What is universal accessibility?
« Universal accessibility is defined as the character of a product, process, service, information or environment that, with equity and inclusiveness in mind, enables any person to perform activities independently and achieve equivalent results. »
Definition developed in 2011 by: Groupe DÉFI Accessibilité (GDA) – Research report for Montreal’s associative environments – Universal accessibility and contributory designs (version 5.3), LANGEVIN, ROCQUE, CHALGHOUMI and GHORAYEB, Université de Montréal
4 axes of universal accessibility
01 Architecture and urban planning
The architectural axis encompasses the entire physical environment. This includes pathways, benches and buildings. It is essential to respect the accessibility standards to which the designers and promoters of municipal buildings and urban planning projects are subject. However, this is usually not enough to allow “same or similar use” of services for all citizens and more needs to be done to achieve universal accessibility.
02 Programs, services and employment
Some specialized activities can be very good drivers of accessibility. They will make it clear to everyone that your organization is sensitive to the reality of people with a functional limitation. And the ideal way to be fully inclusive is for people with disabilities to be able to participate in all programming activities.
Everyone should have access to the information they need in a format and language that is accessible to them. Whether it’s off-site (program flyer, TV ads, social media message) or on-site (welcome, signage, restroom signs, site map), your message needs to reach everyone.
04 Awareness and Training
Awareness and training: The attitude of staff towards people with disabilities is key to ensuring a positive experience. Lack of awareness of disability issues often leads to staff being afraid of making a mistake or offending someone. A more informed staff will feel more confident and be better equipped to provide a positive experience for everyone.
In short, barrier-free design, staff training, the nature of the activities and the provision of information to help plan a visit to a location and orient themselves afterwards are all facets to consider in order to ensure equal access for all users.