RUSSIA: Sochi Without Barriers


From the July 2011 Universal Design Newsletter

By: Elaine Ostroff, Hon. AIA, founding director of the Institute for Human Centered Design

Late in 2010, the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee and the Russian International Olympic University (RIOU), met to launch a “National Programme to raise awareness of the Russian Federation citizens on the Paralympic Games and Paralympic values 2011 – 2014: Issues and Challenges.” Participants included Olympic and Paralympic officials and Paralympic athletes who met to identify challenges and strategies to creating accessibility in Olympic venues, athletes villages, visitors centers and transportation systems serving the games.

Since then, the Sochi without Barriers group participated in multi-city celebrations on the occasion of 1,000 days to the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic games. During the festivities, it was announced that Sochi is to become the first city in Russia to be put on a newly conceived, Russian Accessibility Map. The Accessibility Map is an innovative project to provide information on locations of sports facilities with accessible features such as ramps, rails and non-slip surfaces. This information will be collected on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis and the public is being encouraged to submit information to a central collection site to be compiled for each city map.

The 1,000 days festivities were hosted by 14 Russian cities and included a series of training and awareness events aimed at volunteers. About 25,000 volunteers will be involved in staging the games including an accessible volunteering program aimed at making the four volunteer centers (in Moscow, Sochi and Novorossiysk) accessible for people with disabilities.

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.