Design and Diversity: Getting started

Three girls of colour smile at the camera. They are in a room with rows of chairs. As the Black Lives Matter movement continues across various industries, it becomes clear that white people still dominate. According to one survey in the US, just 3% of designers identify as Black. Consequently, things we use every day are designed from white experience. And young people don’t see designers who look like them. But just employing more people of colour or from different backgrounds is no guarantee of culture change. It’s culture change that makes the difference – not just workforce diversity. 

Black boys in action on the basketball court.An article in FastCompany discusses how young people of colour are being offered free courses to develop their design skills. Mo Woods who works for Microsoft explains how design agencies can connect with communities as part of the change process. He runs a not for profit that offers free design courses and workshops. It shows how design can be a viable career. Getting into communities isn’t easy. Mo Woods provides the example of starting a basketball program and then introducing a design element such as sneakers or team logo. This creates an entry point for introducing young people to design. Woods’ project is called the Inneract Project.

The title of the article is, One Microsoft designer’s quest to make the industry more inclusive.  An interesting project where designers also end up on their own learning curve.

There is another article on the same topic, People of color are wildly underrepresented in design. This game hopes to help fix it. It’s about a board game.

Is inclusive design achievable?

architecture blueprint with rule and pencilDo architects have the skills and attitude we need to create truly inclusive environments? Is it even possible to design architecture for everyone? These two questions were put to Jane Duncan, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects. She says architects are in pole position, but we are still polarising people into people with disability and people without disability. It is time we realised that “we just need to design for people.” Inclusive design is achievable.

The article in Smart Cities Library is short but to the point. As a person who is just five feet one inch, Jane Duncan finds many things physically out of her reach. So she is in a good position to call for architects to design for diversity. “Removing barriers that create undue effort and separation enables everyone to participate equally, confidently, and independently in everyday activities”.

The website has other good items. 

Blindness no barrier to designing

Chris Downey sits a a desk with a woman and there are tactile architectural plans on the desk in front of them.Can you keep practising as an architect after you go blind? The answer is Yes. This is Chris Downey’s experience. With a few work-arounds and new tools he says he is better at his job now. He found a way of getting tactile versions of drawings and developed his own tools for making drawings. He has been a campaigner for a universal design approach to the built environment ever since. CBS News has a story about him talking about his approach to work and life, including playing baseball with his son. Downey covers a lot of issues with grace and humour. His TED talk is very popular and there is a transcript of the talk. Being blind doesn’t mean giving up on life. For Downey it was discovering new adventures.

 

Designing for autism

Floor Plan, Blueprint, House, Home. Designing for autism.Well designed buildings support people with physical impairment, but what about people with sensory issues or cognitive conditions? Shelly Dival argues that we can do more in the built environment to support people on the autism spectrum in educational, work, and home environments.

As a Churchill Fellow, Shelly travelled around the globe in 2018 to gather international knowledge and raise awareness in Australia of how people with autism can benefit from more positive interactions with the built environment. Her report outlines building features requiring further research, including design theories, methods and outcomes. Her findings are also featured in an architecture magazine.

One of her insights was the crossover between autism and other neurological conditions including dementia. Designing for neurodiversity rather than specific conditions may be an effective future-proofing strategy that supports everyone. That’s similar to the approach adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in their Guidelines on cognitive accessibility, based on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.  

Designing inclusively with emotional intelligence

Patricia Moore sits on a park bench looking in her handbag. She has a walking cane and is wearing a black hat an blue overcoat. She looks like she is 80 years old but she is 27.Patricia Moore is well-known to those who have followed the fortunes of universal design for some time. She was the researcher who dressed and behaved as an 80 year old woman and found first hand the discriminatory treatment older people face every day in the built environment and socially. Her latest article with Jörn Bühring asks designers and business leaders to use social and emotional intelligence in their designs. They claim the philosophic challenge is to ask “Why not?” rather than “Why?” 

“Designers don’t speak of limitations, instead they tend to focus on possibilities. The emergence of ’inclusivity’ in design supports the conviction that where there is a ’deficit’, we will present a solution. “Where there is ignorance, we will strive for enlightenment. Where there is a roadblock, we will create a pathway”.

Cite paper as: Bühring, J., Moore, P., (2018). Emotional and Social Intelligence as ’Magic Key’ in Innovation: A Designer’s call toward inclusivity for all – Letter From Academia, Journal of Innovation Management, www.openjim.org, 
6(2), 6-12.

Artificial Intelligence and UD

Internal view of a driverless car showing seats facing both back and forward.Artificial Intelligence and Universal Design are looking like natural partners in the development of new technology. In a recent article, “Tackling Autonomous Driving Challenges – How the Design of Autonomous Vehicles Is Mirroring Universal Design” the authors argue that the applying  the seven principles of universal design to the design autonomous vehicles is becoming more evident as the designs advance. You will need institutional access for a free read of this SpringerLink book chapter. Or you can try Google Books for some of the content.

Abstract: In the future, the world will be characterized by highly densely populations, with growing share of mobility-impaired/disabled persons, a critical problem regarding the sustainability of the metropolises, whose resolution may reside in autonomous vehicles. A broader range of users will be allowed a, so far, denied mobility in level 4 and level 5 SAE autonomous vehicles, a goal to be accomplished through Universal Design, a design which intends to be the closest possible to the ideal design. For such purpose, Human Factors and Ergonomics are key. Literature review and research have shown that there is evidence of application of the seven Universal Design principles in these new autonomous vehicles and that, given the nature and purpose of the Universal Design, with the increase of autonomy, there is natural increased evidence of Universal Design. A novel model for interaction of the Universal Design influencers is proposed.  

It’s not wet, just shiny

A large arched window lets in light. It has struts that cast line shadows over the floorA shiny floor may not be wet but it could look that way to someone with dementia. A black mat isn’t a hole in the ground either. And shadows of lattice through a window can look like steps. Mono coloured features are hard to distinguish too. These design details can easily be overcome with some extra thought about perception at the early design stage, or adapted in existing homes and buildings. The Guardian has an excellent article about these issues. It discusses how virtual reality software can bring more awareness to designers about these issues as well as the concepts of universal design. Dementia affects the ability to navigate the environment successfully because of changes in visual perception.

Editor’s note: taking photos of places and seeing them in two dimensions instead of three really highlights the perception differences.

hallway with lighting across the floor making it look like steps corridor with a shiny floor, brightly lit, but it looks wet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J-U-S-T UD IT

A young man enters the therapy room. He is using crutches. He is shaking hands with the therapistJUST UD IT, is an acronym to help people remember the principles of universal design. In a short fact sheet published by Special Olympics Health, the principles of universal design are described generally, but also for people with intellectual disability. It points out that poorly presented information or communication can become a barrier to accessing health promotion programs or services. It also points out that universal design and accessibility are not synonymous and explains why. The acronym is as follows:

J: Jazz it Up – Ensure that your communication and presentations are engaging and interesting. No-one likes to be bored!
U: Use Multiple Methods – Different methods help maximize your reach to the audience and allow more people to understand and participate. Written text, audio, pictures, video, touch, interactive activities are all great options to share your message.
S: Simplify – Removing jargon, using concise and simple wording, and using large easy to-read font that is spaced out allows more people to understand your message.
T: Test it out – Ask for feedback. Don’t assume that your method is reaching everyone. Instead ask your audience how your presentation or product was received and then adapt accordingly.