Universal Design for non-designers

overhead view of a table with several laptops open. One person is handing another a documentThe concept of universal design is not the sole responsibility of people who consider themselves a designer. Universal design and inclusive practice involves everyone regardless whether they are a trained designer, a policy writer, an academic, a dancer or a carpenter. It’s difficult enough to appeal to trained designers to think inclusion throughout their design process, let alone getting non-designers on board with this concept. A group in China is looking at ways to reach out to non-designers for a cross-disciplinary approach to universal design education. Their paper, A Strategy on Introducing Inclusive Design Philosophy to Non-design Background Undergraduates, focuses on how to integrate design in what they term, crossover education, with non-design students. You will need institutional access to SpringerLink for a free read.  If not, try the Google Books link for a few more pages.

Abstract: Focusing on how to integrating design into crossover-education, which is a controversial topic in china’s education. And in china, all china’s colleges and universities are trying their best to set up crossover education. Cause firstly they all think that it is vital important for the college students to broaden their horizon, secondly, more and more projects need diverse and professional genius to cooperate to be finished. They need to know the design thinking. But the problem is coming, differing from design-major background students, how to make design curriculum transforming a better and easier way to accept and assimilate by the other background students. How to cultivate the design thinking in crossover education, I think, which is the most things we as educator need to concentrate. This paper focuses on how to introduce inclusive design philosophy to non-design background undergraduates. This is one of the parts of a research project “Applied universities’ design education reform and practice based on the principle of inclusive design” supported by the Shanghai Education Science Research Program (Grant No. C17067).


AI for captioning

A speaker stands at a lectern and captioning sceen is behind his right shoulderArtificial Intelligence (AI) can take captioning to another level claims Microsoft. AI for automatic speech recognition removes the need for a human captioner for lectures in universities, and elsewhere. The Microsoft AI blog article and video below focuses on deaf students, but as more people take to captioning on their phones, it could make like easier for everyone. We already know that captioning helps all students by adding another layer of communication and this point is made in the article. The captioning is turned into transcripts and students have a reference to read after the lecture. They can also have the lecture automatically translated into several languages. This is a detailed article and covers automatic speech recognition, translations, and a growing demand for accessibility. This technology is not expected to take over from Auslan or ASL as they are languages in their own right. However, this is another example of how technology is helping humans by taking over from humans and bringing the advantages to more people.  



Making PDF Documents Accessible

graphic of a page with PDF on it red and whiteWhy is a Word document often preferred by some readers over a PDF document? They are more accessible for more people. Not everyone can see well; can use a mouse, can read English well, can remain focused easily when they read, and not everyone uses assistive technology. And not all PDF documents can be read by screen readers. In a slideshare Tammy Stitz explains some of the issues and solutions. She covers some of the technicalities as well as basics such as colour contrast, reading order and Alternative Text (alt-t). Logical structure, use of headings and placement and attributes of hyperlinks. The slideshare goes on to cover a list of things that need to be checked. Finally you can test the document using PDF Accessibility Checker. There is also such a thing as a PDF Association.  


An accessible campus is part of sustainability

Edifice of a federation stone building with arched entrance with step leading to it.Linking “sustainability” with universal design is not a new idea, especially when thinking about social sustainability. A new book,Towards Green Campus Operations, includes a chapter that moves away from “green” to social sustainability. The argument is that making the campus more universally accessible is a sustainability exercise. The more accessible the campus is, the more likely the students are to enroll and, more importantly, finish their course. This is good for the university and sustains their student intake and retention. The authors also argue that academics need to be educated about this issue too. The chapter, “Educational Institutions and Universal Accessibility: In Search of Sustainability on University Campus”, is available through Springer Link.

Abstract: The paper reports proposals and solutions of the design and implementation for universal accessibility at the university campus, complying with current legislation and community demands. It addresses the challenges of raising academic awareness about the subject and of the accessible route project overcoming the campus large dimensions, urbanized areas and rugged topography. It is the result of a project and an accessible route shared through pedestrian and motorized routes and with its implantation overcoming barriers in the implementation. The theme was conducted with a focus on social sustainability, as it is a requirement to obtain the universal and legitimate right to higher education and the benefits of the university campus as a community educational, environmental and leisure urban equipment. The results of the article demonstrate that universal accessibility, more than a legal requirement for educational institutions, contributes to social sustainability. The spatial adequacies allow the universalization of the possibility of entry and stay of persons with disabilities or reduced mobility in the university campus, expanding their training at an higher level. 


UD for Learning: An indigenous perspective

Placed in a rural setting a wooden barn type building displays the cultural icons and two totem poles of the Alaskan NativesThe education system in Alaska is an interesting place to research the potential for applying the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) in a culturally diverse and indigenous context. The article by Krista James explores examples of implementation of the Alaska Cultural Standards for Educators within a UDL framework. Similarly to Australia, Alaska’s indigenous population has experienced loss of culture and forced assimilation with Western educational systems taking over the education of their children. James concludes that the Alaska Cultural Standards for Educators and the UDL framework are not just easy to connect, but many of the standards are already ingrained in the core principles of UDL. You don’t have to be an educator to appreciate this article.

The title of the article is: “Universal Design for Learning as a Structure for Culturally Responsive Practice”, in the Northwest Journal of Teacher Education. 2018. There is a link to a 30 minute video at the end of the article.


Conference attendance from a user perspective

picture of a large audience watching a presentation.When academics organise a conference on health and wellbeing of people, some of the people being discussed are likely to be in attendance and potentially on the speaking program. But how many academic conference organisers think about this? Not many it seems. Sarah Gordon has written a very readable article about her experience as a conference speaker, attendee and user of the health system. Conferences that have content relating to disability are generally considerate of the “nothing about us without us” approach. But when it comes to conferences on mental health, it seems the users are given little if any consideration. While the focus is on mental health in this paper, the comments can be applied more generally. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability is referenced throughout and this makes it a long read. The point is made that conferences are part of the right to life-long learning and education, and the right to give and receive information. The application of universal design principles are discussed as a means to create greater inclusion for conferences. The paper is titled, What makes a ‘good’ conference from a service user perspective? by Sarah Gordon and Kris Gledhill, in the International Journal of Mental Health and Capacity Law (2017).

Editor’s note: This is one of the few academic papers available as a Word document with free access. 


Captioning for business presentations

Aerial view of a crowded conference scene where the session has finished and people are standing, sitting and walking about.Geoffrey Clegg is a university lecturer in business communication who is gradually losing his hearing. He is using his experience to educate his students about the diversity of audiences they will encounter in their workplaces. His paper explores the use of text and also provides students with a framework to question their assumptions about ability and disability that will transfer to their workplace practices. The article goes on to look at captioning research. The article is titled, Unheard Complaints: Integrating Captioning Into Business and Professional Communication Presentations from Sage Journals. Or you can request full text from ResearchGate  or download from iDocSlide.Com.


Inclusive Tourism: free online learning

A graph showing the growth of inclusive tourismHow can you make an hotel, a place of interest, an event, or holiday accessible and inclusive? What’s actually involved and why should anyone bother? The answer to these and many other questions are found in a comprehensive e-learning program – and it’s free! The course was developed by Local Government NSW to help tourism operators make the most of their potential clientele. There are several modules and each has learning content followed by quick questions. You can access the course, the case studies and resources on the Local Government NSW website. 

The course was developed as a result of a collaboration with the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse when it became clear that information about accessible and inclusive tourist destinations and activities was often incomplete. Although this was developed with local council tourist centres in mind, the content is applicable broadly – including shops, cafes, restaurants and novelty places – anywhere for visitors whether they are local, interstate or international.



Introduction to Universal Design

Title of course: introduction to universal design, yellow and orange blurred coloured background with dark blue text.From the Editor: The feedback about this free short online course has been very positive. I know that many subscribers feel they already know a lot about universal design, and this is true. It is also true that this is very basic as the first couple of pages show. But there is a little more to it as you progress. Although it aimed at those who are fairly new to the concept, have a go and when you get to the end you get a certificate of completion. The more you know, the quicker you will be. And we’ve tried to make it fun. This will be the entry course to other units that we will be adding later. Jane Bringolf. 


Introduction to Universal Design Launched

Title of course: introduction to universal design, yellow and orange blurred coloured background with dark blue text.At the Access Consultants Conference in Brisbane last week, I had the pleasure of announcing CUDA’s first online course: Introduction to Universal Design. This free course is aimed at people who have heard of universal design but not sure what it is or how it can be implemented. Of course, anyone can sign up and go through the steps. You don’t have to do it in one sitting. There is a certificate of completion at the end. Briefly, the topics are the seven principles and eight goals, diversity and stereotyping. It concludes with an overview of how it can be applied in the built environment, to products and to technology. There are captioned videos to watch and quizzes to complete. Depending on your prior knowledge it should take between one to two hours to complete Introduction to Universal DesignWhy not give it a go?

We are happy to receive feedback on the course and suggestions for improvement. Also, we would like to know what topics you would like us to develop for online courses, or there might be a topic you would like to contribute to.

Jane Bringolf, Chair, Centre for Universal Design Australia