Some government funded projects require designers to show how the project will embody the principles of universal design. But what do architects think about universal design? How are they dealing with the implementation? And are architecture educators teaching universal design?
A survey of architects, educators and technologists were asked those questions. The aim of the survey was to find out:
1. How inherent is Universal Design knowledge to current building design practice?
2. What are the current Universal Design education and training needs of Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland?
3. Which Universal Design themes and topics are of most interest to Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland?
4. To what extent does existing CPD for Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland address Universal Design topics?
5. What can motivate Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland to access Universal Design CPD?
6. What are the most effective means by which to deliver Universal Design CPD to Architects and Architectural Technologists practising in Ireland?
There is still work to do with the data, but the initial findings are that face to face works best rather than online sessions for CPD. Respondents wanted to know more about people with mental health conditions and people with hearing impairments. They also wanted to know more about applying universal design to specific building types.
The title of the article is Universal Design and Continuing Professional Development for Architects: An Irish Case Study. It is an open access article.
Promoting universal design in education
Some design tutors perpetuate negative attitudes towards changes to design thinking or processes. This was one finding in Promoting Universal Design in Architectural Education. Consequently, practices don’t change. The article discusses ways that design schools can include universal design into their courses. For example, working with other disciplines such as occupational therapists who can explain the functionality of designs. The article also discusses the ‘critical eye’ and the ‘appreciative eye’.
Critical Eye and Appreciative Eye
It’s easy to see the barriers and missing design features. These stand out. The ‘critical eye’ tells us what not to do, but doesn’t tell us the remedy. The ‘appreciative eye identifies the positive aspects which provide good examples.
Good inclusive design, done well, is inconspicuous and needs a trained eye to notice it. A walkway that is flat and barrier free can be taken for granted. But we do not know how much design effort it took to make it so. The trained eye also needs to see what is not there – what is missing. A handrail or contrast stair nosings, for example.
Unfortunately this paper is published in a small Italic font and is difficult to read.
Also see Students’ Attitudes to Universal Design in Architecture Education, by Helen Larkin, Kelsey Dell, and Danielle Hitch. It was published in the Journal of Social Inclusion, 2016.
See also Hitch, Dell and Larkin from Deakin University, who 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? Published in the Journal of Accessibility and Design for All.