May 12, 2006

Universal Design for Sustainable and Inclusive Development

The official English translation of the Carta do Rio / Declaracion de Rio is available below.


Having met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on December 12, 2004, in the International Conference on Universal Design, Designing for the 21st Century, as women and men from various countries in Latin America, including professionals, representatives of NGOs and various sectors of civil society, universities, employees of government institutions, and international and multilateral agencies, we hereby agree to the following declaration:

1. The purpose of Universal Design is to serve needs and make possible social participation and access to goods and services by the widest possible range of users, contributing to both the inclusion of persons who have been prevented from interacting in society and to their development. Examples of such groups include: poor persons, persons marginalized for reasons of culture, race, or ethnicity, persons with different types of disabilities, very obese persons and pregnant women, very tall or very short persons, including children, and all those who for different reasons have been excluded from social participation.

2. We conceive of Universal Design as generating accessible environments, services, programs, and technologies that are equitably, safely, and autonomously usable by all individuals � to the widest extent possible � without having to be specifically adapted or readapted, based on the seven underlying principles, as follows:

  • Equitable Use (for persons with diverse abilities);

  • Flexibility in Use (by persons with a wide range of preferences and abilities);

  • Simple and Intuitive (easy to understand);

  • Perceptible Information (communicates necessary information effectively)

  • Tolerance for Error (minimizes hazards of unintended actions);

  • Low Physical Effort; and

  • Size and Space for Approach and Use.
  • 3. We acknowledge the value of the emerging concept of Inclusive Development, which attempts to expand the vision of development, recognizes diversity as a fundamental aspect in the process of socioeconomic and human development, claims a contribution by each human being to the development process, and rather than implementing isolated policies and actions, promotes an integrated strategy benefiting persons and society as a whole. Inclusive Development is an effective tool for overcoming the world�s prevailing social exclusion and thus for achieving progress in eradicating poverty.

    4. We conceive of Sustainable Human Development as a productive way of understanding social policies, considering the links between economic growth, equitable distribution of its benefits, and living in harmony with the environment.

    5. We see that poverty and social exclusion affect millions of people worldwide, prevent human development and a decent life with quality � and that in Latin America and the Caribbean this situation affects over half of the population. We are also convinced that exclusion and poverty, together with inequality, diseases, insecurity, environmental pollution and degradation, and inadequate design are public hazards affecting many people and threatening everyone.

    6. Within the prevailing context of development based on exclusion, we pose the following challenges:

  • How to apply the principles of Universal Design when there are people whose main concern is not �tomorrow�, but the uncertainty as to their next meal ... or who lack housing and the most basic health care?

  • How to make Universal Design principles consistent with the fact that for the majority of the world the concepts of �basic standards�, �building codes�, and �regulations� are non-existent?

  • In this situation, what real meaning is there in such services as �the bathroom�, �the kitchen�, �the lobby�, �the ramp�, �the lighting�, or �the acoustics�?

  • And especially, how to add quality of life by applying Universal Design?
  • 7. We emphasize that the current application of inadequate design to programs, services, and infrastructure generates inaccessibility and perpetuates conditions of exclusion for the future. We find it unacceptable that public resources continue to be used to construct any kind of barrier.

    8. We agree that Universal Design should become an indispensable component in policies and actions to promote development, in order for it to be truly inclusive and to effectively contribute to the reduction of poverty in the world.

    9. We also agree that in order to make progress towards Universal Design for Sustainable and Inclusive Development, all new actions will require the following:

    � be planned with a balance between legal, human-rights, economic, technological, and local cultural issues;
    � meet the community�s real needs;
    � include participation by stakeholders;
    � incorporate Universal Design criteria in order to prevent investments from generating extra costs for adaptations needed in the future;
    � apply locally available materials and technologies at the lowest possible cost;
    � plan for maintenance with local means; and
    � provide adequate training to allow increasingly extensive application of Universal Design.

    10. We are convinced that in order for Universal Design to become an instrument at the service of Inclusive Development, it is necessary that all stakeholders in these issues (states and governments, private sector, civil society, civil society organizations, universities, professionals, and international and regional agencies) play active roles, in keeping with the following lines of action:

    � Governments should make efforts to achieve legal instruments for Universal Design to be applied permanently and as a cross-cutting component of national development plans and public policies.

    � The private sector should be attracted to apply Universal Design to products and services, and the theme should become a public interest matter.

    � Universities should promote Universal Design for training the professions related to this concept, fostering research that allows the expansion, application, and development of Universal Design.

    � Professionals directly related to Universal Design should furnish technical guidelines in order to achieve its more effective and efficient application, focused on local development and social inclusion.

    � The organizations currently most aware of the need for Universal Design should contribute to spreading the concept to other sectors of civil society and play an active role in social vigilance in order to make on-going progress in accessibility and inclusion through its effective application.

    � International and regional agencies should make progress in the legal framework with the support of international and regional technical standards and guidelines promoting the sustainable application of Universal Design at the service of Inclusive Development.

    � Multilateral lending agencies should make Universal Design a development issue and promote its advancement, practical application, research, and dissemination with economic resources and adopt it as a basic standard for designing projects and as a requirement for the approval of loans to countries.

    11. We feel that all efforts and actions in this direction will be stronger and more effective to the extent that we move towards a common agenda for Universal Design and Inclusive Development and build alliances and partnerships between the different sectors and stakeholders. Yet it is still necessary to create networks to promote these issues, to contribute to their spread and constructive debate, and to empower the various efforts.

    12. Finally, we hereby state that we are deeply convinced that if we work to build a world guided by the principles of Universal Design and Inclusive Development, it will be a better, more peaceful, more inhabitable, and more equitable world and certainly one with better quality of life.

    Rio de Janeiro, December 12, 2004.

    Posted by rollingrains at May 12, 2006 02:53 AM | TrackBack