December 2006 Archives

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From Darren Hill's Get Around Guide


Catch up on a regional conference about accessible tourism at Darren Hill's blog -- Cyprus Hosts Accessible Tourism Conference

El Ayuntamiento [de Valencia] se ha comprometido a mejorar la accesibilidad de las calles de la ciudad para facilitar la movilidad de las personas con minusvalía.

Meera Subramanian profiles Brooklyn resident Victor Andrews as he gets mobility training and prepares to take on the world in the article, Sight Unseen.

Ontario, Canada is practicing Inclusive Destination Development through its EnAbling Change business/government partnership:

Improving accessibility for people with disabilities in employment,
customer service and universal design is the driving force behind the projects
funded under the Ontario government's EnAbling Change partnership program.

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) developed a customer service
standard for people with disabilities with the help of a grant under the
EnAbling Change partnership program. The standard was voluntary, and was
accompanied by tools and resources to help businesses of all sizes improve
customer service to people with disabilities.

REHABITAT: A True Christmas Spirit


Cynthia Leibrock is an architect with a calling. The day after Christmas seems an appropriate time to profile the faith-inspired Universal Design work she undertakes including:

REHABITAT, INC. provides training in universal design, friendship evangelism, resource development, and needs assessment. We offer seed money and technical support for the retrofitting including a home assessment survey. Upon completion, the survey is analyzed by computer software. A customized report is then prepared for each client recommending building modifications for their home.

Further information:

Now here's some news to launch the new year!

Do you have the "right stuff" to set up a global fund that will make the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) a reality? Can you pull your credentials together to make a convincing presentation by January 15, 2007. If so, read on and write to the Fund for Global Human Rights. of Argentina covers the Matsushita Eco House in Tokyo. Matsushita has a good track record with Universal design. Here they demonstrate a full-lifecycle home incorporating high technology and Universal Design in a smart home.

The UK's Motability in Motion


Universal Design for Learning at NSBA


Instructional Design blog reported from the National School Boards Association Teaching & Learning Conference on Universal Design for Learning.

Coach Firm Wins Disabled Vote in UK


A Coventry bus and coach operator has won a national award for making travel easier for disabled people.

Travel de Courcey beat off competition from firms all over the UK to win the accessible coach operator of the year title at the operator excellence awards 2006, run by industry magazine Route One.


Goodwill is wired in San Antonio at the Good Bytes Internet Cafe.

Here Universal Design and IT work together here according to the blog at Life Done Right. It looks like a place worth checking out - and checking your email at. Check out the menu here.

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UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 (APP) - The UN General Assembly has adopted a landmark disability convention, the first human rights treaty of the 21st century that is aimed at protecting the rights of the 650 million disabled people around the world.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed the approval of the convention by the 192-member Assembly, saying it represents the “dawn of a new era” for the people living with disabilities. Annan, along with Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa and other UN officials, as well as members of civil society that lobbied for the pact, urged all member states to quickly ratify the convention, which covers rights to education, health, work and a raft of other protective measures for people with disabilities.

It's Wheelie Santa!



Dada Moreira decks out the Aventura Especial accessible travel logo for the season.

Isabela Vistue has her eyes open for the beautiful, memorable, and humorous things of life.

Here's a link to a photo she captured of a politically correct Santa Claus (Papai Noel) in a wheelchair. Thanks Isabela for generously sharing your photo at the Flickr site Travel With a Disability.

Imtiaz Muqbil on Tourism & Disability


Imtiaz Muqbul publishes Travel Impact Newswire. His recent lead story celebrates the new UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities:

The implications [of the UN convention] for travel & tourism are significant across the board. Trade shows, conferences and seminars will emerge for buyers and sellers of holidays and travel opportunities for PwDs, along with new publications and marketing campaigns directed at them. Special awards are sure to be created. Opportunities for training and education also abound in what will clearly be a highly specialised field of travel. If legal issues emerge, the lawyers are waiting.

Directly relevant to travel & tourism industry is Article 30 of the Convention which covers “Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport”. It requires countries to take all appropriate measures to ensure that PwDs “enjoy access to places for cultural performances or services, such as theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries and tourism serv

ices, and, as far as possible, enjoy access to monuments and sites of national cultural importance.”


Report from the Ministry of Railways India


In India the legislation pertaining to the rights of persons with disabilities includes the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995. Recently the Ministry of Railways issued a statement chronicling its compliance.

Tocando as Rodas by Beto Sporkens


A new documentary, Tocando as Rodas (literally: Touching the Wheels), is making a debut in Brazil thanks to Movimento SuperAção.

The film follows the radio personaily, Luka, around São Paulo for a week as he experiences life as a wheelchair user (cadeirante.) The producers note the irony of the prevalence of laws supporting those with disabilities and the absence of follow through in Brazil.

Voyages Accessibles au Canada (French)


logo of handirect

The site Handirect offered a brief piece on Canadian travel Voyages Accessibles au Canada although the cited link should be

A little deeper into Handidirect you will find an archive of articles and inclusive travel guides. See Tourisme et Loisirs:

Over at Travel With a Disability photographer who contributes as Lumpen Heap has shared a find:


The Willow Trust is a charity that offers freedom for the disabled on the water by providing days out for children and adults with learning and physical disabilities and those who are seriously ill.

The Trust has two boats based at Saul Junction, and guests can enjoy the excitement of adventure and the therapy of tranquility in beautiful surroundings - all travelling totally free of charge.

Catch a Kenguru


The New York Times recently caught up with the wheelchair accessible Kenguru designed by Zsolt Varga.

Most handicapped-accessible automobiles are designed for the general public and only later adapted for wheelchairs, resulting in awkward compromises, like the notoriously sluggish wheelchair lifts seen on public buses. But now there¹s the Kenguru, a snazzy mini-hatchback designed to give total independence to wheelchair users on the go.


The Kenguru¹s hatchback flips open so a wheelchair can roll right in and lock into place, which means the driver doesn¹t have to climb into a driver¹s seat. Because the steering column is a joystick, paraplegics and those with limited arm range can steer. The car is powered by a rechargeable battery and has a peak speed of 25 miles per hour.

New York Times

Gaylord, Michigan asked the question, "What makes a community elder-friendly?" In the process they discovered Universal Design.

According to the Michigan "Community for a Lifetime" program these 10 categories of assets play a role in creating elder-friendly communities:

· Walkability
· Supportive community systems
· Access to healthcare
· Safety and Security
· Housing: Availability and Affordability
· Housing: Modification and Maintenance
· Transportation
· Commerce
· Enrichment
· Inclusion


I have blogged on accessible trails, railways, ships, and trips - but never shoes!


There's always a first time. Thank you Jeff Staples and Shinji Sudo.

Nextide is moving into barrier-free fashion - Universal Design meets wearable style.

I would like to introduce our project NEXTIDEVOLUTION. This is the project which breaks the barrier in the mind for ordinary people and those with disabilities by using the creativity of an artist.

Usually Nextide makes graphics for T-shirts to express this message, but now the famous Japanese stores United-Arrows and Ships sell NEXTIDE items such as tee shirts, caps, bags and sneakers. We donate profits to UNIFA which is a non-profit organization for popularizing barrier-free fashion.

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David is on an adventure over at Life With a Disability. Follow him through his travelogue, My Wheelchair's Vacation Story.

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Independent Luxury Homes gets the message about Green UD and has the social entrepreneurial spirit as well. What they are doing is in line with what we envisioned, a continent to the south and a few years earlier, in the Rio Declaration on Universal Design for Sustainable and Inclusive Develoopment.

For more on this worthwhile project see:

Posting on Smithsonian Journey's shortsightedness caused some resonance over at Darren Hillock's Get Around Guide and Pattie Thomas' Ample Ramblings.

The Korean Wave - Samsung Defines Design


As Universal Design diffuses it localizes. In Korea it has meant a reassesment at Samsung where the Tao of balance plays a part.

Samsung's instinct was to develop a design language that grew out of Korean culture.

Samsung's in-house school gave its designers the tools and confidence to risk thinking differently. But there remained an equally vexing challenge: The company lacked a universal design ethos* --a measurable, clearly defined set of principles that its designers could replicate and its customers could intuitively understand. Samsung's instinct was to develop a design language that grew out of Korean culture. But that proved equally hard to define. China's Han, Ming, and Tung dynasties, as well as the Mongols, Russians, Japanese, and even American missionaries had all left elements of their cultures on the peninsula. Unearthing a true Korean character proved difficult, but Samsung discovered it in the Tae Kuk--the yin-yang symbol found on the South Korean flag that represents the simultaneous unity and duality of all things. From the Tae Kuk, Samsung developed its touchstone: "Balance of Reason and Feeling."

"Reason and feeling are opposites, but they are essential to each other," says Sangyeon Lee, who heads Samsung's San Francisco design studio. "In design terms, 'reason' is rational, sharp-edged, and very geometric. 'Feeling' is soft and organic--it makes an emotional connection with the user. Taken together, reason and feeling give us a way to frame our design identity, which is always evolving."

A task force spent a year developing and perfecting a scale, with reason at one end and feeling on the other, which is now used to ensure that every single product design hews to Samsung's brand positioning. That generally falls near the scale's center--thereby striking a balance. Samsung did the same with two other key words: "simplicity" and "complexity."

Ask any travel agent. The three keys to qualifying a travel customer are determining if they have the 1) desire, 2) money, 3) time.

You can generally presume that desire is present when the customer seeks you out to initiate the sale as I recently did with Smithsonian Journeys. Qualifications two and three - money and time - are adequately documented in Eric Lipp's regular surveys of the travel behavior of people with disabilities, Simon Darcy's seminal study that put this market on the map. A casual observation of the passengers on your cruise ship should give any doubter a hint that there is an underserved travel market among people with disabilities. Something major has shifted in the travel industry.

History will excavate the telltale remains of institutions that played possum through this transition.

To illustrate the power of this moment let me use a case outside travel & hospitality where Universal Design is literally "beating opponents to a pulp."

First, an underserved market was identified. It not only had no desire for the product but was typically scornful of it and professed to have no time for it whatsoever. What it did have was money.

And now Nintendo has a whole lot of that money instead.

On the High Tech Front


Interactive Multimedia blog has an entry on Universal Design in the creation of digital games. The principles and practices developed in the gaming realm will have broader applications.

Novelist Nick Hornby on Disability


To The Best of our Knowledge is a weekly radio program produced by Wisconsin Public Radio. Nick Hornby is a novelist, father of a son with autism, and author of the book, "A Long Way Down."

In this program he is interviewed about the book. He notes

For years now Tom Rickert of Access Exchange International in San Francisco has been the driving force behind the adoption of inclusive transportation systems worldwide. He is an incarnated point of diffusion for the seven principles of Universal Design. Reading the article about Bangalore deciding to mimic new Dehli Metro is just the tip of the iceberg revelation of all that you an discover firsthand by reading the newsletter of Access Exchange International.

While Universal Design makes its impact on public transportation in South Asia it continues to spread in the Asia Pacific region. Recently we see it merging with the "Korean Wave" as in this article, New Designs Focus on Easy Use, in Digital Chosunibo.

Note the factual error attributed to Lim Young-mo, senior researcher with Samsung Economic Research Institute that Universal Design is a "concept that first appeared in the U.S in the early nineties." They say it takes a good 20 to 30 years for an idea or tecnnology to diffuse. Here we see the diffusion and miscommunicatiion process operating hand-in-hand. On themore positive side, during the early years the fact that Ron Mace and others with disabilities were so strongly associated with their concept, Universal Design, meant that it was stigmatized and shunted to the margins in the same manner as the community which brought this transformative tool to the world.

On the Internet No One Knows You are a...


Super Cripf

This graphic appears in an early German study on disability, identity, and the Internet here.

Home Depot is on message with Universal Design.

You better believe this is a hard-headed business decision and not a soft-hearted pity ploy when it comes from a company with as much to risk (and gain) as Home Depot.

Atlanta-based Home Depot (NYSE: HD) said its Home Hero brand is the first product line to come from its new "Orange Works" innovation and design venture with Arnell Group. Orange Works is tasked with working with vendors on proprietary innovation within Home Depot to meet the needs of emerging lifestyle and product trends.

And Universal Design is the right tool for the job:

This blog is on a roll - and it's one worth tuning in on.

You have read here about the distinction between sterile (accessible without attention to the integrity of design) and style (successful application of Universal Design.) The December 2, 2006 post at BlindConfidential explores the roots of "cool", disability rights, and the current doldrum in Web design offering sage advice:

Other products that seem superfluously inaccessible because of an attempt by their authors to create a "cool" interface include spam filters, virus protection products and other security related programs. The only time a person with or without a disability cares to interact with such software is when they're installing it and when something has gone terribly wrong. Lots of flashy graphics, animations and other user interface elements intended to make the product look "cool" has nothing to do with the purpose of such products whose users rarely interact with them and, when they do, they may be in a total panic.

Of course, even the programs with the highest potential "cool quotient" with the most extremely nonstandard interface can be made accessible with a minimal amount of extra effort on behalf of its developers. When it comes to these programs I'm frankly quite sick and tired of hearing mainstream developers first say, "for our audience it has to be very, very cool..." and, even worse, "we'll build a separate, text only version for your people." Returning to Thurgood Marshall, "separate but equal isn't," so my advice to the mainstream developers of the world is to make your software or website as cool as you want but, follow the well-established accessibility standards and guidelines and learn principles of universal design and you can make super cool programs and websites that can be enjoyed by everyone -- with or without a disability.

Gordon Fuller is using his blog, Fullervision, to advocate for inclusion in communication and technology. HIs December 2, 2006 post and the recent BlindConfidential post are mutually reinforcing. See Hall of Shame

Cati Vaucelle has an engaging blog on Universal Design. Take a look at her November 29 coverage of designer Michael Graves in Michael Graves and Universal Design



The Impact of Ageing on Aviation


harry wolfe
Professional colleague and personal friend Harry Wolfe presented at the Airneth Conference, The Impact of Ageing on Aviation, held at the Hague, Netherlands on November 23.

Presentations are downloadable here.

Transylvania via Wizz Air


I'm no Goth. Scarey movies aren't my genre. After seeing a few as a youngster quoth this less-than-brave-one, "Nevermore!"

But I have written here more than once that Transylvania holds some appeal and fuels a quest for reliable information on its accessibility. Robert Reid provided no new insights on inclusion in that part of the world but his recent report does reaffirm its appeal:

Most travelers heading to Transylvania envisioning wing-flapping vampires first think of Brasov, the cobbled Saxon town near the so-called Dracula Castle at Bran. Or Sighisoara, where the real Dracula (Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler) cut his teeth in the 15th century.

But lesser-known Targu Mures is Transylvania's new big gateway and up-and-coming highlight. Budget airline Wizz Air started direct Budapest-Targu Mures service in July (currently $22 each way), making the cool hub of Transylvania more accessible to all of Europe.

Targu Mures' location couldn't be better.

It is a well-published secret that I travel a lot. After 35 years doing so in a wheelchair has become so second nature that sometimes it takes running headlong into an obstacle to remember how "special" simply living one's life can seem to those designing travel products.

This Fall marks one of those metalic milestone wedding anniversaries for my spouse and I. Not surprisingly, we want to celebrate it with "The Grand Tour." Transitioning from the dreaming to the planning stage I recently discovered that we won't be spending the happy occassion on a Smithsonian tour. Specifically, we won't be there for the Vanishing Cultures Around the World: An Epic Journey by Private Jet because Smithsonian Journeys tours are quite explicit:

Phuket, Thailand: Beautiful Sand Resort


Phuket is a popular vacation destination. Fortunately, inclusion has made progress there. Read about Beautiful Sand Resort.

Bill Hinchberger is owner of The site lives up to its monicker as "the Hip Guide to Brazil." What also continues to impress me is Bill's committment, consistent with the Brazilian Tourism Agency Embratur's policy, to promote inclusion in travel and hospitality.

Samba Imperatriz

For some reason southern Brazil's Gaucho territory is making it into the news often recently with items of interest to travelers with disabilities. How about dancing along with this Escola de Samba (Samba School) during carnival this year? Here's some disability pride in action!

US Travelers: Grab Your Passports


Get those passports ready!

Starting January 23 all travellers entering the US, including US citizens, must have a passport if coming in by air.

Disability Nation Podcast


Disability Nation Logo

Disability Nation is an audio magazine by Larry Wanger. Available as a podcast and text transcription the magazine covers a variety of topics as it grows.