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-fulfilment.”

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.

 

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

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 title of the article is, Every Reader a Library, Every Library its Reader: Designing Responsive Libraries for Our Communities. 

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.