Universal Design: Do we have a shared understanding?

  • Universal Design has the premise to improve human performance, health and wellness, and social participation. However, to achieve Universal Design, all areas of accessibility need to be considered. Has everyone who needs universal design been invited to the table of discourse?
    Have you ever wondered what the side effects of a new medication are? Do you enjoy planning your new holiday? Do you check your insurance policy to know what happens when water comes through the roof? Do you check out the gig guide for the latest band performance or show? All these tasks require literacy, and for many also access to the internet to find more information or complete an online form.
    In today’s changing and fast paced society, literacy is an important aspect of how we all access our world. Now imagine you are one of the 44% of the Australian adult population with non functional literacy(ABS,2013).
    What is the ramp, accessible toilet or lift for these people? It is almost 10 years since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (2006) was enacted. Australia was one of the first signatories to this Convention. There are specific Articles in the Convention which identify access to information as being paramount. But, in real terms what does this mean? What has changed for people with non-functional literacy? Easy English is needed to be considered as an integral part of universal design for inclusion and participation.
    This paper will present some case studies of how Easy English has been used by various government and non government agencies to improve access and inclusion for people with limited literacy. It will also ask you to think more broadly about how you can improve universal design by considering the needs of people with non functional literacy.

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