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.



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 Universal Design webpage.


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.



Presenting research on reading problems – a good example

This video is a supplement to an academic paper by Rebecca King and is a good example of how to present research in a way that is congruent with the topic. Too many academics write for other academics and consequently their knowledge is rarely translated for others to use.  Even if you are not interested in UD for learning, the short video is worth watching to see how creatively the information is presented.


Teaching UD and Inclusion to designers

inclusive design symbolsProfessor Simeon Keates has been researching aspects of universal/inclusive design over many years. In this article he focuses on how designers can acquire the knowledge and skills to gain information about users and apply it to the design.

Abstract: Designing for Universal Access requires designers to have a good understanding of the full range of users and their capabilities, appropriate datasets, and the most suitable tools and techniques. Education clearly plays an important role in helping designers acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to find the relevant information about the users and then apply it to produce a genuinely inclusive design. This paper presents a reflective analysis of a variant of the “Usability and Accessibility” course for MSc students, developed and delivered by the author over five successive semesters at the IT University of Copenhagen. The aim is to examine whether this course provided an effective and useful method for raising the issues around Universal Access with the designers of the future. This paper examines the results and conclusions from the students over five semesters of this course and provides an overview of the success of the different design and evaluation methods. The paper concludes with a discussion of the effectiveness of each of the specific methods, techniques and tools used in the course, both from design and education perspectives.

Download the article from Universal Access in the Information Society,  , Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 97-110


Checklist for written material and oral presentations

Queensland government poster with logoThe Queensland Department of Vocational Education and Training has produced a useful checklist for anyone producing written materials or making presentations. The checklist covers all points that should be considered by everyone regardless of whether it is a casual talk with a small group, a flyer to promote an event, a lecture and learning materials for students, or a major conference presentation.

Universal Design Checklist Word      Universal Design Checklist PDF


Libraries for all types of reader

Every Reader a Library, Every Library its Reader: Designing Responsive Libraries for Our Communities

Overhead view of library shelvesThe National Library Board of Singapore is embracing new ways of reading, learning and creating knowledge. Their aim in revamping their libraries is to be inclusive of learning styles as well as being physically accessible.  

The article includes a case study with illustrations of the re-modelling of an existing library.


Improving designers’ understanding of UD

Journal logoEducating designers to include the broader population in all their designs every time, not just in ‘special’ designs or projects, is an issue shared across borders. A group in Brazil conducted a design charrette for a graduate course on universal design to find out how to improve teaching in this discipline. The article titled, A universal design charrette conducted in an educational setting to increase professional sensitivity, was published in the Journal of Accessibility and Design for All in 2015.

Abstract: This paper describes a design Charrette conducted in a graduate course on Universal Design (UD), in which students, here professional architects, developed a design project for a public-service centre. The goal of the Charrette was to understand the effectiveness of this type of teaching method to increase the designers’ sensitivity toward UD issues and gain knowledge on participatory processes. The Charrette involved potential users with various disabilities who evaluated the design proposal using tactile maps and other communication media. The Charrette exercise included Wayfinding as an important topic in the design of buildings and urban spaces. Issues related to this aspect were translated into flowcharts as diagrams and tactile representations. The participation of users with disabilities was evaluated. The results showed that the Charrette, as a teaching method, was successful in making the student group examine questions regarding UD. However, the student group continued to be primarily concerned with the design’s formal aesthetic issues, and the process differed little from the traditional “designerly” ways of doing things. An analysis of the participatory phase showed that potential users with visual disabilities had difficulties understanding the design and the wheelchair users criticized various questions of access and barrier-free Wayfinding. Recommendations to improve “design for all” education are presented. To increase the sensitivity of professional designers to issues concerning UD, potential users with A universal design Charrette conducted in an educational setting to increase professional sensitivity of professional designers to issues concerning UD, potential users with disabilities should participate early in the design process, to provide input as the proposal is developed. Introducing a multidisciplinary design team should also be tested to include a larger variety of viewpoints in design decisions. This approach may strengthen the concern for elements of an architectural and urban design that directly affect person-environment relationships.