Establishing a UD Centre in Australia

Logo for Centre for Universal Design AustraliaFrom the Ground Up: Establishing a Centre for Universal Design in Australia charts the establishment and development of CUDA. This paper was presented at the UD Conference in Ireland held at the end of 2018. Here is the abstract – the full paper is available online.

Abstract: The universal design movement arrived in Australia well before the turn of the century. A handful of individuals, often working as lone voices, are doing their best to incorporate the concepts into their everyday work and promote the concepts more widely. As is often the case elsewhere, the term “universal design” is misunderstood and confused with special and separate designs for people with disability rather than inclusion for everyone. Compliance to legislated disability access standards has created further confusion and as a consequence many myths about universal design have emerged. Such myths have held back the implementation and understanding of universal design and inclusive practice. Australian governments at all levels have shown little interest in promoting universal design principles, save for a casual mention of the term in policy documents. This is in spite of changes to disability and ageing policies promoting more autonomy and independence for individuals. When political leadership is absent, leadership often defaults to the community, or to be precise, to a handful of people with a passion for the cause. In 2013 a chance meeting of two unrelated individuals set the wheels in motion to establish a centre for universal design in Australia. This paper charts the development and progress of the organisation through volunteer effort, harnessing community support, maintaining international connections, using social media, and establishing a resource-rich website and newsletter.