Universal Design from the perspective of Mace

ron_maceRon Mace is often attributed the title of “Father of Universal Design” and is recognised as the founder of the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. However, little is actually written about him and the groundbreaking work he achieved. Jacob Aronoff’s dissertation, “Catering to All: Disability and Universal Design in the Built Environment” begins with a well researched history of Mace’s work and then uses the subways of New York, London and Tokyo as case studies. In using Mace’s perspective and understanding, Aronoff provides an easy to read story of universal design, its dissemination, acceptance, and its applications.

Here is a quote from the latter part of Aronoff’s dissertation:  “I initially thought of Mace as a purely radical figure. While I have realized that Mace is more measured than I originally anticipated, I believe the case can still be made, that he made a revolutionary transformation in the understanding the disparate approaches to disability and humanity within the Urban Environment. Compared to the world in which Mace was born, there has been tremendous progress, but it was Mace himself, who helped to radicalize the process in developing Universal Design.”

For those who have been following UD this is a good reminder of where universal design has come from, including the work of Selwyn Goldsmith. For those who are new to the ideas, it provides a context for current and future work. Unfortunately, the dissertation needs a login to create an account. 

Universal Design at Camp Manyung

a person in a wheelchair is on the flying foxThis excellent video shows how the application of universal design principles throughout the design of the camp facilities and camp activities, including staff attitudes, can bring about the inclusiveness that is the aim of universal design. The camp is run by YMCA on behalf of Sport and Recreation Victoria.

Checklist for written material and oral presentations

Queensland government poster with logoMaking presentations, preparing handouts and flyers need a check over for inclusive elements.

The 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 Principles Checklist PDF file

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.