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The theme of UD2012

Safety and Security — Thinking about the Foundations of Universal Design


September 13, 2011

The International Association for Universal Design (IAUD, Patron HIH Prince Tomohito of Mikasa) will hold "The 4th International Conference for Universal Design in FUKUOKA 2012" in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture in October 2012.

The Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing aftershocks and devastating tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011 brought destruction of catastrophic proportions to the cities and towns of the northeast coastal area. The total number of deaths and missing persons climbed to 20,000, with about 13,000 people losing their lives through drowning (92.5% of all confirmed deaths). Approximately 65.2% of the people who lost their lives were people age 60 years or older. The casualties and destruction caused by these natural disasters remind us of the potential devastation that could occur in the future in the wake of successive earthquakes in the east, southeast and south coastal areas of Japan.

Throughout history, the Japanese people have continued to live their daily lives while making relentless efforts to overcome looming natural disasters, including major earthquakes and tsunamis – some predicted to recur once in a millennium, others every 30 to 60 years – as well as floods and landslides — which recur annually as a result of typhoons and torrential rains. However, when natural disasters do occur, the people who often are most affected include the elderly, people with disabilities, and children.

In our founding objectives, IAUD refers to "universal design" as the creation of a social environment where the humanity of each and every individual is respected and advocates the rapid establishment of a human-oriented social framework applicable to all aspects of society where the relationship of user and producer are redefined. However, the recent natural disasters suffered by Japan reminds us that to ensure respect for human life and human rights, we must first deal with threats to the basic safety of human beings both in everyday life and in times of disaster.

We have learned many lessons from the recent earthquake disaster and its aftermath. If we wish to ensure the safety of our families, as well as our friends, and acquaintances, in times of disaster, we must reconsider the very basic concept underlying universal design in terms of safety and security. This entails confirming all facets of social life, including information communications, which we want to ensure will function in times of emergencies. It means ensuring accessibility and mobility to protect the lives of the aged and those with disabilities. It means ensuring safe and sound long-term energy policies that will benefit our children and grandchildren and ensuring the safety of our homes and workplaces as shelters that will protect lives and property. It means ensuring sound arrangements and procedures in communities from the perspective of disaster prevention and mitigation, and it means ensuring the design and organization of infrastructure and industrial structure, as well as lifestyle and social systems and programs. These issues are of top priority not only for those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, but for all of the Japanese people. We believe that the solutions that we develop will contribute to improving the safety and welfare of the lives of many people all over the world.

The theme of this fourth international conference is "Safety and Security — Thinking about the Foundations of Universal Design." We will examine the challenges of achieving universal design of a high level and quality in society, through lively discussions and the promotion of ongoing volunteer activities. We sincerely hope our objectives will resonate with many people from various perspectives, and that we can count on the broad support, cooperation, and enthusiastic participation of this international community.

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UD2012 Secretariat
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