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The principles of universal design and barrier-free environment were discussed in Minsk

25.05.2015  |  Society
The principles of universal design and barrier-free environment were discussed in Minsk

Social experiments, interactive games, mobile exhibitions and mobile apps – these are only few examples of using different tools helping to expand accessibility in different spheres.

Participants of the Accessibility Forum got acquainted with activities of NGOs and social organizations in Belarus in the frames of the Accessibility Week – 2015.

A trainer of the international project “Mobility of blind and visually impaired people in the Republic of Belarus” of the NGO “BelTIZ” Alexander Evdokimov told how blind people are moving around.

It turned out that a special mobile app “OSMAND ACCESS” has been designed which helps to orient in space and can tell where a person is in the given moment of time, to find places you need and even to memorize starting points.

“In order to “look around” a blind persons needs to have a mobile phone or a tablet, - says Alexander Evdokimov. – The app will quickly find what you need – a bar, a store or a tire shop. Built in compass will tell where to go. Besides, you can write down the track of the route you use often so that it would be easier for you to walk”.

According to the creators every person can improve this mobile app. To do it you just have to walk a route and write down all the possible barriers – manholes, construction works and poles and to send the information to the creators of the app. A unique peculiarity of the app is that not only the key roads are on the map but also pavements, footpaths and alleys in parks and public gardens.

- I’m proudly saying that I came to the Forum by myself from Maladzechna. And in our conditions it is the thing you really can be proud of – says Alexander Evdokimov. – For a long time already it is not the reason to be proud of in western countries. I hope that I will be able to see the moment when it becomes the norm in our country.

Another interesting app was created by Alexander Evdokimov together with his acquaintance from Odessa – an app which is capable of defining the value of currency. It is enough to carry a banknote to the phone’s camera and the app will tell you its value. Today the app is able to recognize 70 out of world’s 260 currencies. The app is being improved and the creators hope it will be able to recognize all the world’s currencies soon.

Creators of the project “Art for inclusion of people with disabilities” are the representatives of NGO “Belarusian association of assistance to disabled children and young disabled”. The project promotes equal right and possibilities for everyone and more active inclusion of people with disabilities into social life of the society.

We want to create the loyal attitude to persons with disabilities in the society, - say the initiators of the project. - The project consists of two parts. The first one deals with education in accordance with the principle “equal teaches equal”: healthy children study together with their peers with disabilities, take part in different master-classes and events. There are also rather interesting “Lesson of disability understanding” during which you can become a blind, deaf or person in a wheelchair.

The second part of the project deals with art: children prepare joint concerts, exhibitions, create movies, make shows”.

We consider that art can eliminate barriers – say the initiative’s representatives. – But the topic is difficult and that is why we are all the time looking for partners and volunteers”.

The head of the “Republican association of wheelchair-bound disabled” Evgeniy Shevko presented a project “Accessible city”. Project’s website www.freeway.by gathers information on architectural accessibility of Minsk. Every person can participate in the project: you have to gather information on architectural accessibility of any object and input it with your mobile. If you don’t have a possibility to use a mobile or a tablet you can download the form from the website, print it and fill in and give it to the support team.

In the future we are planning to transform the website into a full-scale portal dedicated to barrier-free environment. There are no analogues in Belarus”, – says Evgeniy.

By the way there is an interesting option at the website: you can send a complaint to an official or a department which violates accessibility of architectural environment. For example, you see that someone parked his car in the spot for disabled and you immediately, with the help of a special function can file a complaint to the road militia.

“We have a lot of plans of the project’s development. For example, we have an agreement with a well-known company making navigation maps that they will add a layer of accessibility to their maps”, - said the initiative’s representative.

A representative of the organization “Children. Autism. Parents” Irina Dergach told that their initiative “Autism. Old tales in a new way” was a success. It was realized in the frames of the project “Autism. Simply to understand”. Parents turned their children into fairytales heroes, took pictures and created an amazing photo exhibition. You can get acquainted with it in movie theatre “October”. Moreover they rewrote favorite fairytales and made the main heroes autistic having explained by this the problem of autism.

A lot of other useful things were made in the frames of the project: materials for parents, teachers and tutors who want to deepen their knowledge of autism; computer game “My friend is an autist” telling children about the peculiarities of understanding the world by autistic children.

Graduates of the architectural faculty of the Belarusian national technical university under the guidance of an associate professor of the department “Architecture of residential and public buildings” Natalia Lazovskaya suggested projects of a hotel room and an apartment reequipped in accordance with the principles of universal design.

The creators of the projects mention that in our country people speak little about the principles of universal design and the knowledge in this sphere are not systematized. Only one apartment out of 12 can be reconstructed using universal design because reconstruction costs more than initial planning of residential premises. That is why young architects recommend preparing the basics of universal design at the stage of project making of a future house or an apartment.

NGO “Belarusian society of deaf” shared good news: message service 131 was created for people with hearing impairments. This service is very important because in the past people with hearing impairments faced a serious problem – they couldn’t make phone calls to emergency services (militia, fire department, ambulance). Now they can send messages using comfortable for them ways: Skype, fax, sms.

Private enterprise of intersectoral cooperation from Brest “Social partnership” is ready to employ about 30 people with disabilities to work with cloud services in the sphere of medicine. Accountants, economists and lawyers are needed.

We are ready to teach people to work with cloud services, – says the director of the enterprise Galina Iaroshuk. – We are always open for cooperation!”

“We examined 135 websites of executive committees paying attention to different criteria: the volume of information, accordance to the demands to information and the amount of information in the state languages, - says an expert of the Center for legal transformation Anrey Sushko. – One of the criteria we examined was accessibility of information for visually impaired people. In particular we paid attention to the fact if it was easy for them to send an appeal from official websites of state bodies”.

It was possible only in 40 percent of cases. The center for legal transformation will soon publish informational materials showing how to expand accessibility of internet resources taking into account the interests of blind and visually impaired people.

How to expand accessibility of ecological information, how to talk to programmers and how much it costs – Tatiana Kuznetsova, an employee of informational service of the Center of ecological solutions, knows the answers.

- We want to make ecological information accessible for all that is why when we were working on our website www.ecoidea.by we took it into account. It turned out that in large IT companies working with foreign clients accessibility standards are set by default. In other case clients will not accept the work. We are very interested in expansion of access to ecological information that is why we are thinking about other changes in our organization. We are planning to talk to the office owner in order he would eliminate architectural barriers – more people will be able to get to our info-centers, we organize online courses and are thinking that in the future we could prepare teaching aids in Brail… We are glad to get new ideas expanding informational accessibility.

A representative of Lida branch of the Republican association of wheelchair-bound disabled Alexander Avdevich together with his friends held a social experiment. Volunteers were offered to live one day in a wheelchair and try to get to a store, market, café or a WC. Everything they did was filmed. 

Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

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