Specialized knowledge centers are created in many Polish universities to help find solutions to face social exclusion, for example the elderly or people with disabilities. The solutions will address different areas, incl. Transportation, architecture, urban planning, construction, digitization, communication and design.

WAT has just started a project on transportation and mobility, Cracow University of Technology – Architecture, Urban Planning and Construction. Szczecin University has received funds from the European Union for this in the field of digitization and communication, and the Opole University of Technology in the field of design and everyday things.

The essence of universal design is to counter social exclusion through the friendly creation of products, services or elements of the environment, so that everyone can use them, without the need for additional adaptation.

At the Military University of Technology (WAT), the nation’s premier knowledge center on accessibility and mobility for people with special needs is being created. The center’s experts will develop comprehensive design issues and educate employees in this direction. The goal of their activities is to develop solutions that will facilitate the functioning of the elderly, the sick and the disabled, as well as veterans with PTSD and victims of road accidents, ”- said Ewa Jankovic, a spokeswoman for the Military University of Technology in a press release on the university’s website.

Thanks to the activities carried out in the center, the mobility of people with special needs is increasing.

“People with special needs cannot use transportation, often because they are not adapted to the needs, capabilities, requirements and limits of these people. To prevent this, it has become necessary to take preventive measures, which will increase the mobility of people with special needs “- explained Dr. Hob. M. Jerzy Jakosky, Project Manager.

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An important component of all projects is interdisciplinary and inter-university cooperation. For example, at the Military University of Technology, it is planned to raise the competencies of the university’s faculty and training in this type of design by interdisciplinary expert teams, including from the Institute of Vehicles and Transport of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Military University of Technology – the lead unit of the project , as well as representatives of the Institute of Psychology of Cardinal Stefan Wiesinski University and the Institute of Automobile Transport, who are project partners.

The project also provides for cooperation with experts from other Polish and foreign universities, and with institutions in the socio-economic field active in the field of transportation and mobility for people with special needs. “This collaboration aims to develop innovative products and standards for services related to individual transportation and mobility, for example using wheelchairs, bicycles, scooters and passenger cars, based on universal design principles” – Jakosky explained.

The authors of the project, along with the training of the teaching staff, announced a social campaign aimed at educating the community about the scale of the problem of people who, due to certain restrictions, have problems with the movement of individual publicly available means of transport.

“Experts hope that informing the public, including decision-makers at various levels, will lead to tangible results in the form of specific decisions regarding conducting training or purchasing necessary equipment, and on a larger scale – the development of long-term policies and social programs to improve the mobility of people with disabilities” – We read the press release.

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As part of the MUT project, research and analyzes should also be conducted to verify the needs and effectiveness of the technical and technological improvements provided, and the quality of service standards and verify their usefulness and effectiveness in eliminating adverse road accidents involving people with disabilities.

In turn, Cracow University of Technology (PK) in partnership with Kielce University of Technology has established a knowledge center on holistic design principles in architecture, urban planning and construction as part of the project “Accessibility Hub – Practical Learning Center for Access”. For this purpose, PK received more than PLN 1.4 million in EU funds from a grant from the NCBR’s “Accessibility Plus” program.

“The concept of universal design has played an important role in shaping the concept of functionality and accessibility of a built environment for all users. It contributes to promoting equal and equitable access to goods and services for all, taking into account the needs of users whose performance is limited in a particular aspect”- explained project manager, Patricia Haupt, Professor, Faculty of Architecture in this field University, quoted in the polytechnic sites.

The dissemination of knowledge about universal design principles and their introduction to design practices is an essential component of improving the quality of performance of people with reduced mobility and perception. She added that it benefits all members of society.

The polytechnic should be a center for practical learning of accessibility in the field of architecture, urban planning and construction. Its resources will be used mainly by teachers and academic students, as well as employers, businessmen and officials.

“Knowledge about universal design should be disseminated not only among designers. Promoting a society that includes all citizens and ensures full equality and opportunity to participate in social life is important for all users of the space,” emphasized Patricia Haupt.

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As part of the Accessibility Center, a number of innovative activities will be proposed – from the creation of the Knowledge Center on Accessibility, through an information kiosk containing information on the availability of a university offer, to the so-called Accessibility Training Ground, that is, a practical learning center for Accessibility, Where students will be able to test their projects – arrange a living space, workplace, obstacle course or garden, so that a wheelchair can be maneuvered in these places comfortably or use simulators for visual impairment and old age.

As we read in the university’s announcement, “It is also planned to enhance knowledge about accessibility during construction fairs, training courses for faculty, students, businessmen and bodies from the social and local government environment, as well as in the form of competitions for children, youth and students.”

The implementation of the “Accessibility Hub” project started at the beginning of the year and will run until the end of January 2023.

Access projects in Polish universities will be funded by the Operational Program for the Development of Knowledge Education (OP KED). Polish universities have received funds for this as part of the NCBR competition. The budget of the project was 30 million PLN, and financing of up to 6 million PLN could be obtained in one of the five thematic areas.

Science in Poland – PAP, Anna Mikołajczak-Kłębek

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