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Accessibility in the sense considered here refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities.[1] The concept of accessible design and practice of accessible development ensures both "direct access" (i.e. unassisted) and "indirect access" meaning compatibility with a person's assistive technology[2] (for example, computer screen readers).

Accessibility can be viewed as the "ability to access" and benefit from some system or entity. The concept focuses on enabling access for people with disabilities, or special needs, or enabling access through the use of assistive technology; however, research and development in accessibility brings benefits to everyone.[3][4][5][6][7]

Accessibility is not to be confused with usability, which is the extent to which a product (such as a device, service, or environment) can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, convenience satisfaction in a specified context of use.[8]

Accessibility is strongly related to universal design which is the process of creating products that are usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations.[9] This is about making things accessible to all people (whether they have a disability or not).

a woman with a baby carriage uses a platform lift to access a station above street level
Universal access is provided in Curitiba's public transport system, Brazil.

Legislation

The disability rights movement advocates equal access to social, political, and economic life which includes not only physical access but access to the same tools, services, organizations and facilities as non-disabled people (e.g., museums[10][11]). Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities commits signatories to provide for full accessibility in their countries.[12]

While it is often used to describe facilities or amenities to assist people with handicap impaired mobility, through the provision of facilities like wheelchair ramps, the term can extend include other types of disability. Accessible facilities[13] therefore extend to areas such as Braille signage, elevators, audio signals at pedestrian crossings, walkway contours, website design and reading accessibility.

Government mandates including Section 508, WCAG,[14] DDA are all enforcing practices to standardize accessibility testing engineering in product development.

Accessibility modifications may be required to enable persons with disabilities to gain access to education, employment, transportation, housing, recreation, or even simply to exercise their right to vote.

National legislation

Various countries have legislation requiring physical accessibility which are (in order of enactment):

Legislation may also be enacted on a state, provincial or local level. In Ontario, Canada, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2001 is meant to "improve the identification, removal and prevention of barriers faced by persons with disabilities.[25].."

The European Union (EU), which has signed the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, also has adopted a European Disability Strategy for 2010-20. The Strategy includes the following goals, among others:[26]

  • devising policies for inclusive, high-quality education;
  • ensuring the European Platform Against Poverty includes a special focus on people with disabilities (the forum brings together experts who share best practices and experience);
  • working towards the recognition of disability cards throughout the EU to ensure equal treatment when working, living or travelling in the bloc
  • developing accessibility standards for voting premises and campaign material;
  • taking the rights of people with disabilities into account in external development programmes and for EU candidate countries.

A European Accessibility Act was proposed in late 2012.[27] This Act would establish standards within member countries for accessible products, services, and public buildings. The harmonization of accessibility standards within the EU "would facilitate the social integration of persons with disabilities and the elderly and their mobility across member states, thereby also fostering the free movement principle".[28]

Assistive technology and adaptive technology

This Birmingham, West Midlands, Opportunities Fair was held to help persons with disabilities, and carers, to find out what services, support and opportunities are available to them.

Assistive technology is the creation of a new device that assists a person in completing a task that would otherwise be impossible. Some examples include new computer software programs like screen readers, and inventions such as assistive listening devices, including hearing aids, and traffic lights with a standard color code that enables colorblind individuals to understand the correct signal.

Adaptive technology is the modification, or adaptation, of existing devices, methods, or the creation of new uses for existing devices, to enable a person to complete a task.assistive technology; however, research and development in accessibility brings benefits to everyone.[3][4][5][6][7]

Accessibility is not to be confused with usability, which is the extent to which a product (such as a device, service, or environment) can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, convenience satisfaction in a specified context of use.[8]

Accessibility is strongly related to universal design which is the process of creating products that are usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations.[9] This is about making things accessible to all people (whether they have a disability or not).

The disability rights movement advocates equal access to social, political, and economic life which includes not only physical access but access to the same tools, services, organizations and facilities as non-disabled people (e.g., museums[10][11]). Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities commits signatories to provide for full accessibility in their countries.[12]

While it is often used to describe facilities or amenities to assist people with handicap impaired mobility, through the provision of facilities like wheelchair ramps, the term can extend include other types of disability. Accessible facilities[13] therefore extend to areas such as Braille signage, elevators, audio signals at pedestrian crossings, walkway contours, website design and reading accessibility.

Government mandates including Section 508, WCAG,[14] DDA are all enforcing practices to standardize accessibility testing engineering in product development.

Accessibility modifications may be required to enable persons with disabilities to gain access to education, employment, transportation, housing, recreation, or even simply to exercise their right to vote.

National legislation

Various countries have legislation requiring physical accessibility which are (in order of enactment):

Legislation may also be enacted on a state, provincial or local level. In Ontario, Canada, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2001 is meant to "improve the identification, removal and prevention of barriers faced by persons with disabilities.[25].."

The European Union (EU), which has signed the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, also has adopted a European Disability S

While it is often used to describe facilities or amenities to assist people with handicap impaired mobility, through the provision of facilities like wheelchair ramps, the term can extend include other types of disability. Accessible facilities[13] therefore extend to areas such as Braille signage, elevators, audio signals at pedestrian crossings, walkway contours, website design and reading accessibility.

Government mandates including Section 508, WCAG,[14] DDA are all enforcing practices to standardize accessibility testing engineering in product development.

Accessibility modifications may be required to enable persons with disabilities to gain access to education, employment, transportation, housing, recreation, or even simply to exercise their right to vote.

National legislation

Various countries have legislation requiring physical accessibility which are (in order of enactment):

  • In the US, under the Americans with Dis

    Government mandates including Section 508, WCAG,[14] DDA are all enforcing practices to standardize accessibility testing engineering in product development.

    Accessibility modifications may be required to enable persons with disabilities to gain access to education, employment, transportation, housing, recreation, or even simply to exercise their right to vote.

    Various countries have legislation requiring physical accessibility which are (in order of enactment):

    • In the US, under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,[15] new public and private business construction generally must be accessible.

      Legislation may also be enacted on a state, provincial or local level. In Ontario, Canada, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2001 is meant to "improve the identification, removal and prevention of barriers faced by persons with disabilities.[25].."

      The European Union (EU), which has signed the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, also has adopted a European Disability Strategy for 2010-20. The Strategy includes the following goals, among others:[26]

      • devising policies for inclusive, high-quality education;
      • ensuring the European Platform Against Poverty includes a special focus on people with disabilities (the forum brings together experts who share best practices and experience);
      • working towards the recognition of disability cards throughout the EU to ensure equal treatment when working, living or travelling in the bloc
      • developing accessibility standards for voting premises and campaign material;
      • taking the rights of people with disabilities into account in external development programmes and for EU candidate countries.

      A European Accessibility Act was proposed in late 2012.[27] This Act would establish standards within member countries for accessible products, services, and public buildings. The harmonization of accessibility standards within the EU "would facilitate the social integration of persons with disabilities and the elderly and their mobility across member states, thereby also fostering the free movement principle".[28]

      Assistive technology and adaptive technology

      This Birmingham, West Midlands, Opportunities Fair was held to help persons with disabilities, and carers, to find out what services, support and opportunities are available to them.

      Assistive technology is the creation of a new device that assists a person in completing a task that would otherwise be impossible. Some examples include new computer software programs like screen readers, and inventions such as assistive listening devices, including hearing aids, and traffic lights with a standard European Union (EU), which has signed the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, also has adopted a European Disability Strategy for 2010-20. The Strategy includes the following goals, among others:[26]

      A European Accessibility Act was proposed in late 2012.[27] This Act would establish standards within member countries for accessible products, services, and public buildings. The harmonization of accessibility standards within the EU "would facilitate the social integration of persons with disabilities and the elderly and their mobility across member states, thereby also fostering the free movement principle".[28]

      Assistive technology and adaptive technology

      Assistive technology is the creation of a new device that assists a person in completing a task that would otherwise be impossible. Some examples include new computer software programs like screen readers, and inventions such as assistive listening devices, including hearing aids, and traffic lights with a standard color code that enables colorblind individuals to understand the correct signal.

      Adaptive technology is the modification, or adaptation, of existing devices, methods, or the creation of new uses for existing devices, to enable a person to complete a task.[29] Examples include the use of remote controls, and the autocomplete (word completion)[30] feature in computer word processing programs, which both help individuals with mobility impairments to complete tasks. Adaptations to wheelchair tires are another example; widening the tires enables wheelchair users to move over soft surfaces, such as deep snow on ski hills, and sandy beaches.

      Assistive technology and adaptive technology have a key role in developing the means for people with disabilities to live more independently, and to more fully participate in mainstream society. In order to have access to assistive or adaptive technology, however, educating the public and even legislating requirements to incorporate this technology have been necessary.

      Employment

      Adaptive technology is the modification, or adaptation, of existing devices, methods, or the creation of new uses for existing devices, to enable a person to complete a task.[29] Examples include the use of remote controls, and the autocomplete (word completion)[30] feature in computer word processing programs, which both help individuals with mobility impairments to complete tasks. Adaptations to wheelchair tires are another example; widening the tires enables wheelchair users to move over soft surfaces, such as deep snow on ski hills, and sandy beaches.

      Assistive technology and adaptive technology have a key role in developing the means for people with disabilities to live more independently, and to more fully participate in mainstream society. In order to have access to assistive or adaptive technology, however, educating the public and even legislating requirements to incorporate this technology have been necessary.

      Accessibility of employment covers a wide range of issues, from skills training, to occupational therapy,[31] finding employment, and retaining employment.

      Employment rates for workers with disabilities are lower than for the general workforce. Workers in Western countries fare relatively well, having access to more services and training as well as legal protections against employment discrimination. Despite this, in the United States the 2012 unemployment rate for workers with disabilities was 12.9%, while it was 7.3% for workers without disabilities.[32] More than half of workers with disabilities (52%) earned less than $25,000 in the previous year, compared with just 38% of workers with no disabilities. This translates into an earnings gap where individuals with disabilities earn about 25 percent less of what workers without disabilities earn. Among occupations with 100,000 or more people, dishwashers had the highest disability rate (14.3%), followed by refuse and recyclable material collectors (12.7%), personal care aides (11.9%), and janitors and building cleaners (11.8%). The rates for refuse and recyclable material collectors, personal care aides, and janitors and building cleaners were not statistically different from one another.[33]

      Surveys of non-Western countries are limited, but the available statistics also indicate fewer jobs being filled by workers with disabilities. In India, a large 1999 survey found that "of the 'top 100 multinational companies' in the country [...] the employment rate of persons with disabilities in the private sector was a mere 0.28%, 0.05% in multinational companies and only 0.58% in the top 100 IT companies in the country".[34] India, like much of the world, h

      Employment rates for workers with disabilities are lower than for the general workforce. Workers in Western countries fare relatively well, having access to more services and training as well as legal protections against employment discrimination. Despite this, in the United States the 2012 unemployment rate for workers with disabilities was 12.9%, while it was 7.3% for workers without disabilities.[32] More than half of workers with disabilities (52%) earned less than $25,000 in the previous year, compared with just 38% of workers with no disabilities. This translates into an earnings gap where individuals with disabilities earn about 25 percent less of what workers without disabilities earn. Among occupations with 100,000 or more people, dishwashers had the highest disability rate (14.3%), followed by refuse and recyclable material collectors (12.7%), personal care aides (11.9%), and janitors and building cleaners (11.8%). The rates for refuse and recyclable material collectors, personal care aides, and janitors and building cleaners were not statistically different from one another.[33]

      Surveys of non-Western countries are limited, but the available statistics also indicate fewer jobs being filled by workers with disabilities. In India, a large 1999 survey found that "of the 'top 100 multinational companies' in the country [...] the employment rate of persons with disabilities in the private sector was a mere 0.28%, 0.05% in multinational companies and only 0.58% in the top 100 IT companies in the country".[34] India, like much of the world, has large sections of the economy that are without strong regulation or social protections, such as the informal economy.[35] Other factors have been cited as contributing to the high unemployment rate, such as public service regulations. Although employment for workers with disabilities is higher in the public sector due to hiring programs targeting persons with disabilities, regulations currently restrict types of work available to persons with disabilities: "Disability-specific employment reservations are limited to the public sector and a large number of the reserved positions continue to be vacant despite nearly two decades of enactment of the PWD Act".[34]

      Expenses related to adaptive or assistive technology required to participate in the workforce may be tax deductible expenses for individuals with a medical practitioner's prescription in some jurisdictions.

      Disability Management (DM) is a specialized area of human resources, to support efforts by employers to better integrate and retain workers with disabilities. Some workplaces have policies in place to provide "reasonable accommodation" for employees with disabilities, however, many do not. In some jurisdictions, employers may have legal requirements to end discrimination against persons with disabilities.

      It has been noted by researchers that where accommodations are in place for employees with disabilities, these frequently apply to individuals with "pre-determined or apparent disabilities as determined by national social protection or Equality Authorities",[36] which include persons with pre-existing conditions who receive an official disability designation. One of the biggest challenges for employers is in developing policies and practises to manage employees who develop disabilities during the course of employment. Even where these exist, they tend to focus on workplace injuries, overlooking job retention challenges faced by employees who acquire a non-occupation injury or illness. Protecting employability is a factor that can help close the unemployment gap for persons with disabilities.[36]

      Meetings and conferences should consider the needs of all of their participants. Checklists such as this may make it easier to identify specific needs:[37]

      Mobility access
      • Wheelchair accessible transportation - see Persons with reduced mobility
      • Reserved parking
      • Barrier-free meeting roo

        Accessibility based planning is a spatial planning methodology that centralises goals of people and businesses and defines accessibility policy as enhancing people and business opportunities.

        Traditionally, urban transportation planning has mainly focused on the efficiency of the transport system itself and is often responding to plans made by spatial planners. Such an approach neglects the influence of interventions in the transport system on broader and often conflicting economic, social and environmental goals. Accessibility based planning defines accessibility as the amount of services and jobs people can access within a certain travel time, considering one or more modes of transport such as walking, cycling, driving or public transport. Using this definition accessibility does not only relate to the qualities of the transport system (e.g. travel speed, time or costs), but also to the qualities of the land use system (e.g. densities and mixes of opportunities). It thus provides planners with the possibility to understand interdependencies between transport and land use development. Accessibility planning opens the floor to a more normative approach to transportation planning involving different actors.[39] For politicians, citizens and firms it might be easier to discuss the quality of access to education, services and markets than it is to discuss the inefficiencies of the transport system itself. Accessibility is also defined as "the potential for interaction".

        Accessibility instruments

        Generally since the 1960s, accessibility instruments have been developed for a multitude of contexts and scopes. These instruments have their focus on origins and on destinations, they measure access through time, distance or cost and focus on different modes of transportation and geographical scales. Accessibility instruments are thus able to show what are the best accessible places or opportunities within a city or region, considering one or more specific modes of transportation, timeslots and target groups. In addition to this, the maps, which are produced as the instrument output, are considered as considerably useful when assessing the effects of new

        Traditionally, urban transportation planning has mainly focused on the efficiency of the transport system itself and is often responding to plans made by spatial planners. Such an approach neglects the influence of interventions in the transport system on broader and often conflicting economic, social and environmental goals. Accessibility based planning defines accessibility as the amount of services and jobs people can access within a certain travel time, considering one or more modes of transport such as walking, cycling, driving or public transport. Using this definition accessibility does not only relate to the qualities of the transport system (e.g. travel speed, time or costs), but also to the qualities of the land use system (e.g. densities and mixes of opportunities). It thus provides planners with the possibility to understand interdependencies between transport and land use development. Accessibility planning opens the floor to a more normative approach to transportation planning involving different actors.[39] For politicians, citizens and firms it might be easier to discuss the quality of access to education, services and markets than it is to discuss the inefficiencies of the transport system itself. Accessibility is also defined as "the potential for interaction".

        Generally since the 1960s, accessibility instruments have been developed for a multitude of contexts and scopes. These instruments have their focus on origins and on destinations, they measure access through time, distance or cost and focus on different modes of transportation and geographical scales. Accessibility instruments are thus able to show what are the best accessible places or opportunities within a city or region, considering one or more specific modes of transportation, timeslots and target groups. In addition to this, the maps, which are produced as the instrument output, are considered as considerably useful when assessing the effects of new developments in a city. The first ever first large scale compendium of accessibility instruments was developed in 2012, under the framework of Cost Action TU1002, and is available.[40]

        Potentials of accessibility in planning practice