GAATES’ Vision of Universal Design

A panel is presenting with a sign language interpreter and captioning alongside

A comprehensive implementation of Universal Design principles takes everyone into account and results in fully inclusive and sustainable environments.

Implementing the principles of Universal Design is the sustainable approach to designing for everyone as it equitably addresses the full life span of individuals as well as environments. This approach is quickly replacing the limited scope and vision of accessible and barrier-free design.

Mainstreaming education about Universal Design rather than relying on codes and standards about accessible design, is the only way we will truly achieve an environment usable by all – without adaptation.

GAATES promotes this comprehensive and inclusive approach, and our unique multidisciplinary, multi-cultural, multi-regional membership assures a global vision in all our projects and solutions.

GAATES is striving to ensure implementation of Universal Design principles in a cross-discipline, cross-sector approach, including: the Built Environment; Education; Disaster and Emergency Planning; Transportation; ICTs; and Tourism and Recreation.

Universal Design must be present in standards, legislation and regulations for the building industry and industrial design. But regular people are really the ones that can make a real change. …bring UD to the masses, make them aware of the potential, the beauty and the usefulness of a well thought out design. The UD philosophy must permeate a country’s whole education system, from basic to higher education.” – Andres Balcazar

Vienna subway station with tactile guide for blind passengers, showing warning and guidance design and also accessibility for wheelchair users.

Universal Design and Accessibility do not exist in a vacuum, they are inter-dependent upon a number of factors; Education by designers and developers; Development of best practices criteria for Built Environment, ICTs, Transportation, Tourism, etc.; Legislation, Standards and policy that recognize the important of Universal Design; and Universal Design adaption of all facilities and services.

“Take an approach which is that of Universal Design (and universal access) in developing the right of access to goods, services, and employment, along with other aspects of a right to participation in society. Language needs to move away from this being seen as a disability issue alone and towards an issue affecting a large number of people in any population.” – Amanda Gibberd

UN Habitat – Dubai Award

The publication International Best Practices in Universal Design: A Global Review has been named as one of the world’s 100 “Best Practices” for 2008 by United Nations – Habitat – Dubai International Award for Best Practices.

The Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES), a Canadian based NGO, is extremely pleased and excited to announce that this publication has been distributed to over 5000 people worldwide. It provides comparative data on accessibility codes and standards from around the world and is available in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Serbian and the alternate DAISY format.

The publication has been used by international donor organizations such as the World Bank to ensure that the built environment is accessible and usable by everyone, including people with disabilities.

“In selecting GAATES as a recipient of one of the 100 Best Practices in the urban environment, the Dubai Award recognizes the important significance of Universal Design and Accessibility in the lives of people with disabilities worldwide” states Betty Dion, President of GAATES.

The International Best Practices in Universal Design: A Global Review document was funded by a consortium of Canadian and International organizations, led in Canada by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The purpose of the Dubai Award is to recognize and enhance awareness of outstanding and sustainable achievements in improving the living environment. The Dubai Award was established under the directives of late Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, during the United Nations International Conference that convened in Dubai in November 1995.

The criteria for best practices are selected by an independent International Jury that consists of Experts and Specialists who considered the positive impact in improving the living environment of people, including: social inclusion, sustainability and continuity in effecting changes in legislation, social policies, leadership and community empowerment, gender equality, innovation and transferability.

For more information on the award, visit