Accessibility by another name – does it work?

picture of a modern building Norway Opera HouseNorway uses the term accessible to signify solutions specifically for people with disability when not required generally in the population. An interesting distinction by Olav Rand Bringa using his 20 years of experience working in the field of universal design. In his paper says succinctly, “The term accessibility for people with disabilities does not broadcast an understanding of qualities beyond the targeted user group”.  Consequently other terms try to compensate for this. However, it is difficult to move away from this term because it is perpetuated in legal and other statutory documents. Bringa writes thoughtfully and incisively about the issues of getting language right in order to get inclusion right. An important contribution to the quest for inclusive societies. The title of the article is, Universal Design as a Technical Norm and Juridical Term – A Factor of Development or Recession? it’s open access. The picture is of the Oslo Opera House.

Abstract: Universal design was introduced as an ideological and technical concept in Norway in 1996 and was introduced in the first law in 2003. Since then universal design has replaced accessibility for people with disabilities in national policies, laws, regulations, standards, projects and everyday language. Accessibility is now used to characterize solutions made more exclusively for people with disabilities or when a high, general quality is not required. Few countries have made this extensive use of the concept of universal design and the concept has faced several challenges from lawmakers, architects, economists, user organizations, entrepreneurs and debaters. This paper reflects on some aspects of more than 20 years of extensive use of the concept of universal design and try to answer the question: Is universal design an academic invention with little extra positive impact compared to accessibility for people with disability, or does the concept defend its supposed role as a step towards a society with equal opportunities for all?

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.