The Category of Otherness Versus Universal Design: The Case of Public Space

Marika Pirveli
European Research Studies Journal, Volume XXVI, Issue 2, 446-462, 2023
DOI: 10.35808/ersj/3181


Purpose: The accessibility of a public space to all users is the premise for calling that space public. Accessible public space (physical, digital and social) is a prerequisite for more independent functioning of all users, including people with disabilities and social inclusion. Currently, Poland's construction law obliges project owners and contractors to ensure that the resulting buildings, spaces and services are designed in accordance with the concept of universal design and therefore without architectural, digital and social barriers. This article provides a brief overview of how public space is conceived, an overview of what we know about disability and the term disability itself, and then discusses universal design as a tool for opening up space to all users. Design/Methodology/Approach: The article, is an excerpt from a broader study under the banner of universal design, initiated by participation in a university project [Accessibility zone POWR.03.04.00-00-KP04/21-00.]. The content of this text discusses the key concepts contained in the title, to which intertwined chapters are devoted. Closer to the final section there is an attempt to understanding the otherness and there is an emphasis on the need to level and remove social barriers evident in the relationship between all users of the public space. Various methods were used to write the text, among which the most important are heuristic methods and techniques, desk research and questionnaire research. Findings: The penultimate section reveals the concept of “otherness,” including in light of surveys. The final section is an introductory description of the research currently underway with students on an accessibility audit using the example of a plot of land used by the Faculty of Economics, Finance and Management of the University of Szczecin. Practical implications: The results obtained should contribute to a better understanding of the intricacies of personalized, real causes of all users of the public space demand and satisfaction, taking into account the role of the conscious user in real life and human relationship, social and cultural transactions, and to an appreciation of the research workshop of socio-economic geography as a science predisposed to speak more decisively on issues of shaping open, user-friendly public space. Originality/Value: Surrounding public spaces are not without architectural, digital and social barriers. Our past shows that otherness was understood differently and that this understanding was harmful to people who looked different than the majority. In order to develop human-friendly spaces, it is important to focus on social barriers first; as they are the starting point for both achieving better socio-cultural performance and reducing the negative impact of existing architectural and digital barriers on all kind of user satisfaction.

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