Public awareness about disability has grown over the years, but "what accessibility [is] and what it can do for a business still isn't totally clear to business owners." That was the conclusion made by Nadia Hamilton, founder of Magnusmode and one of three panelists who met last month to discuss universal design at Ryerson University's DMZ business hub.
What Is Universal Design?
It's a concept aimed at creating barrier-free products and businesses that allow everyone to benefit - including individuals within populations that don't fit neatly into the typical profile of the "average user".
Jon Loewen, an architectural designer at Perkins+Will and second panelist in the discussion, put it succinctly when he stated: "It's really about the difference between accommodation versus inclusion.....That means...not denying people opportunities to participate ..."
Individuals with physical limitations and cognitive disabilities are becoming increasingly integrated into society. Old infrastructure and archaic practices need to give way to design that recognizes the value of thinking inclusively. To all three panelists, universal design simply makes good business sense.
Panelist Maayan Ziv - photographer, founder of online accessibility rating site Access Now and herself a wheelchair user - illustrated the point. If she and her friends go out for a meal and the restaurant is not accessible, it loses not only Ziv's business but also that of all her friends. Highlighting the financial implications, she stated: "It's the business of an entire support network. If it's not accessible, we're not going there."
Ongoing Development Still Needed
Rather than aiming for dramatic changes all at once, the panelists agreed on the need for ongoing improvements, step by step. As Loewen put it: "It's important to realize what changes we can make right now that make a meaningful difference."
As avid supporters of the rights and wellbeing of the disability community, Gluckstein Injury Lawyers rejoice in the growing public awareness for universal design while as a firm, standing ready to do their part in empowering injured individuals with legal advocacy and support.
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