University of Manitoba Begins Largest Built Environment Accessibility Audit

Aligning with the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) and the University of Manitoba’s commitment to fostering and providing an accessible environment, the University will be embarking on a campus-wide audit of the built environment to identify accessibility barriers. This is in preparation for the fourth accessibility standard of the AMA, to be implemented around 2023 (another standard is rolled out every two years and public and private sectors have one and two years, respectively, to comply).

Auditors from Adaptability Canada Corporation will visit interior and exterior spaces at the Fort Garry and Bannatyne Campuses and William Norrie Centre over the next two months, facilitated with guidance from Physical Plant-Architectural and Engineering Services.

The goal is to assess and gather data about our physical surroundings for potential barriers. Recommendations from this work will steer the development of future projects to ensure an accessible campus for all.

Auditors will be identifiable by University issued identification cards that state their name, and the project they are part of; they will also carry a letter of intent outlining the project scope.

For a detailed schedule as to when the audit team will be in your building, visit the Physical Plant website, where an up-to-date schedule will be maintained.


Built Environment

Access to Built Environment report launched for Christchurch recovery

NEW ZEALAND: MP Mojo Mathers launches a Commission report on how to improve accessibility and introduce universal design to New Zealand’s built environment in Christchurch today.

Better Design and Buildings for Everyone: Disabled People’s Rights and the Built Environment Book 1

Better Design and Buildings for Everyone: Disabled People’s Rights and the Built Environment is the first of a series of publications aimed at informing debate about disability issues. The publication summaries the Commission’s experience with access to the built environment, includes domestic and international law and standards and offers recommendations to improve accessibility in future.

Mojo Mathers said, “Christchurch can be a world leader in accessible design, and this report provides guidance for achieving that outcome.”

Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson said, “This is a timely report to inform the work of the Christchurch recovery. The goal we all share is for Christchurch to be the most sustainable and accessible city in the world. Inclusive access for all through universal design principles is closely aligned with this goal.”

He noted that the UN Committee that monitors economic, social and cultural rights had recommended that the New Zealand government adopt a human rights approach to reconstruction to “seize the opportunity… to apply designs which enable persons with disabilities access on an equal basis with others to the physical environment, facilities and services provided to the public.”

The report recommends that:

Priority is given to the application of the principles of universal design in the Christchurch reconstruction

The Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues sets accessibility issues as a priority, including to the built environment

The Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues begins a review of design standards for the built environment to strengthen accessibility requirements

The report was launched as part of the activities to acknowledge 3 December, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, when the United Nations asks all countries to consider ways to make the world a better place for disabled people. This year the international theme is “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.”

CATEA receives $3.1m in grants to transform built environment for people with disabilities

New grants totaling approximately $3.1 million will fund multiyear research projects at the College, focused on the design of housing and workplaces for people with disabilities.

CATEA logo

The first grant, funded by NIDRR, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (U.S. Dept. of Education) will fund “Universal Design Practices to Enhance Work Outcomes.” In conjunction with the IDEA Center at the State University of New York, Buffalo, researchers from Georgia Tech’s CATEA, the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (College of Architecture), will develop new measurement tools to assess the effectiveness of applying Universal Design principles to the workplace in order to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

This work grows out of CATEA’s many years of involvement in workplace transformation through its Accessible Workplace and Enabling Environments Labs. The award for this grant is $2.5 million, spread over five years. Principal investigator Jon Sanford (MArch ’83) noted that “the significance of this research is that it will demonstrate that universal design practices geared toward enhancing the ability of employees with disabilities to perform work tasks and to participate fully in the work milieu will result in more positive work outcomes than existing practices based on the Americans with Disabilities Act that focus only on accommodating job tasks.”

The second grant, also funded by NIDRR, was awarded to CATEA’s Accessible Education and Information Lab. Using industry-standard 3D modeling tools in collaboration with the College of Architecture’s IMAGINE Lab, researchers will develop an online virtual environment to provide professionals and consumers with tools to modify homes in ways that support people with disabilities, including older adults. A key part of the project is its use as a training tool to engage industrial design, building construction and architecture students in the principles of Universal Design and assistive technology. CATEA Research Scientist Robert Todd, who will direct the research, says that “this will be the first virtual education tool that allows all educators, students and stakeholders to build, share and adapt living spaces in tandem, providing more effective design instruction.” The award is for $600,000 and the project will last three years.

Office 365 makes digital environments more accessible for persons with disabilities

Office 365 is even more accessible now for persons with disabilities, with several key improvements released.

Office Accessibility

Narrator, the built-in screen reader, has new voices that can speak as many as 800 words a minute with six levels of verbosity, so you can get varying indications of text properties and control over how much punctuation you hear, and verbal hints when automatic suggestions are available; and Document Libraries and SharePoint Online include headings for easy navigation.

There are also high-contrast themes available on PCs to assist visibility, an advanced proofing and editing service to help people with dyslexic, as well as expanded tools to help authors check how accessible their content is, among other enhancements.

For more information, visit

Buildings lack barrier-free environment in India

GUWAHATI: Even after two decades of inception of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, that clearly mandates non-discrimination in the built environment, almost all buildings barring one or two in the capital city lack barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities.

Lady in wheelchair at top of stairs unable to exit buildingThough the Act has laid down the parameters for ensuring accessibility to persons with disabilities in the way of ramps in public buildings, adaptation of toilets for wheelchair users, Braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators, ramps in hospitals, primary health centres and other medical care and rehabilitation institutions, etc., none of these has been implemented in most of the government buildings that were surveyed by Shishu Sarothi under the Accessible India Campaign.

Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan), the Prime Minister’s national flagship programme is presently under way in many cities, where access audits of identified government buildings are being done to make them barrier-free for persons with disabilities.

Shishu Sarothi, which is an empanelled access auditor with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, has completed access audits of 25 government buildings in Guwahati. According to Arman Ali, executive director of Shishu Sarothi, except a few buildings, the other buildings have no barrier-free ambience for persons with disabilities. “We had adopted a three-pronged approach while conducting our audit, focusing on accessibility for people with mobility, vision and hearing disabilities. Unfortunately, despite the Act clearly pointing out to provide barrier environment in the government buildings there is no such provision,” said Ali.

The buildings that were audited include the GMCH, Gauhati University, DC Office, DGP Office, Aayakar Bhawan, the Secretariat, High Court (old building), Directorate of Social Welfare, State Home for Women, Jalukbari, Directorate of Fisheries etc.

It needs to be mentioned that Accessible India Campaign under the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, aims at achieving universal accessibility for persons with disabilities and to create an enabling and barrier-free environment, with a focus on three verticals: Built Environment, Public Transportation and Information and Communication Technologies. Amongst the 48 selected cities, Guwahati and the capital cities of the north-eastern region have also been selected.

“We feel the private constructions like malls, movie halls etc., that have multiplied in the city should also respect the Act and create barrier-free ambience for persons with disabilities,” said Ali, emphasising that the rights of persons with disabilities should be ensured.

Ali further said that most officials had no knowledge about the Act and called for sensitisation and dissemination about the Act.

Source: assamtribune

Scientists link environment and inclusion for adults with disabilities

WEST ORANGE, NJ.: Kessler Foundation researchers have identified an association between the built environment and disability-related outcomes for adults with physical disabilities. The article, Disability and the built environment: an investigation of community and neighborhood land uses and participation for physically impaired adults, was published in the July issue of Annals of Epidemiology doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2014.05.003. The authors are Amanda Botticello, PhD, MPH, and Nicole Cobbold, BS, of Kessler Foundation, and Tanya Rohrbach, MS, of Raritan Valley Community College, Branchburg, NJ.

Investigators explored the associations between community and neighborhood land uses and community participation using cross-sectional data from 508 community-living adults with acquired chronic disabilities in New Jersey. These data were obtained from the national Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems database. “Studies show that neighborhood characteristics such as poor street conditions, homogeneous land use, traffic, and ambient hazards are largely predictive of more reported health problems, functional limitations, inactivity, and social isolation among older adults. The objective was to look at the impact of the built environment (or the physical features of geographic areas) on people with disabilities who are not generally visible in population-based studies, such as persons with chronic spinal cord injury. This line of research may help delineate factors that affect how well a person with an acquired physical disability adjusts to living in the community,” said Dr. Botticello, a research scientist in Outcomes & Assessment Research at Kessler Foundation. Dr. Botticello is a co-investigator in the Northern New Jersey SCI System, and an assistant professor at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School.

Participants’ residential addresses were geocoded, enabling individual survey data to be linked with Geographic Information Systems data on land use and destinations. Results showed that living in communities with greater land use mix and more destinations was associated with a decreased likelihood of reporting optimal social and physical participation. Living in neighborhoods with large portions of open space, however, was positively associated with the reporting of full physical, occupational, and social participation.

“Overall our analysis suggested that the living conditions or natural aspects of the local community may be relevant to well-being for persons with physical disabilities living in densely populated regions like New Jersey,” noted Dr. Botticello. “These findings focus attention on the environment as an important factor to be considered in disability-related outcomes. They are relevant to those who seek to improve the outlook for community participation, including outcomes researchers, policymakers, and professionals who care for people with disabilities.”

This research is supported by funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development (4R00HD065957-03) and National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (H133N110020). For more information, visit

‘Accessible environment needed for persons with disabilities’

BHUBANESWAR, INDIA: A barrier-free environment is needed for persons with disabilities (PWDs) to move safely and freely,” said the speakers at a district-level advocacy workshop for Zilla Parishad members on ‘Accessibility and barrier-free environment for children with disabilities’ organised by the Open Learning System here on Friday.

Inaugurating the workshop, Puri ZP chairperson Debraj Behera said barrier-free environment enables people with disabilities to move safely and freely and use the facilities within the built environment. The goal of barrier-free design is to provide an environment that supports independent functioning of individuals and participate without assistance, he added.

Adviser to SCPD Dr PR Das said an accessible environment provides benefits not only persons with disabilities but also helps the persons with reduced mobility like elderly people, pregnant women and families with young children.

Resource person RK Sharma said that steep ramps should not be installed during construction of buildings.

Among others, Puri ZP vice-chairman SM Baral and resource persons Sumitra Panda and Sarojini Moharana were present.

Source: Daily Pioneer

Are You Interested in Representing Your Country for the Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES)?

GAATES is seeking Country Representatives to promote accessibility in your country and participate in the Global Alliance.

GAATES is the leading international organization focusing on accessibility of the built environment, transportation, information and communications technologies and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Please submit your applications for consideration.

Applications will be reviewed by our Review Committee which meets every 3 months.  Positions are for 1 year terms.

For more information on the Benefits and Obligations of being a Country Representative, and for the application form, please visit GAATES at

If you are not yet a member, but are interested in applying for a Country Representative position, GAATES membership is free, just register on-line at

Thank you for your interest, we look forward to hearing from you.

Mukhtar Al Shibani
GAATES President

Building barrier-free environment in Ghana for people with disabilities

Feb 20: Ghana is among the few countries in Africa that have taken affirmative action in favour of marginalised groups at a higher level with a focus on persons with disabilities. These efforts have resulted in laws and policies promoting equality, inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society.

The Government of the Republic of Ghana back in 1996 developed the National Disability Policy leading to the passage on the National Disability Law, Act 715 of 2006 aims at promoting equal opportunities, enhance, empower and seek the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities irrespective of gender, age, or type of disability.

However, advocacy, implementation and supervision of disability programmes are severely lacking. Accessibility is one of the key elements addressed in these policies and laws. Due to limited enforcement of disability laws, absence of National Accessibility Standards and lack of knowledge about the rights of persons with disabilities, laws and policies on accessibility have been largely overlooked.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility entails understanding its relation to areas of life beyond just the physical environment.
Areas that are often overlooked are access to services, information and communication which are an integral part of making a barrier-free society and address the accessibility needs of persons with sensory, intellectual and psychosocial disabilities as well. These aspects should be addressed in a set of complementary Standards.

The environment in Ghana is not barrier-free. It does not allow easy and safe movement, function or access for all, regardless of age, sex or condition. Access by all to physical space and to services is not possible without obstacles, which leads to loss of dignity and independence.

This is in recognition that persons with disabilities can live to their full potential given the same conditions and opportunities. The national disability policy and Act 715 and the 1992republican Constitution and other legal legislations also provide for accessibility not only for persons with disabilities but also for elderly persons, the sick, pregnant women, and those carrying heavy loads.

Despite the efforts of the government to establish a conducive environment for participation of Persons with disabilities in all spheres of life, there is still difficulties in terms of accessing the physical infrastructure as most buildings do not have facilities such as ramps, lifts, and so on.

Some of the existing accessibility facilities are not designed according to the required Standards and as a result, persons with disabilities continue to face difficulties in accessing them. Leading to discrimination, violation of the rights of persons with disability and deliberately putting impediment to the disabled to exhibit their full potential to contribute to the development of Ghana and Africa.

People affected by accessibility barriers: People who use wheelchairs, people with limited walking/movement abilities, People with visual impairment or low vision, People with hearing impairment, People with intellectual disabilities, People with psychosocial disabilities, Elderly persons, Pregnant women and People with temporary disabilities

The need for Accessibility Standards: To the best of my knowledge one of the cardinal reasons why it has been very difficult to implement the legal provisions on accessibility is the absence of Accessibility Standards to guide architects, property developers, policy makers and implementers on the accessibility requirements in the physical environment during the design and implementation of construction projects.

The goal of the Accessibility Standards is to contribute to improving equal access for persons with disabilities, in order to enable them to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life.

• To provide a blueprint for creating an accessible physical environment.
• To provide a tool for measurement and auditing of accessibility of the environment.
The Standards are intended for use by a variety of stakeholders, including those that:
• Develop laws, policies and regulations e.g Parliament and line ministries.
• Build and implement changes in the physical environment such as architects, contractors, engineers and those who own or operate public infrastructure or services like the banks, churches and other service providers.


The principal targets for these Standards are people with different disabilities. In order to harmonize between the accessibility needs of different groups, there is need to have a proper understanding of these needs which differ from one disability to another.

People who use wheelchairs: Many accessibility requirements relate to dimensions and other aspects of wheelchairs. In order to achieve a complete turn with the wheelchair, it is necessary to provide an unobstructed circle with a minimum diameter of 1.50m.

Considerable energy is required to propel a wheelchair manually up ramps, over changes in level and over soft or uneven surfaces. Therefore the Standards address those aspects in particular.

Resistance between the floor and the wheelchair wheels depends on the floor surface of the pathway – whether it is even or uneven, firm or loose. Changes in level should be avoided and the floor surface should be hard, even and slip resistant.

People with movement difficulties may use crutches or sticks: Special attention must be paid to avoid broken, rough or sloping floor surface and surfaces that become particularly slippery after rainfall, such as wood covering, granite, hard burnt bricks, gravel and Murom.

The following aspects are important to enable independent movement for people using wheelchairs and other assistive devices:

• Changes in level should be avoided.
• Floor surfaces should be hard, even and slip resistant.
• Rails should be provided on stairs and ramps.
• Ramps should have resting places and be of low slope along travel routes.
• Pathways should be of limited slope and include sufficient turning radius.
• Doors should be light and easy to turn, and entrances should be sufficiently wide.
• Parking space should be close to the main entrance.
• Furniture, counters, equipment, power sockets, and plugs should be placed at suitable heights reachable by persons who use wheelchairs.
• Handrails should be easy to grasp.

Persons with visual impairments: For blind persons and persons with visual impairments, orientation can be eased by the use of contrasting colours and changes in the texture of the floor material. This helps a blind person in identifying doors, stairs, steps, ramps and pedestrian crossings.

The path of travel should be easy to detect by a blind person using a long white cane. A guide strip with a contrasting floor texture running parallel to main pathway should be used for this purpose.
The use of protruding elements and low overhanging signs should be avoided in pathways.
Visual capability is different from one person to another and changes with age and disability.
Lighting systems should be made to suit different needs a In order to provide a barrier-free environment for blind persons and persons with visual impairment, the physical surroundings should be arranged in a simple and logical way.
Visual information should be accompanied by audible information, handrails should be available to grip when using stairs, and ramps, entrances, stairs, and information boards should be well lighted.

Blind persons are aided by tactile and auditory information. Therefore, written information should be made available in braille and visual information should be accompanied by audible information.

Persons with hearing impairments: People with hearing impairments may experience difficulty in distinguishing words and sounds in noisy environments. Therefore, rooms should be acoustically insulated.

Supplementary visual information should be provided for deaf persons and persons with hearing impairments, such as visual information at airports and bus stations, and alarms and bells in lifts.

People with learning or intellectual disabilities: Some people with learning or intellectual disabilities experience difficulties in understanding or interpreting information like signs, and in distinguishing between different colours or between left or right.

The following design elements will enable people experiencing these difficulties to physically access the built environment: simple design with clear and unambiguous sign postings; use of signs and notice boards with pictures and symbols; and separation of a mass of information into a number of signs that can be more easily read and understood than in one sign.

Other Groups: In addition to enabling access to persons with disabilities, the Standards also ensure access to other groups, such as elderly persons, pregnant women, people and children with temporary disabilities, and people carrying heavy or cumbersome luggage. In short, accessibility benefits all persons and the Standards ensure a barrier-free environment for all people include the possibility of adjustments from low to strong light.
Winding staircases, vertical turning doors and side-hung doors should equally be avoided.

Despite the efforts of the government, Ghana Federation of the Disabled and its partner, the network of journalist for the promotion of the Rights of persons with Disability in Africa (PROMOAFRICA) and other OPWDs to establish a conducive environment for participation of persons with disabilities in all spheres of life, they still face difficulties in terms of accessing the physical infrastructure.

Most buildings do not have facilities such as ramps, lifts, and so on. Some of the existing accessibility facilities are not designed according to the required Standards and as a result, persons with disabilities continue to face difficulties in accessing them. The responsibility lies on us as citizen to help build a better environment all persons living in the land of gold call Ghana. The author is the president of the network of Journalists for the Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disability in Africa (PROMOAFRICA) and the managing editor of the EVENING TRIBUNE newspaper.