Inclusive online meetings: Preparation is key

two laptops are open on a desk and one has several faces of people who are online.There’s been a few articles about working remotely and participating in online meetings. But there are a few nuances, little things, that need attention so that meetings are inclusive. An article from the Commons Library says it is not about the technical details. Rather, it’s about the culture and processes particularly for mixed face to face and online participation.

The article covers:
– Meeting preparation
– Collaboration tools
– Meeting process
– After the meeting

Some of this is basic, but the transitions in and out of lockdowns means more hybrid meetings – some face to face and some online participants. This is not easy for participants. Internet dropouts and other tech problems such as poor sound add to the mix of issues. This is where the chair’s role is very important because body language and facial expression are all helpful in making sure everyone gets to contribute.

Hosting hybrid online meetings is also covered by Blueprints for Change.  It has some Tips and Tricks.

For hybrid meetings, everyone in the room should be on camera. This can mean a rearrangement of the room and careful placement of the camera. 

“In a hybrid meeting environment people who are on screen should be assigned a buddy who is in the physical room. Their buddy regularly checks in with them, talks to them on breaks, makes sure they can see and hear at all times. Buddies might even bring them to break/snack conversations so they don’t miss the in-room side conversations.”


Local Government Universal Design Network

Header for the sign up form for joining the netowork.Virginia Richardson is setting up a new universal design interest group for local government staff. This new network will enable like-minded people to share experiences and skills in universal design and inclusive practice.

Local government staff and others with an interest in local government are invited to join this new network. If you are interested in joining, Virginia asks that you complete the online form

The objectives of the Network are:

      • Greater understanding of how UD is being applied in a Local Government setting
      • Support for UD policies to be adopted by more Councils
      • Opportunities for shared professional development and capacity building
      • Potential for joint advocacy to improve State and Federal legislation

This is a great initiative by Virginia Richardson who works for the Mornington Peninsular Shire Council in Victoria. The acronym works too – LGUDN (elgood’n).

Editor’s note: It would be good to see more special interest groups and networks set up to help with the implementation of universal design across different fields of work. 


Co-design is another skill set

A page of tiles with faces of many different people.How can we get design educators and students to think beyond themselves? Considering other body shapes, sizes, ages and interests is essential for inclusive designs. But designing with users, or co-design, is another skill set. Fake personas, building codes and anthropometric data are a good start, but they lack the evidence of lived experience. Without inclusive designs, we cannot meet our commitment for the Sustainable Development Goals

The issue of teaching educators to look beyond the tried and true design methods is being tackled by a team from Queensland University of Technology. In their article, they take a critical look at current approaches to design education in architecture and interior design studios. They propose an “authentic learning approach” which includes engagement with real users. 

The title of the article is, Breaking Barriers: Educating Design Students about Inclusive Design through an Authentic Learning Framework You will need institutional access for a free read. Or you can contact Janice Rieger and ask for a copy.


Current studies in design education suggest that students and educators base their designs on what they already know about themselves and their peers, or on stereotypical notions of others. This article presents a critical examination of a pedagogical approach employed in several architecture and interior design studios to determine how best to develop student understanding of how to design for real users and users with abilities different from themselves. This authentic learning approach with spatial design students and teachers from the School of Design, Queensland University of Technology, Australia and with people with differing abilities, used qualitative and quantitative questionnaires, student journals and design studio projects to create a multimodal data set. While there are no simple conclusions, or easy answers to unravel the complexity in creating inclusive designs, our findings point towards enabling new engagements and knowledge processes and scaffolding these activities around authentic learning, so that design students and educators can begin to understand the differing ways of designing for/with people with disabilities. The significance of this research is that it opens up new approaches for teaching design students about inclusive design beyond fake personas, building codes and anthropometric data, and provides evidence of the need for a more holistic, authentic and scaffolded approach.

The real lives of online learners

Maslow's pyramid diagram of needs: at the bottom are physical needs, then safety and security, then love and belonging, rising to self esteem and at the pinnacle is self-actulisation.Online learning will continue to be an important way of teaching and studying. But little is understood about unintended consequences for some learners. Some will be left behind. Ready access to a computer or device and the internet is just the start. Anxiety about home backgrounds can prevent learners from turning on the camera. Lack of good housing and adequate food can also be an issue. If education systems are to be truly inclusive, the real lives of learners need to be factored into learning processes. 

Understanding the value of diversity, equity and inclusion is important for upcoming generations who will be tomorrow’s decision-makers. This is a key point made in an article from Arizona State University. The article discusses the issues within the context of changes brought about by the pandemic. There are interesting ideas that incorporate the real lives of learners and the diverse issues they have. Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, they remind us that food and shelter are not a given for all learners.  Providing a place to sleep and eat is one example of assisting learners to complete their courses.  Other examples are included in the article. 

The title of the article is, Inclusive Campus Environments: An Untapped Resource for Fostering Learner Success  It is part of a series, Shaping the Futures of Learning in the Digital Age. 


The purpose of this paper is to consider new possibilities for higher education, where the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provide a framework for creating digital and physical environments that honor every learner’s unique lived experiences and support the expectations of learners for their individual life goals. Each learner brings their own unique lived experience; multi-level intersectionality; and cognitive and social learning variabilities to their educational journey. Many of these present obstacles to their realizing successful learning outcomes. Understanding the lived experiences in the learner’s journey and creating environments that remove barriers to learning requires a deep understanding of inclusion, which is central to the framework of UDL. How can we create a campus that promotes a sense of belonging, community, and well-being — a campus that has the potential to increase the number of learners who persist to completion? It begins with honoring the uniqueness of every learner.


Universal design and community-based design studios

A long room with a long table with students sitting both sides. They are working on a design project.What’s the best way to teach the concept of universal design to architecture students? Participatory and co-design methods are inherent in universal design. So this should be the way to do it. That means universally designing the learning experience about universal design. 

Hing-Wah Chau takes us on a journey with his post-grad students in his paper about community-based studios. This is a learning process where real life is brought into the design studio. That includes engaging with other stakeholders during the design process. Urban designers, local councils, other architects and community members all have a stake in a project.

Hing-Wah Chau concludes that problem-based learning, group work and industry engagement are essential elements for gaining a working understanding of universal design.  Site visits and engaging with industry partners allowed students to gain first hand experience.

An interesting paper that has a lot of detail about each design studio, their workshops, conference attendance and site visits. It was run over two semesters.

The title of the paper is Community-based studios for enhancing students’ awareness of universal design principles

Abstract: A series of community-based design studios were delivered at the University of Melbourne for postgraduate architectural students from 2017 to 2019 to arouse their awareness of universal design principles and the specific consideration of design for ageing. A design studio is a place of experimentation and exploration. Students are encouraged to propose solutions to respond to our community needs. Bringing real-world issues into design studios enables students to equip themselves with the capabilities to formulate corresponding design strategies for built environment, especially to cater for the specific needs of people with disability and older adults.

Through the engagement with various stakeholders, including practising architects, urban designers, not-for-profit organisations and local councils, students were required to assess the site context and carry out site analysis, prepare precedent case studies, participate in inclusive design workshops and prepare schematic design, leading to their detailed design and final presentations. In this paper, the course structure of these community-based studios is firstly introduced, followed by an analysis illustrating how students’ awareness of universal design principles can be enhanced. Potential areas of improvement are discussed and further guidance for replicating similar studios at other institutions are given.

Design for Humanity: People and Planet

A silhouette of a person with arms outstretched around a globe of a mosaic of faces representing people of the world.Is the quest for inclusive design so difficult that we need so many different terms? Are new-fangled methodologies improving the situation if the aims are the same? Many different ways of promoting the process of designing inclusively is surely confusing everyone. Enter “Humanity-Centred Design”. This one is a bit different because it’s about the planet as well as people.

Many of our current and future designs will be inhabited by upcoming generations whose consumption patterns will have different values. According to an article from the UK designers need to embody the values of inclusion, ethics, empathy and cooperation. Designs will need to be meaningful to appeal to upcoming generations. Hence the proposition of a new paradigm or model – Humanity-Centred Design. 

The title of the article is, Humanity-Centred Design – Defining the Emerging Paradigm in Design Education and Practice

The Sustainable Development Goals also embody similar values and these are gaining traction in many fields of work.

The chart below is from the paper and shows the evolution from functional approach to a people focused approach to design.

A circular chart showing progression from function focused in the 1940s to humanity focused in the 2030s.

ABSTRACT: Product Design has been defined by several different paradigms as it has evolved to meet the needs and desires of people and in as new ways for companies to market products to consumers. As the needs and desires of people are now increasingly met by products at all price points in consumer societies companies need to embrace a new paradigm which will enable them to differentiate their products from the competition. In addition to the need for a new differentiation strategy for marketing purposes, people are also increasingly aware of both the limited and depleting natural resources of the planet and the prevalence of inequality and poverty present in the world.

A paradigm is emerging which enables companies to address all the above simultaneously. This paradigm and approach to designing products is referred to here as ‘Humanity-Centred Design’ in intentional reference to the ‘User-Centred Design’ and ‘Human-Centred Design’ methodologies which have been used by designers for the last 25 years. In this emerging paradigm there is a greater focus on designing products which are not only sustainable, but also actively contribute to the alleviation of poverty in all forms and promote human development and wellbeing worldwide, treating humanity as one global society. This paradigm is being taught to students of Product Design at Buckinghamshire New University to ensure that they are prepared to design products for the newest and future generations and the greatest proportion of consumers.

Inclusive Design: Knowing isn’t Doing

Hands and arms reach down to a table with a drawing and coloured post it notes. Knowing about inclusive design and actually doing inclusive design are two different things. That is, industrial design students can tell you what inclusive design is and that it is important, but there is little evidence it shows up in their designs. This was one of the findings from a study of design engineering students.

Inclusive design (ID) modules are integrated in several university courses but the uptake in industry is quite low. The aim of a UK study was to find out what factors can drive better industry outcomes to move towards ID. The report of the findings has some recommendations including briefly:

– Methods and tools need to be covered in more depth
– Class exercises and case studies to demonstrate advantages and disadvantages
– User involvement requires extensive resources
– Discussion and confrontation is also needed

There is more to be gained from reading the paper which is titled, Inclusive Design Education: How to Get it Right.

Abstract: The study reported in this paper aims to understand graduate skills in relation to Inclusive Design (ID) knowledge, tools and methods and how these are related to the curriculum delivered throughout their degree programme. It focusses on students graduating from the Product Design Engineering (PDE) degree programme at the University of Strathclyde. Two research questions are addressed – What Inclusive Design skills do Product Design Engineering graduates typically possess? How might the current curriculum be reviewed to facilitate the enrichment of Inclusive Design skills? Findings report on prevalence of ID tools, methods and skills in graduating students’ project work. A comparison is drawn between evidenced application of ID methods and tools and perceived skills captured from survey results. Reflections on current curriculum and pedagogical approaches are made with discussion focusing on potential adaptations to enhance ID skills in graduates completing the PDE course. Trends including which ID tools and methods are used most/least often or collectively are reported. A comparison is drawn between evidenced application of ID methods and tools and perceived skills captured from survey results. Reflections on current curriculum and pedagogical approaches are made with discussion focusing on potential adaptations to enhance ID skills in graduate Product Design Engineer cohorts.

Emotions and Motivation in Learning

Do’s and don’ts of disability language: A guide

front cover of the What Do I Say? booklet.Language etiquette around the topic of disability seems to get some people tongue-tied. Fear of offending often results in just that. But so does using outmoded terms such as “handicapped”. So what are the do’s and don’ts of terminology and language use? People with Disability Australia (PWDA) have a great guide. It gives a context to the importance of language and how it relates to dignity and respect. It is based on the social model of disability. That is, disability is not an individual medical problem. Disablement is the result of an environment filled with physical and social barriers.

Should you say “People with disability” or “disabled person?” It depends on the individual. However, government policies use the person first version – people with disability. The one to avoid is “the disabled” because it dismisses people and puts this diverse group into one category. The same can be said for “the elderly”. 

Adaptations of the word disability, or euphemisms, should not be used either. Terms such as differently-abled, special needs, or handicapable sound clever but are demeaning. Other terms such as “all abilities” suggests the opposite – a special place for people with disability. If it is inclusive it shouldn’t need a “special” title. However, accessible features can be included in any descriptions of the place or service.

The PWDA guide gives an overview of ableist language and its impact, some advice on reporting on disability, and a list of words and recommended alternatives. 

One other important aspect of reporting on disability is what the late Stella Young described as “inspriational porn” in an entertaining TED talk. The portrayal of a person doing everyday things, or achieving a goal, as being inspiring gets the no-go signal. People with disability are often portrayed in the media as being “sufferers” or “heroes”. Rarely is either the case. 

How shall I say that? is a magazine article written from a personal perspective.

There is also a style guide for journalists


Architectural Design Thinking: Human-centred design

An architectural drawing with a rule and pencil.Design Thinking is about human-centred design. Empathy, ideation and experimentation are at the heart of the user-focused concept. It can be applied to management and services as well as design disciplines. The built environment consists of diverse professions – architects, engineers, drafters and construction workers. What if they all understood inclusion and human-centred design in the same way?

Architectural drafters work with architects and engineers by preparing drawings. It is a technical role and requires knowledge about the whole architectural process. While there is some progress on understanding and designing for inclusion by architects and engineers, this is not necessarily the case for drafters. What if you took a group of junior architectural drafting students and taught them the concept of Design Thinking? And what if they were hearing impaired?

An experimental study in Turkey did just that. The study was a mix of architectural knowledge and teaching methods specific to students with hearing impairments and language difficulties. So there is an element of UDL as well. In conclusion, the author says that Design Thinking has the potential as a teaching strategy in other educational settings. The conclusions cover both successes and pitfalls.The report is lengthy and detailed. 

The title of the article is, Design Thinking to Familiarize Hearing-Impaired Architectural Drafting Students with Human-Centered Design Concept

Extract from Abstract
Developing a human-centered design understanding in built environment-related professions and enabling them to encompass diversity are crucial for the improvement of more inclusive environments. There is a growing effort to implement inclusive and universal design issues to the educational programs of design and related disciplines for about two decades. Contrary to the developments in the pedagogy of “core” design disciplines, human-centered design perspective seems not to be widespread enough in the education of so-called “peripheral” occupations of design, like architectural drafting.

This study showed that in relation to hearing-impaired students’ underlined need for getting familiarized with the process of architectural design and focusing on human-centered design approach, present application of Design Thinking strategy worked effectively to provide basic
information about architectural design, design process, and related
tasks and user needs as well, as part of design process for hearing impaired architectural drafting students with a certain level of hearing
loss and language ability.

Published in the International Journal of Architecture and Planning, Vol 8, No1, pp:62-87