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Opening Thoughts: Access: A Matter of Human Rights

In this issue, we take a look at issues and solutions that contribute to accessible environments, from workplace conditions and policies to home designs that support aging in place.
Opening Thoughts: Access: A Matter of Human Rights
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WE TAKE A LOOK AT ISSUES AND SOLUTIONS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO ACCESSIBLE ENVIRONMENTS, FROM WORKPLACE CONDITIONS AND POLICIES TO HOME DESIGNS THAT SUPPORT AGING IN PLACE.

While there are various models of disability, in 2013 the World Health Organization (WHO) defined disability as a human rights issue. From this perspective, we take a look at some of the concerns and solutions that contribute to accessible environments, from workplace conditions and policies to home designs that support aging in place.

Valerie Fletcher, executive director of the Institute for Human Centered Design, who is interviewed in this issue, points out that based on the WHO definition, “Disability is no longer considered a condition that resides in an individual. It’s a negative byproduct of what happens at the intersection of a person with a functional limitation and their environment. It’s a combination of the physical, and also information, communication, attitude, and policy.” To learn more, see “Inclusive Design for Living Longer.”

A timely overlap — between the policies that disability advocates have advanced for years, and the flexible work-at-home procedures initiated because of the COVID-19 pandemic — led us to explore whether this could be a moment of opportunity and expanded career opportunities for disabled people in the article “Toward More Accessible Work Environments.”

This issue’s Viewpoint, “Then and Now: Personal Reflections on Accessibility,” brings policy matters down to the individual level by illustrating the difference that more than two decades has made in terms of better accommodations for people needing them, and greater public awareness.

Ethics are fundamental to the practice of engineering, due to its far-reaching impact and mission to improve life. At this time in history, then, what are the questions we should be asking? Please see “Engineering for Good,” which examines these issues with Rosalyn W. Berne, Ph.D., director of the Center for Engineering Ethics and Society at the National Academy of Engineering.

Our final feature, “Women Engineers You Should Know,” celebrates the contributions and lives of women engineers, our everyday heroes. This is the sixth year of our annual series, which relies upon input from SWE’s social media community to submit nominees. We hope you will find their stories encouraging and inspirational.

Lastly, this issue’s news section addresses related and relevant topics, particularly “COVID-19: STEM Strikes Back.” Another news item, “Momentum, Authenticity, and Pivoting: The State of Women in Politics,” discusses a different type of access — to full participation in the democratic process. Though eclipsed for the moment by COVID-19, the role of women in politics will become a key issue as we move forward in the election cycle.

At this writing, many shelter-in-place orders are being reconsidered. In this critical time, stay well and be safe.

Anne Perusek signature

Director of Editorial & Publications
anne.perusek@swe.org

“Access: A Matter of Human Rights” was written by Anne Perusek, Director of Editorial & Publications. This article appears in the 2020 spring issue of SWE Magazine.


Read more from the 2020 spring issue of SWE Magazine:

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