for persons with disability thereby facilitating their social inclusion;
- to develop within the partner websites a separate section promoting the project, its progress and the tools created within the project period;
- to prepare case studies on good practice in universal design and cooperation with access groups;
- to contribute to a compendium of tools for getting communities and citizens involved in improving access in the community;
- to prepare a set of common recommendations for decision-makers on making universal design a reality and not just a declaration.
The main subjects that we want to address are the promotion of universal design as an instrument for making environments accessible not only for persons with disability, but also other members of the community e.g. the elderly, mothers with children. In addition, we want to explore the different universal design instruments that are available today, as in many countries universal design is still at the stage of just building accessibility, but universal design is more than just building accessibility – it is about information accessibility, barrier-free work environments, technology accessibility and so on.
In designing and planning the proposal it was agreed that the project objectives and outputs will be achieved through the joint efforts of all the partner organizations with each organization contributing and sharing their knowledge and expertise. A series of meetings and workshops are planned, at least one meeting in each partner country to see first-hand what has been done in terms of universal design. This will assist in better understanding what has been achieved, how it was done, steps taken, obstacles, what worked and what didn’t and then looking at whether it is suitable to apply to other countries and how this can best be done (adapting to local situation). It is expected that each of the partner organizations using the experience gained during the project period will create a universal design strategy either for their local community or their organization.
It will be sought to achieve the objectives through exchange of information, knowledge, expertise and tools that have already been developed.
As the project is demand driven the benefits and impact on the persons and institutions participating in the project should be high. The partnership activities will have an impact not only on the persons (learners and staff) participating in the project, but also on the participating institutions as the products created will benefit the organization’s membership that is people with disability and not only members, but also elderly persons and the community at large, thus having a flow-on effect.
The focus of the project is on capacity building and this will be achieved by the wide range of exchanges of experiences, knowledge and expertise. The persons (staff and learners) will have acquired a new set of skills, greater understanding of the concept of universal design, seen firsthand its application in different countries to the local situation. They will be able to take this information back to their organizations and communities to look at ways of adapting what has worked in other countries. They will also have established contacts with specialists in this field with whom they will be able to cooperate beyond the project implementation period.
The project implementing partners have contributed considerably to the design of the project thereby assuring that the project connects to the local situation and that the proposed activities connect to their expertise and management capacity and this will contribute markedly to the impact of the project.
Short Information about Project Partner Organisations:
Lithuanian Association of People with Disabilities. The Lithuanian Association of People with Disabilities (LZNS) is an independent, non-governmental organization founded in 1995 uniting 18 associated members throughout Lithuania and 5 public service provision institutions. It aims to reduce social exclusion of persons with disability and to seek their integration into society. It is a member of the Lithuanian, European and International Disability Forum.
The main objectives: – to advocate the rights, freedoms and interests of persons with disability; to promote social integration of persons with disability through disability awareness; to cooperate with communities, local and national government, businesses and mass media in addressing disability issues. It organizes various activities seeking to raise community awareness of persons with disability through cultural events, seminars, conferences, artistic self-expression, disability awareness promotion campaigns seeking wider community involvement and acceptance of persons with disability.
It is also involved in universal design and accessibility for persons with disability and this has been done through various channels working with governmental institutions, impacting on legislation. Recent activities have included cooperating with the Vilnius Tourism Centre to develop an information pack for disabled tourists visiting Lithuania in which there is a suggested tourist route for wheelchair users. In addition, LZNS has cooperated with the National Parks Authority by providing consultations and trainings on accessibility.
The League of Rheumatology Affected Patients and Persons with Disabilities of the Tarragona Region. LALLIGA is a non-profit organization founded in 2000 and registered in the Company Registry of the Justice Department of Generalitat de Catalunya. Its principal objective is improvement of life quality of persons with disability, as well as people affected by some form of rheumatic disease and / or chronic motor deficits: chronic motor deficits of any origin, rheumatic disorders, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, spine deformation.
LALLIGA has created a Centre of Support to the personal autonomy of the Tarragona region, which offers various services encompassed in the following areas: accessibility area, technical aids area, and area of advocacy. The Centre of Support to personal autonomy has an “Adapted Flat” divided into some working zones which reproduce the furniture and necessary technical aids due to which persons with disabilities can live normally in their own home after making the necessary reforms.
With regard to universal design, in 2009 it developed, organized and published a Travel Guide for persons with disabilities that offers accessible travel information for persons that travel to or live in the province of Tarragona. This guide is given by the Health Administration to every person of the province who receives a certificate of disability.
Centre for Accessible Environments. The Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) is widely acknowledged as the UK’s leading authority on the practicalities of inclusion by design. It provides information both online and via helplines, training, publications, and consultancy. Its work is informed by a belief in inclusive design. We aim to promote the provision of environments that are safe, convenient and enjoyable for use by everyone, including older and disabled people. CAE manages a website resource for access groups (community members with disability and access interests) to help them learn about the planning and building processes and access legislation and standards. We support access groups and provide information and promote them by covering case studies in our journal Access by Design. There is also an informal forum for them to discuss campaigns and questions: www.accessgroupresources.co.uk CAE is interested in improving this kind of resource, supporting and encouraging disabled and older people and community groups. We provide training for disabled people and community groups on inclusive design, improving their skills in critical observation, understanding legislation, how to read and review technical plans, use technical standards and research and how to communicate effectively with developer and other construction professionals. We have a free service to support communities and charities in London to get access audits and help them to apply for funding to improve access to their community buildings for disabled people. CAE has a wide network and specialist research and resource access library.
The Estonian Union of Persons with Mobility Impairment. The Estonian Union of Persons with Mobility Impairment (ELIL) was established in 1989 and is a non-profit union. Disability movement was also present during the period before regaining the Estonian independence. 1980 the movement of mobility impaired people had its start – when the State Organization of Motorists allowed sections for drivers of adapted cars. ELIL is umbrella organization for people with mobility impairment in Estonia. The Union has 26 member organizations altogether about 3500 persons. Since 1994 is the ELIL member of the International Federation of Persons with Physical Disability.
The tasks of ELIL include:- participation in the elaboration of the national social policy, specially initiation of the elaboration and implementation of laws and other drafts of legal acts, development plans, programs and projects related to disabled people; support social and working activity of physically disabled people; support the development and professional growth of member organizations; promoting awareness of the society about issues related to rehabilitation, treatment, general and vocational education, re-training, employment of physically disabled people, as well as their independent ability to cope in the society; cooperation with associations of physically disabled people of other countries, mediation of information and experiences received from collaboration, participation in international collaboration projects.
Latvian Multiple Sclerosis Association (LMSA). Latvian Multiple Sclerosis Society (LMSA) is non governmental organization established in 1995 and unites approximately 3000 people with multiple sclerosis (MS) all over Latvia. LMSA has 31 regional groups in all bigger Latvian cities. The Head office is located in Riga. 12 volunteers are running the LMSA work in Riga, and 24 volunteers in branches are responsible for LMSA work in countryside. Most of our members are people with disability, who use wheelchairs or sticks, as they all have different level of disability. MS is chronic disease of central nervous system (CNS) and it affects young people aged 20-40 years. MS is not curable, so people have to deal with this disease all life long.
The main task of LMSA is to help them to cope with new diagnosis and to care for social integration. We organize various activities for the membership including: – summer camps for members which have social, psychological and educational elements; organise information days for medical personnel, psychologists, family members and people with multiple sclerosis; participate and contribute to discussions on services (service provision and accessibility) for persons with multiple sclerosis; publish a newsletter for members and friends of the organization. Very important is also attitudes of society and accessibility for people with special needs and we are focusing more on these subject areas in the past few years. LMSA is a member of the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform and a member of the International Multiple Sclerosis Federation.