3rd Generation universal design

One of the conundrums of the quest for inclusion, is that individuals have to identify as excluded so that they can get included. That’s because the people already included are doing the including by deciding whether to invite you in. What if inclusion was thought about as “nonclusion”? This is the proposition in a paper on 3rd generation universal design.

“Nonclusive design means design that resists categorisations of bodies/roles and that does not come with predefined or presupposed limits in terms of who it is meant for.

Inclusion is one group looking at another group and thinking about "Them".

The authors say that “nonclusive design” is an essential element in the shift towards 3rd generation universal design. They define nonclusive design as a design that resists categorisations of bodies and roles. It does not come with with predetermined limits of who it is meant for. Therefore designs incorporate human diversity without reference to existing or traditional ways of doing things. Nonclusive design is about intersectional thinking focused on unity rather than separation.

The title of the paper is, Towards 3rd Generation Universal Design: Exploring Nonclusive Design. Universal design is more than 50 years old. The first generation began with wheelchair users and the public built environment. The second generation brought additional excluded groups into focus. But the real aim of universal design is to have no excluded groups at all – the 3rd generation concept.

Not yet for everyone

The authors argue that while universal design is for everyone, thinking largely remains in the first generation of universal design. By creating a new word, nonclusion, they hope it takes thinking to a place with difference is a fundamental element of being human.

Creating a new word might help, but regardless, we are still thinking about a future that is yet to exist. If we have nonclusive design, will a change of name from universal design change existing mindsets?

The issue is also discussed in a 2009 paper, Turning Back Time for Inclusion for Today as Well as Tomorrow. Inclusion is problematic because it requires those who are already included to invite excluded people into the group. Semantics can be important. What we need is inclusiveness – that’s where inclusion has already happened and there are no exclusions. Inclusion is a futuristic concept because it is something we are striving for. If we were inclusive, no discussion would be needed.

From the abstract

In this paper, we identify and describe early signs of a shift towards 3rd generation UD, of which “nonclusive design” is an essential part. Nonclusive design means design that resists categorisations of bodies/roles and that does not come with predefined or presupposed limits in terms of who it is meant for.

We outline seven themes characterising the shift towards nonclusive design:

  • from included to undefined users
  • from person to function
  • from adaptism to variation
  • from sparation to convergence
  • from reactive to proactive
  • from unaware to aware
  • from explicit to tacit
Graphic of stick people in various poses with the caption, "Inclusiveness,, looking at everyone

Nonclusive design directs attention to context instead of the individual, focusing on possibilities, functions and facilities. It highlights variation and unity rather than separation. Nonclusive design presupposes awareness, knowledge and proactive development void of adaptism. It incorporates human variation without reiterating patterns of norm-deviation.

We argue that the continued growth of universal design demands, is part of, and contributes to a shift in culture, with nonclusive, intersectional thinking as a key future driver. In such a culture, 3rd generation universal design can contribute as a common guiding mindset, as a source for innovation, as a way to listen for diversity

Images created for the conference presentation, Turning Back Time for Today as well as Tomorrow.

Toilet signage and nonclusion

A further paper by the same research group discusses three versions of toilet signage in more detail than the paper above. The purpose is to find a way to be inclusive without depicting exceptions.

  • Addition – adding more pictograms of different persons
  • Combination – using composite pictograms
  • Nonclusion – not depicting persons, bodies or roles at all.

    Image shows the version with additions

    A toilet door sign with four icons: access, man, woman, baby change with a woman and a baby.

    The title of the paper is, Moving beyond human bodies on display – signs of a shift in categorisation. Scroll down the list of papers to reach the paper which is in English. This paper is prelude to further research. The key issue underpinning this work is that the quest for inclusion relies on “the included” to do the including.

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