UD in Higher Education

view of university of seville library with students sitting at desks. bookcases are in the backgroundWhile inclusive education at all levels is written into policy documents, strategies for implementation are sometimes few and far between. Barriers in many forms still confront students with disability in educational settings, whether it be the built environment, attitudes of staff and other students, or the design of the curriculum. 

The main the main objective of this paper, Inclusive University Classrooms: the importance of faculty training is to identity, describe and explain barriers and aids related to faculty that students with disabilities experience in classrooms. The paper is by a cross-disciplinary group from the University of Seville in Spain. Reference is made to the work by Australians Valerie Watchorn and Helen Larkin on this topic. It is interesting to note the recent frequency of articles by Spanish authors appearing in the literature on different aspects of universal design.

The picture is of the library at University of Seville.

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TED talks about designing inclusively

Elise Roy giving her Ted TalkYou can download a playlist of Ten Ted Talks on designing for disability. Elise Roy is a lawyer and talks about how losing her hearing has helped her as a design thinker and increased her ability to reframe the world to give a different perspective to problem solving. Chris Downey’s talk is Design with the Blind in Mind; Mileha Soneji talks of Simple Hacks for Life with Parkinson’s; and Ron McCullum tells of How Technology Allowed me to Read. There are six other related talks.

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Design knows no bounds

Front cover of The Routledge Companion to Design StudiesPenelope Dean discusses how boundaries among various fields of design emerge, what they do, and how they behave, and then proceeds to argue that there are no real boundaries, only discipline based notions of boundaries. She takes six perspectives including, how they erupt from within, how they are extrapolated, and how they evolve from shared principles. She concludes by saying: “Design is no longer the sole property of disciplines or professions… [d]esign is now public domain appropriable by anyone.” She goes on to say that we all have the freedom to design and “rethink how we choose and designate new worlds.” Isn’t that what universal design is all about?

Penelope Dean’s chapter, Free for All, can be found in The Routledge Companion to Design Studies, edited by Penny Sparke and Fiona Fisher and available from Google Books. Also available from Amazon.

Part IV of the book includes chapters on socially inclusive design, and socially responsive design among others. You can download the Table of Contents from Amazon. 

Penelope Dean is Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she teaches, theory, history and design, and serves as coordinator for the Masters of Arts in Design Criticism program. Her research and writings focus on contemporary architectural culture with a particular emphasis on recent exchanges between architecture and allied design fields.

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Architecture student attitudes

Faculty of Architecture University at Buffalo State University of New YorkOne way of encouraging and increasing the uptake of universal design strategies, is the provision of education and training during the important and influential years of professional education. This is probably one of the first studies of its type in the area of how introducing students to the principles of universal design can have a positive effect on attitudes towards people with disability.

Published in the Journal of Accessibility and Design for All, the authors, Hitch, Dell and Larkin from Deakin University, also review some of the related literature. The title of the article is, Does Universal Design Education Impact on the Attitudes of Architecture Students Towards People with Disability? 

From the Abstract: The aim of this study was to investigate the attitudes of architecture students towards people with a disability, comparing those who received inter-professional universal design education with those who had not. Architecture students who had previously participated in inter-professional universal design education had significantly less negative attitudes. This study suggests education around universal design may promote more positive attitudes towards people with a disability for architecture students.

Editor’s Note: Nicholas Loder and Lisa Stafford presented their paper,“Moving from the Margins: Embedding inclusive thinking in design education” at the UD Conference. Janice Reiger’s paper is in a similar vein using the case studies of museums in Europe and Canada.

 

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Design details and everyday experiences

Title of the article in white text over an image of the top of an escalatorDeborah Beardslee takes the perspective of age and physical ability to analyse design processes to find out what includes and why, and what excludes and why. The article is thoughtfully presented, although the webpage is not a good example of universal design (it has small feint text), It should be of interest to design educators as well as practitioners. While quality and inclusiveness alongside ageing and disability are not new themes or challenges for designers, this paper focuses on examining everyday interactions with commonplace items.

As Assoc Prof  Beardslee notes, “Although many of the design decisions we encounter work reasonably well for most of us, there are many design solutions we interact with that aren’t high quality and don’t come close to performing as well as they could. We’re all familiar with some degree of compromised experience (i.e., hard-to-read instructions, doors that are difficult to open, places that are challenging to navigate, and generic or unappealing spaces).”

The title of the article is, Inclusive, High Quality Decisions? Macro/Micro Design Impacts within our Everyday Experiences, and was accessed from SEGD.org Universal Design webpage.

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UD of educational facilities and learning environments

School crossing warning sign. Yellow background, red triangle with two children and the word School in a box underneathThis article nicely outlines the benefits of universally designed educational facilities and learning environments. It goes well beyond ramps and rails to tackle both the built environment and the learning environment itself. 

The author, Ali Simsek, elaborates on the essential principles of universal design as they apply to educational facilities, and suggests solutions to make them more accessible and useable.The classic principles are described, as well as the process of universal design: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. For each of the seven principles of universal design, examples of design are given. For instance, under the heading Flexibility in Use, both right-handed and left-handed people should be considered, and in a museum, a visitor can listen to audio descriptions of the displays in a language of their choice. 

Simsek says, “Benefits of universal design in educational settings can be discussed from the points of the learner, the school, and the society at large. Potential benefits do not have to be in conflict with each other. For example, students can enjoy the school because it makes their life easier, the school can achieve its mission effectively, and the society can have citizens with higher sense of self-fulfillment.”

It will be interesting to see if the new Victorian policy of all new schools being built to the principles of universal design will go beyond just physical access and address the learning environment as well.

The paper was published in e-Proceeding of the 4th Global Summit on Education GSE 2016, 14-15 March 2016 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 

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The problem is how we think about it

young girl in a classroom setting looking at an iPadTorrie Dunlap gives a first hand account of how she thought people with disability had “special needs” and now realises that this thinking marginalises and separates, particularly when “special arrangements” are made. For universal design to get greater traction, first we need more people like Torrie to make that paradigm shift. Indeed, this Tedx Talk is a really good example to show people who have yet to even consider how they patronise (even just in their thinking).

Cartoon of Santa with his hands held out either side of his bodyTorrie relates real stories of children and how they are treated as special, with special days and special events which are obviously not inclusive. She even tells of a special day for children with disability to visit Santa – why can’t they go any day?  Here is a snippet from her talk:

“A mental model is a deeply ingrained set of beliefs based on assumptions, generalizations, media images, our own experience or lack of it. Basically, how we think about stuff… For many of us, our mental model around disability reflects the medical model – something to fear, something to fix, something to feel sorry for, and that we can feel good when we help less fortunate people. But, what happens when we consciously change our internal model and view disability as neutral, and the environment as a factor? What if we see children with disabilities first as children, and not a diagnosis or as “special?”

The link to the page and video includes a full transcript of the Tedx talk.

 

 

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