VANESSA HARRIS: Hi, I’m Vanessa Harris with Fun4theDisabled, bringing you the second installment of our Universal Design series. In our first installment, I talked with Kristine France Zuniga, a trained architect and consultant with expertise in the accessibility of built environments, and  Andrea Legarreta, an activist and coordinator of Ciudad Accesible Corporación, a nonprofit dedicated to universal design in Chile. In this episode, I move our conversation on to universal design in practice, applying the definitions and strategies discussed in the previous video to some real-life environments on the minds of universal design specialists today.

VANESSA HARRIS: OK. Alright. So, Kristine, you’ve worked in public and private buildings throughout Chile. You’ve worked in the healthcare industry. What kind of issues did you deal with in the healthcare industry in terms of public buildings?

KRISTINE : We have made some consultations, in say, a hospital and in different kinds of health centers. And what we make is to go in there and see the critical point for the accessibility. Then we put this critical point in maps, in a plan. And with this method, we can identify which are the critical points to solve and then we identify the big point in the comparison with the small point for the barriers in the environment. And then we make a plan, an accessibility plan. And this accessibility plan consists to prioritize some solution first and then the other, because I think that all the accessibility you have to consider not only the architectural point then the economical point too. Because if I give a report only with an architectural view, the person that receives this report, doesn’t know how is the way to start to make the change, the modification. Yes. And we have joined all this view of architectural or infrastructure barriers and then the solution with an architectural view, but with a planificación (plan), a management plan.(.

And then the change that we are reporting, have been really successful, I think. With a plan, you can organize the step of the change of a building.

VANESSA HARRIS: OK. So hearing somebody here this morning in the United States and they were saying that one issue that they were dealing with is that sometimes people who have disabilities don’t get the same kind of healthcare services because the healthcare facilities are not accessible.


VANESSA HARRIS: So do you guys deal with things like that?

KRISTINE : Yes, sure. And I think that the healthcare industry has two points of view. One, I think, they don’t make in the first step accessible because they think that the person has to be assisted by another.


KRISTINE : Yes. And from this point of view, of course, the building doesn’t have to be accessible at all. The building must be prepared for assistance. And I think that is a huge group of people that go to a health care center to, I don’t know, to accompany somebody else. And all this route, all this access have to be free, without barriers. Yes. Another point that I have seen is that the changing room for x-rays, you say, all this change room isn’t accessible because they say that the person that worked there say that, But what is the problem? The person can change inside the x ray room and we say why? They have dignity. Maybe they want to change their clothes, in say, a space, a closed space. And it’s difficult to make the change in the attitude that I said.




ANDREA: Yes. Because it is supposed that we don’t have to forget that people with disability in the past were inside their house. They don’t use to study. Don’t use to work. Don’t use to go to the life, including people hiding them. So that is not so far ago and that change is very difficult because you have to, not even change the structure of the cities, all the structure of cities. Plus you have to change your mind.


ANDREA: So those things, it takes time and it’s a process that we, like an NGO, have to put the theme in the agenda and notice that this is the way we have to do it, with the law and with the teaching and all that. It’s not easy. It’s a process. And people that are not near a disabled person, don’t see. Don’t see the difficulty, don’t see the obstacle. It’s very difficult for that side.

VANESSA HARRIS: Right. OK. I’m going to change subjects a little bit. You’ve worked on accessibility issues at copper mines?

KRISTINE : Yes, That was, I think, wonderful work we have made. And because with this work, with this diagnosis that we have made to the copper mine was wonderful because we have seen and we have shown the way that the people with disability is not an effort to include in the work. It’s a benefit to include in the work. Why? We have seen that deaf people are special people, the better person that you can put in the miner camp because, in the detonation zone, they don’thave danger inside therebecause they don’t hear. The problem there with the person that works in this zone is the damage that they will have in the future and with the deaf people they  don’t have in the future. For the company, it’s a benefit. Do you understand me? And this person is a special person to go inside the tunnel of the copper mine.

VANESSA HARRIS: So someone who is shorter has an easier time going into…


VANESSA HARRIS: OK. So you’re talking about maybe little people?



KRISTINE : Do you understand that the…

VANESSA HARRIS: Yeah. I mean because if they’re smaller, the place is more accessible to them.


VANESSA HARRIS: Than someone who is taller.

KRISTINE : Yes. Yes.


KRISTINE : Then, you can see, in this way, another kind of that we have made, that the people with disability have a good treasure to give to the company, for a different institution. It’s not like, oh like more that the company can say I am so good that I include them. No, it’s your benefit. That job that we have made in the copper mine, yes.

VANESSA HARRIS: OK. Because one of my premises for my organization is that people with disabilities have, in some cases, more to offer than people who are able-bodied in certain situations and that they are an integral part of the global society. They should not be isolated.

KRISTINE : Totally agree.


KRISTINE : And we can demonstrate that with facts, with numbers.

VANESSA HARRIS: OK. Alright. You served as an expert consultant with the Chilean Ministry of Education. What programs will be covered in the new Inclusive education for 2020?

KRISTINE : Yes, that was like a workshop with the Education Ministry. And I see something that is not so good. But we are starting to work on this because this person that has planned the education for Chile for 2030 doesn’t think about accessibility. And we, I went there and said, hey, your inclusion starts in education. Start there. How can we find a worker with education if you don’t have barrier-free rooms, and colleges and schools? And it’s so easy, I have said. It’s so easy. Maybe it’s only the table that has to be in the correct measure and maybe it’s one of the little things that we can make in our rules in the education area and to make some changes, to allow the children to go to school, to access the school and to use the school. And not only to learn (INAUDIBLE) is to share with another. I have so many schools that they say, well, I am accessible. OK, but your courtyard, when the children go to play, it is another level. Yeah. Another level. Well, this student can learn, go to the room and I have said, please they don’t share with the other students, in the park, when eating his meal.

This is the process that..

VANESSA HARRIS: Yes. They’ve isolated people with some sort of disability and that’s not right. And that causes all kinds of people to not understand each other. If there’s no way for them to be able to interact, then there’s no way for there to be empathy and understanding on any side.

KRISTINE : Yes. It’s so hard. So hard. And this workshop that we have made with the Chilean Ministry of Education, I think was good because they saw the things that we are talking about for the first time. It’s really shocking. But we have made this.

VANESSA HARRIS: OK. That’s excellent. You’ve also dealt with housing issues for people with disabilities as well as housing issues for people who are elderly. What are some of the important issues you dealt with on these projects as an architect?

KRISTINE : Well, I have made, for the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism some study that talks about the elderly people. We consider that elderly people are inside universal accessibility. The recommendation, I think, we hope that all that here we become to be elderly people.

VANESSA HARRIS: Yeah, we all want to be elderly someday.

KRISTINE : Yes, yes, yes. I say this thing to sensibilize people. And the most important recommendation is that you and me are going to be elderly. And then, maybe some elements inside the house can help you to be more stable. One of of most important problems for elderly people is their stability. And I propose in some places some handrail to to give more…

VANESSA HARRIS: To keep them from losing their balance.

KRISTINE : Yes. Yes. Then other important problem is the memory.


KRISTINE : They lose their memory. Then an organized space with desk and words that say, for example, here is the toilet, here is the paper, symbols that you to help to remember the things, to remember the word. The mirror also helps you to recognize that oh, I am here, I’m OK. All these things we take to consideration for the elderly. Not only infrastructure, I want to say the infrastructure and the communication to remember to make a cognitive accessibility.

VANESSA HARRIS: You dealt with all kinds of public and private buildings and spaces, including cathedrals, banks and government facilities. Which ones have the highest priority for you as a universal design expert and why?

KRISTINE : Yes, I think the highest priority to this building is the public buildings which you have to go to make some deals, someprocess, some checks to the health care. OK. And I think this is the priority to change or modify this building that is for the public service. The problem here that we have is these buildings are historic buildings. And we have a strong law at this. And we can’t make changes in this historic building. Our work is to sensibilize all this person that is behind the historic council to say, hey, first, people is in the first place. The building is in the second place. We have to make the change in this building because the people can’t access inside the building. This is a lot of effort to make this sensibilization. I’m an architect and I think that architecture can offer a beautiful solution like an orthopedic solution, old people. No, I don’t want to put a ramp because the ramp here in this historic building looks awful. No, I say, we can make another round to this design and to make a beautiful design for the historic building.


KRISTINE : We have proposed some changes in the cathedral specifically  and they look beautiful, I think.


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