I hope for Japan to become a more inclusive city in various aspects.
Interviewer: Kazuaki Kitamura (Information Exchange Center / Okamura Corporation)
Interview date: Nov. 12, 2014 PM12:40-
— What are the characteristics of the Universal Designs (UD) in your country?
Maria Benktzon: I think UD is expanding from being thought of as something for disabled people to a more inclusive perspective. I think there is a movement to include everything inclusively into society, regardless of social and cultural differences and problems.
There is the idea of Design For All as a country, and the Charter of the United Nations serves as the foundation that supports this. The idea is for everyone to be provided with equal opportunity based on this.
— What are the specific steps being taken to promote UD?
Maria Benktzon: The government has a policy on disabled persons that was formulated in 1999, and it is that everyone should be provided with the same opportunities (equal opportunities). I think this can also be said to be a battle against discrimination.
For our daily lives, we implement measures to allow disabled persons to live with independence, and to improve accessibility by eliminating the things that re making something inaccessible.
The government has released an action plan (five-year action plan from 2011 to 2016), in which the government states what it needs to do.
Many things have been achieved by this. But, there are also many things remaining that still need to be done. These things that need to be done are divided into nine categories, and we are putting our efforts into completing these.
The nine categories are as follows: 1. work; 2. education; 3. safety; 4. health; 5. accessibility; 6. travel and transportation; 7. internet; 8. culture, newspaper, and sports; and 9. items related to the police and court.
Taking education as an example, we are implementing measures to support children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia so that they will be able to learn more easily.
The government organization of Sweden has a role of watching over the country to make sure that the policies on people with disabilities are disseminated throughout society. By this, we hope to create a society where everybody is able to participate fully within the society.
As for this five-year plan, the results of this plan will be announced at the end of its term.
— Having participated in the conference in Japan, what is your impression of UD in Japan?
Maria Benktzon: I also participated in the conference hosted at Yokohama in 2002, and my impression is that Japan is really moving forward toward its goals, and that things are actually being realized.
Professor Roger Coleman, who is the Chairman of the IAUD Awards 2014 Selection Committee, said “there is great progress of UD in Japan,” which confirmed the impressions that I had.
— As we head toward the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, please give us your expectations and opinions on how the city should develop and about IAUD.
Maria Benktzon: I learned many things by participating in this conference this morning and listening to the discussions taking place on the platform. Tokyo is blessed with wonderful opportunities, and I feel that there is great potential. I think you can utilize the benefits of UD to make things even better.
— IAUD is hoping to make proposals toward 2020 by hosting a number of workshops and other such events, but do you have any particular expectations towards IAUD?
Maria Benktzon: Considering the various results that have been achieved by IAUD over the past, I trust that it will be able to bring about a significant impact.
I think that the legacies that remain from the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 will bring merits in a variety of fields, such as in residences and transportations. Also, by preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, I think Tokyo will change to become a city that is more inclusive.
— Thank you very much.
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