The Rio Declaration: Universal Design for Sustainable and Inclusive Development

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Pending the release of an official English translation, and at the request of numerous readers of The Rolling Rains Report, I offer an unofficial translation of the document on Susutainable Inclusive Development known as "Carta do Rio/ La Declaracion de Rio de Janero"

The Rio Declaration: Universal Design for Sustainable Inclusive Development

Gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the 12th of December, 2004, within the framework of the International Conference on Universal Design "Designing for Century III", we, as professionals, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations, and different sectors of civil society, as representatives of universities, as civil employees and as employees of state, international and multilateral institutions from throughout the diverse countries of Latin America, affirm the following declaration:

1) The intention of the Universal Design is to make possible the social participation of and access to goods and services for the widest possible range of users. This contributes to the inclusion of the people with disabilities allowing the to interact in society and contribute to its development. Examples of these excluded groups include: the poor people, people marginalized by their cultural or ethnic identities, people of large or small stature, and those with disabilities whether permanent or temporary.

2) We understand Universal Design to be an approach for equitably generating accessible environments, usable services, programs and technologies, that are safe and independently usable by all people - to the greatest extent possible without the need for special adaptation or reengineering. This devolves by virtue of the seven principles that sustains universal design, that is to say:�

1. Equitable Use: The design does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users.
2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
3. Simple, Intuitive Use: Easy to understand
4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively.
5. Tolerance for Error: The design reduces risk and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
6. Requiring Low Physical Effort
7. Sufficient Size and Space for Access & Use

3) We recognize the value of the emergent concept of inclusive development, in as much as it looks to expand the vision the concept of development; recognizes diversity as a fundamental aspect of the process of socioeconomic and human development; and validates the contribution of each human being in the development process. Rather than driving policies and detached activities, it promotes a strategy integrated for the benefit of the people and the society as a whole. Inclusive development constitutes an effective tool for the overcoming of the prevalence of social exclusion in the world and, consequently, is an advance in the eradication of the poverty.

4) We conceive of sustainable human development as a productive form for understanding social policies and considering the bonds between economic growth, equitable distribution of the benefits of the growth, and harmonious coexistence with the environment.

5) We consider that the situation of poverty and social exclusion affects millions people everywhere in the world; prevents human development and the benefit of an adequate quality of life, and that, in Latin America and the Caribbean, this situation almost affects half of the population. Also we are convinced that this situation of exclusion and poverty, just like inequality, disease, insecurity, contamination and environmental degradation, and inadequate design are public dangers that affect many people and threaten all.

6) In this context of the prevalence of exclusion in development, we considered the following challenges:

a. How to apply the principles of Universal Design when there are people whose main preoccupation is not the "tomorrow" but the uncertainty of their next meal ... or the lack of shelter and the most basic safeguards of health?
b. How to communicate such principles when, for most of the world�s population, the concepts of "basic standards," "construction codes", and "regulations" do not exist.
c. In such a context, What real is the real significance of such entities as "the bath", "the kitchen", "the lobby", "the incline", "illumination levels", or "acoustics"?
d. And primarily, how do we add to the quality of life of persons by applying Universal Design?

7) We wish to emphasize that application, in the present, of inadequate design in the creation of programs, services and infrastructure, generates inaccessibility and perpetuates conditions of exclusion in the future. In this sense, we consider unacceptable the continued use of public resources that result in the construction of barriers of different for those of diverse abilities.

8) We agree that Universal Design must become an essential component within the politics and activities that promote development so that development initiatives may achieve a truly inclusive character and effectively contribute to the reduction of the poverty in the world.

9) We agree also, that in order to advance towards a Universal Design for sustainable, inclusive development, all future activity must:

a. be planned balancing legal concerns, rights, economic, technological and cultural premises,
b. meet the necessities of authentic community,
c. include the participation of the interested parties,
d. incorporate the criteria of Universal Design in order to prevent current investments from generating additional costs for necessary adaptations and to use local materials and technologies to contain costs,
f. plan for commensurate maintenance of these resources and
g. build the technical capacity for the grater application of Universal Design.

10) We convinced that, in order for Universal Design to become an instrument in the service of the inclusive development, it is necessary that all the actors involved in these subjects (States and governments, the marginalized sector, mass media, civil society: non-governmental organizations, international and regional Universities, professionals) pursue their roles actively, for the following reasons:

  • That Governments undertake efforts to provide themselves with legal instruments that cause Universal Design applied sustainably and universally across national plans of development and public policies.
  • That the private sector is stimulated to apply the Universal Design in the design of products, spaces and services, and that the subject of Universal Design becomes a subject of public interest.
  • That universities promote Universal Design in professional formation in areas related to or compatible with this concept and stimulate the investigation that makes possible the expansion, the application and the development of the Universal Design.
  • That professionals involved the Universal Design lend technical attendance to make its application more effective his and efficient as well as oriented to development and social inclusion.
  • That the organizations who are currently more conscientious of the necessity of Universal Design assume the commitment to disseminate the concept to other sectors of society and exercise an active role in social monitoring to advance sustainability in accessibility and inclusion by means of their effective intervention.
  • That international and regional organizations develop legal instruments, consistent with international and regional practices and standards, that promote the sustainable application of the Universal Design in the service of Inclusive Development.
  • That multinational providers of credit turn to Universal Design as a topic of development, they promote and contribute economic resources to its advance, its practical application, its investigation and its diffusion, and adopt it as a fundamental norm in the development of projects and as a requirement for the approval of loans to countries.

  • 11) We think that all efforts and actions made in this regard, will be stronger and more effective, if we advance a common agenda on Universal Design and Inclusive Development and construct alliances between the diverse sectors and stakeholders. The creation of networks that harness the different efforts on these topics is also necessary to promote the concept, contribute to its dissemination, and foster constructive debate.

    12) Finally we deeply affirmed that we are persuaded that if we worked in the construction of a world guided by the principles of Universal Design and Inclusive Development, this would be better world, more peaceful, more inhabitable, more equitable and, inexorably, with a better quality of life.

    Rio de Janeiro, December 12, 2004.

    Unofficial English translation by Scott Rains,

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