Local hero

Signing of the Universal Access declaration at Stellenbosch Council Chambers in February 2016.

Signing of the Universal Access declaration at Stellenbosch Council Chambers in February 2016.

A whole-hearted commitment to UA has propelled Stellenbosch Municipality into the forefront of positive change

Since the beginning of 2016, Stellenbosch Municipality (SM), in conjunction with UDAfrica, has hosted two “Creating a Common Understanding” workshops to spread the understanding of the paradigm that is Universal Access (UA) to all the councillors and Top 40 Municipal Management team. Together they have also hosted about 10 working-group meetings to assist in applying UA within all spheres of SM, from the financing department to Parks and Cemeteries. SM has also changed its entire “Disability Policy”, with the assistance of UDAfrica, to be inclusive of diverse users and not specifically related only to people with disabilities. It is now called the “Universal Access Policy” – a first in South Africa.

SM has secured detailed training for its Building Control Officers to upskill this department on the technical requirements of UA in terms of the National Building Regulation requirements (SANS 10400 Part S of 2011). In addition, on February 11, Executive Mayor of SM Alderman Conrad Sidego as well as Acting Municipal Manager Richard Bosman signed a commitment to UA, which stated the following:

“As a result of the understanding of the broader concept of Universal Access, of which all people are beneficiaries, the following representatives of the Stellenbosch Municipality hereby declare a commitment to the incorporation of the principles of Universal Design, to the best of their abilities, to all departments, facilities and areas of service delivery within the municipality, and to affect positive change wherever possible.”

In summary, SM has started integrating UA into its policies and frameworks; it has sought to implement comprehensive training; and it has reviewed its methods of operation. How did it achieve this while juggling budget constraints and handling the demands of everyday functioning?

The secret is buy-in through understanding. Once key people understand the importance of incorporating UA into a system, the initiative takes on a life and energy of its own. A passion from within needs to be created and, once engaged, it is difficult to stop.

The result for SM is that it has an effective and targeted implementation plan to uphold its values (Integrity, Accountability, Respect, Excellence and Innovation) and fulfil its vision to be the Innovation Capital of South Africa.

A special thanks to Michelle Aalbers and her team for their passion and drive regarding UA.

Universal Design Africa (UDAfrica) sees universal design as a vehicle to create and enhance the functionality of environments, services and products for the widest range of users, recognising the diversity of the human condition. The UDAfrica team aims to create awareness, disseminate information and improve lives.

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