Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

Yoshihiko Kawauchi

Audio transcript: On the definition of universal design
Date: December 16, 2002
Interviewer: Mary Lou Breslin

Note: Transcripts have been lightly edited; therefore there may be slight discrepancies with audio clips.

I cannot expect the future of our society. What I can do is just believe what I'm trying to do. About the definition, since Ron Mace has passed away more than four years ago, I think the definition of universal design has been changed very much from the beginning. It's much more than Ron had expected, I think. That is a small issue, because I believe that universal design is a very important tool to make the society more inclusive. Some people say about the definition of universal design, that universal design should be applied only the product of things or such kind of technical things, but I say, universal design has a layer.

For example, whenever I say this issue, I show them as an example that, as a public transportation system—bus system—even if we buy a low floor bus, some people in wheelchairs, or pushing strollers, or elder people will be pleased to get into that bus, but I don't think, because there is a low floor bus, bus operators can get more passengers. If the bus service is not good, passenger does not use the bus, even if it is a low floor bus. For example, in a certain station, there is a municipal hospital close to the station, and many passengers wants to go to hospital, but it takes about twenty minutes by walk. If they get on the bus, it also take more than twenty minutes, because bus route does not go straight to the hospital. At that time, many passengers will have a problem to make a decision. Some of them will take a walk, and some of them will have a bus. But, if the bus route is made straightly goes to the municipal hospital, it takes just five minutes, so all passengers will be pleased to get on the bus. But, if the bus departs just five minutes before the train arrival, every passenger needs to wait for the next bus. At that time, some passengers will start to walk, and some passenger will wait because they are patient. If the bus is correctly connected—for example, bus departs every five minutes after the train's arrival, passenger will be pleased, and almost all passengers will get on the bus and go to the hospital.

So, the issue is not only about the car issue, but also, bus system issue, and also the connection of other transportation mode. So, that's why I say there is a layers. That's why I need to mention not only bus structure, but also political things. I want to include everything into universal design, because my purpose is not to do the universal design. My purpose is to create a society that accept every kind of people. If the definition is narrowed, and if the universal design cannot create such kind of society, because of the limitation of definition, I will give up talk about universal design. I will try to find out another effective terminology, or another effective word that can achieve my objective. That is my understanding of universal design.

End of transcript

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