UD and public health

Nordic School Pub HealthEvastina Bjork from the Nordic School of Public Health discusses the concept of UD from the perspective of health and wellness in this article. She traces the work done in Norway that precedes the landmark document, Norway Universally Designed 2025” and how it relates to health benefits. Training courses in applying the concepts of UD for professionals were devised and continue to be revised and adapted to keep pace with new learning and updated evidence. Although an academic paper, the discussion about education and training, and application of UD in the health and wellness field is a refreshing perspective.

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Universal Design, Architects and CPD

Tyoung people sit at a table which has a large sheet of paper and writing implements. They appear to be discussing something.aking a universal design approach to architectural practice requires a change in attitudes in architectural education. Continuing professional development (CPD) is one way to achieve this. A joint project by the University of Limerick and the IDeA Center at Buffalo resulted in some recommendations and guidelines to help. These were derived from engagement with Irish and international professionals, educators and client bodies. “One of the most important findings of the research is a demonstrated need for new CPD in UD that moves beyond a focus on interpreting regulation and accessibility. It was found that CPD in UD can have a broader value than just helping professionals meet regulatory requirements – it can also provide information and resources that increase design agency, or the intervention in wider societal structures with the aim of benefiting others”. The title of the article is, “A Review of Universal Design in Professional Architectural Education: Recommendations and Guidelines”.

Abstract: There is a growing understanding of the widespread societal benefits of a universal design (UD). To achieve these benefits, architectural professionals must have the knowledge and skills to implement UD in practice. This paper investigates UD in the context of recent architectural education. It traces changing attitudes in the culture of architectural education, and the evolving perception of UD as an important aspect of architectural practice. Specifically, continuous professional development (CPD) can advance knowledge of UD within a human-centred design paradigm. An overview of courses and resources available to architectural professionals in a number of countries in Europe and the USA is provided. Specific recommendations and guidelines are presented that were derived from a process of engagement with Irish and international architectural professionals, architectural educators and client bodies through online survey, workshops, interviews and CPD prototypes.  

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Teaching and learning UD in real time

Student's model of the housing site showing topography and buildingsCork County Council in Ireland has provided an excellent opportunity for second year architecture students to get some hands on practice and expand their design thinking. In Kevin Busby and Jim Harrison’s paper, Universal Design in Architectural Education – Community Liaison on ‘Live Projects‘, they report on imaginative examples of student responses to the challenges of integrating age-friendly features in housing. They also report on the learning gained from observing students and finding out the main design difficulties they found in the process. Illustrations demonstrate some of the ideas. Good to see students operating in the real world and making a difference.

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

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Universal Design: Tangible and empathetic?

A group of students are on the grass outside the university building. they have several large cardboard shapes and appear to be arranging them in some kind of format.Students rarely get to practice on real clients, and this means they are left with just an academic understanding of issues such as inclusion and universal design. Using age as a lens for thinking about designs is one way to help architecture students understand diversity. The Department of Architecture at Buffalo challenged students through various exercises related to the extremes of age to empathise with, and ultimately design for, small children and frail older people. The article explains their process and is titled:  Age-Focused Design – A Pedagogical Approach Integrating Empathy and Embodiment. Several pictures and graphics help with explanations.

Abstract: Architects seldom design for themselves, yet in the course of studying architecture one is rarely presented with the opportunity to design for a real client. The abstract nature of this education model leads to a focus that typically prioritizes formal or technical design exploration and de-emphasizes the role of the user. While Universal Design centers human bodies within design practice, the broad and often vague ambition of universality is difficult for students to engage within an academic context. We argue that approaching Universal Design through the lens of human age emphasizes the physical, sensorial, and cognitive modes of spatial understanding of the young and old and offers a focused perspective through which to address difference and diversity in architectural education. In this paper we outline a pedagogical approach that prioritizes human embodiments, over physical bodies, and integrates empathic understanding as critical to an inclusive, human-centered design methodology. We will discuss how the approach emerged from design seminars and studios taught in the Department of Architecture at the University at Buffalo and was tested through exercises that challenged students to research, empathize with, and ultimately design for the specific needs, abilities, and desires of individuals at the limits of human age.

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

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Teaching UD: Progress so far

A group of five students cluster around a computer screen. They look as if they are seeing something important.Tom Vavik argues that there are four pillars to teaching universal design to design students: benefits to society and individuals, laws and regulations, UD thinking as a creative tool and increased market potential. Vavik identifies four main changes that have occurred in UD teaching:

  1. From UD as basic principles to UD as an inclusive design process.
  2. From physical to cognitive accessibility due to becoming a digital society.
  3. From usability and functionality to non-stigmatising aesthetics
  4. From second to first year curriculum and not being a separate course.

In his short paper, Facilititating the Concept of Universal Design Among Design Students – Changes in Teaching in the Last Decade, Vavik argues for another four factors that instructors need to consider in teaching UD:

  1. Decide what the overall learning outcome is, what specific knowledge, skills and experience the students should obtain.
  2. Identify ways to influence the students’ attitudes and ethical values related to the design practice and profession in a UD perspective
  3. Identify what kind of design theory and literature the teaching is based on
  4. Identify the most relevant themes and tasks for the students to work on and ascertain when they are mature enough for this kind of teaching

Abstract: This short paper describes and reflects on how the teaching of the concept of Universal Design (UD) has developed in the last decade at the Institute of Design at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO). Four main changes are described. Firstly, the curriculum has evolved from teaching guidelines and principles to focusing on design processes. Secondly, an increased emphasis is put on cognitive accessibility. Thirdly, non-stigmatizing aesthetics expressions and solutions that communicate through different senses have become more important subjects. Fourthly the teaching of UD has moved from the second to the first year curriculum.

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Learning about Standards and Universal Design

view from the back of a university lecture theatre where students are seated listening to a lecture.It is assumed that students in design disciplines, such as engineering, automatically learn about standards and how they are developed. According to an article by Jenny Darzentas this is not the case. The way standards are developed and written makes them difficult to understand and apply. Too much emphasis is placed on “learning on the job”. Darzentas says that “education about standardisation would be beneficial in Universal Design courses for design students … especially in Europe and North America. This is in contrast to countries such as Japan, Korea and China (JKC) where courses on standardisation education are routinely found in their universities”. The title of the article is “Educating Students About Standardisation Relating to Universal Design”.

Access to standards documents is not usually discussed as a barrier to accessibility and universal design, but this article draws attention to the need for people not only access the documents easily, but also those documents should provide information in a way that is easy to access. An argument for standards to follow the concepts of universal design?

Abstract: Standardisation education is rarely taught to students in the design disciplines in academic settings, and consequently there is not much evidence about best practices. This paper examines this situation, and elaborates on some of the possible reasons for this situation. Further, it gives an example of how students may be instructed and encouraged to further their interests in standards and the standardization-making process as a means for increasing Universal Design in practice.

This article comes from the published papers from the 2016 Universal Design Conference held in York, UK, which are open access.

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Social factors and accessibility

a man stands in front of a wall covered in bright coloured post it notes which have different ideas and actionsAs our world becomes increasingly digitised, it’s important to ensure that no-one is left behind. However, it seems that influencing designers’ actual practice remains challenging. Design for Social Accessibility is an approach that encourages designers to focus on social as well as functional factors in their design. Researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Washington used workshops and brainstorming with designers to bring about a change in their attitudes, and to see the effectiveness of the Design for Social Accessibility approach. Their article, Incorporating Social Factors in Accessible Design, is lengthy because it includes quotes from workshop participants and is very thorough in its reporting. They conclude, “Accessible design is not an impossible challenge; instead, is within reach for professional designers, if given appropriate tools and resources. We offer Design for Social Accessibility as one such tool that designers can use to include disabled and non-disabled users and complex social and functional consideration toward accessible solutions. Designing technologies for people with disability does not exclude non-disabled people. The focus of this study is on people with vision impairment. Social accessibility relates to the social factors of using a device or product not just functional aspects.

Abstract: Personal technologies are rarely designed to be accessible to disabled people, partly due to the perceived challenge of including disability in design. Through design workshops, we addressed this challenge by infusing user-centered design activities with Design for Social Accessibility—a perspective emphasizing social aspects of accessibility—to investigate how professional designers can leverage social
factors to include accessibility in design. We focused on how professional designers incorporated Design for Social Accessibility’s three tenets: (1) to work with users with and without visual impairments; (2) to consider social and functional factors; (3) to employ tools—a framework and method cards—to raise awareness and prompt reflection on social aspects toward accessible design. We then interviewed designers about their workshop experiences. We found DSA to be an effective set of tools and strategies incorporating social/functional and non/disabled perspectives that helped designers create accessible design.

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Built environment education in universal design

Adults seated at tables in a classroom setting looking forward to the instructor at the front of the roomTraining and education in universal design for built environment professionals seems to have, ironically, some barriers to uptake and then implementation. Two open access articles address this issue: Universal Design Teaching in Architectural Education, and Planning – Design Training and Universal Design. The first article discusses a model for UD teaching in architecture schools and presents ideas for setting up UD courses. The second article argues that universal design concepts should be incorporated into all departments that offer planning and design training. Proposals for solutions are suggested for inclusion in higher education study programs. 

It is difficult to promote universal design education when educational institutions are unaware of the need for inclusive planning and design of the campus, or the application of principles of universal design for learning in teaching programs. Advocating for UD in learning programs is made all the more difficult if higher education institutions do not have policies that are inclusive of learning for all.  

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Engineering diversity and inclusion

Two men in hard hats are crouching on a large concrete floor.they look like they are discussing something.The American Society of Civil Engineers has acknowledged that they have work to do on diversity and inclusion within their ranks and the people for whom they design solutions. While the focus of the Special Collection Announcement publication is about educating engineers, it is interesting to see that they are taking the matter seriously and introducing a new section to their Code of Ethics. At the end of the Announcement they lament that there were no articles submitted about disability or socio-economic status and that this needs to be addressed in the future so that all aspects of diversity are discussed. You can see all abstracts to papers in this collection by going to the journal’s library link. 

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Designing inclusively with emotional intelligence

Patricia Moore sits on a park bench looking in her handbag. She has a walking cane and is wearing a black hat an blue overcoat. She looks like she is 80 years old but she is 27.Patricia Moore is well-known to those who have followed the fortunes of universal design for some time. She was the researcher who dressed and behaved as an 80 year old woman and found first hand the discriminatory treatment older people face every day in the built environment and socially. Her latest article with Jörn Bühring asks designers and business leaders to use social and emotional intelligence in their designs. They claim the philosophic challenge is to ask “Why not?” rather than “Why?” 

“Designers don’t speak of limitations, instead they tend to focus on possibilities. The emergence of ’inclusivity’ in design supports the conviction that where there is a ’deficit’, we will present a solution. “Where there is ignorance, we will strive for enlightenment. Where there is a roadblock, we will create a pathway”.

Cite paper as: Bühring, J., Moore, P., (2018). Emotional and Social Intelligence as ’Magic Key’ in Innovation: A Designer’s call toward inclusivity for all – Letter From Academia, Journal of Innovation Management, www.openjim.org,
6(2), 6-12.

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