Envisioning Universal Design: Creating an Inclusive Society -- October 2-3, 2003
III. Issues and Perspectives
Research and Development in Universal Design
The following three reports from the RERC on Universal Design at Buffalo, the RERC on Universal Design at NCSU, and their joint State of the Science event in 2002 highlighted some of the major universal design efforts conducted recently in the area of universal design and the built environment.
RERC on Universal Design at Buffalo
The RERC on Universal Design at Buffalo is now in its fifth year. It strives to increase adoption of universal design by producing needed information, developing exemplary products and ideas, improving educational opportunities and disseminating information to all stakeholder groups. Major undertakings have been the creation of an anthropometric database, a buildings-in-use project, a product development initiative, an exhibition program, a universal design education program and a visitability initiative. Project highlights follow:
- The Prototype Anthropometric Database Project, the only one of its kind in the U.S, employs new digital technology to create a three-dimensional database that can be used to build human figure models, which can be manipulated in a virtual environment. This will improve the knowledge base for codes and guidelines and lead to the better design of environments and products
Through a contract with the U.S. Access Board, the RERC organized two international workshops on the anthropometry of people with disability. The Access Board and IDEA Center are now planning expansion of the RERC research program to other sites and development of tools to use anthropometric data in the code development process.
- The Buildings-In-Use project focuses on post-occupancy evaluation techniques to evaluate buildings in use and prove the value of universal design. Part of this endeavor is the development of an archive of case studies. This project has completed a case study evaluation of the Lighthouse Building in New York City and fast food restaurants. The RERC is currently analyzing data collected on public spaces in Las Vegas.
- The Product Development Initiative has resulted in five prototype products now at varying stages of commercialization. Large and small corporate partners range from a one-person mail order business to a Fortune 500 company. One of the products is a kitchen design that uses a slat-wall technology for cabinets and counters at different heights.
- The Visitability Initiative, a collaborative effort with Concrete Change, the creator and foremost advocate of the concept of “Visitability,” applies universal design principles in single-family housing construction by promoting basic access. The initiative has resulted in the development of accessible single-family housing nationwide.
- The adapted “Unlimited by Design,” an exhibit originally created at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution,, which consists of 200-300 products and environments demonstrating universal design. Installations of the exhibit were organized in Milwaukee and Buffalo. At present, the RERC is working with the Boston Children’s Museum on an exhibit that will include examples of both universal design and assistive technology. It will travel to ten other museums so that at its conclusion, millions of people will have seen it.
- Two books for the City of New York, UDNY and UDNY 2, with hundreds of best practice examples of universal design that define the difference between universal design and access code compliance.
- “Diversity in Design,” an online academic journal focused on universal design research. The journal has an international editorial board and will be posting its first issue in spring 2004.
- “Design for Diversity,” an undergraduate general elective course that has attracted an enrollment of 200 students each semester it has been offered. This course won an award from the American Collegiate Schools for Architecture.
- The RERC at Buffalo developed and maintains several online resources that provide information and assistance to many stakeholder groups. This includes the Home Modifications Listserv and the Visitability Listserv. In addition, the RERC hosts the Universal Design Education Online website, developed in partnership with the RERC at NCSU and Elaine Ostroff.
- Finally, the RERC at Buffalo, in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Independent Living Management produced a self instructional CD based course on Visitability that has been distributed to Independent Living Centers around the country. The RERC is collaborating with the Andrus Gerontology Center to offer the course online with an instructor in the near future. We are also developing further modules to create an online certificate program in universal design.
The RERC on Universal Design at NCSU
The RERC on Universal Design at NCSU is also in its fifth year. It is a research, education, information and technical assistance center that evaluates, develops and promotes accessible and universal design in housing, outdoor and urban environments and related products. Part of the College of Design, the Center conducts research to learn what design solutions are appropriate for the widest diversity of users and what tools are most useful to practitioners wishing to successfully practice universal design. The Center collaborates with builders and manufacturers on the development of new design solutions and policy and educational developments. It also develops publications and instructional materials and provides information, referrals and technical assistance to individuals with disabilities, families and professionals nationwide and internationally. The Center also presents educational lectures nationally and internationally.
Project highlights follow:
- Collaboration with Habitat for Humanity provided training and the design of universal plans for 18 homes in North Carolina. The Center is conducting outcomes studies now to determine the resident satisfaction and to determine what factors Habitat for Humanity will continue to adopt.
- Cooperation with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and AARP in Atlantic City, New Jersey developed two demonstration homes including trainings with builders and contractors who then went on to build more homes. The Center is conducting outcomes studies to determine which features the CDRA will continue to build into future homes.
- The Universal Design Assessment Protocol (UDAP) project focuses on development of an instrument to measure universal "designess." Item generation and inter-rater reliability tests are being carried out.
- A post-occupancy evaluation of Kids Together Park is determining the usability of a park originally intended to be universally designed from the disabled consumer’s perspective.
- The Case Studies project focuses on identifying long-term results of industry adoption of universal design. Research will identify factors at all levels of corporate decision making that have influenced adoption of universal design concepts.
- In collaboration with the National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification, developed modules for the University of Southern California Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center’s on-line Executive Certificate programs in home modification.
- Produced and disseminated numerous publications that are requested and used nationally and internationally, including: books, booklets, tech sheets, posters, slide shows, videos, CD-ROM, and technical construction sheets. Some notable publications are: Creating Inclusive Child Care Centers, Curbless Showers: An Installation Guide, The New Fair Housing Multifamily Housing, Removing Barriers to Health Care Facilities, Removing Barriers to Health Clubs and Fitness Facilities, ADA Standards for Accessible Design Video Series, Universal Design Exemplars (on CD-ROM). The Center is conducting outcome studies to determine the usability of some of its key publications.
- Provided input to several national and international codes, standards and policy committees related to accessibility and universal design issues thereby influencing society broadly in terms of universal design.
- Played a key role in the conceptualization of the training program and materials development for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) professional remodeler’s official designation program for accessible and universal design: Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS).
- Design and deliver universal design training at several conferences nationally and internationally. This then translates into changes in practices of the professionals, practitioners and people with disabilities who attend.
- Known nationally and internationally as an information source, the Center receives approximately 30,000 requests for information and technical assistance per year. Over 200,000 people visit the website per year.
- Collaborates with the RERC in Buffalo on many projects including the Universal Design Education Online website, which supports the teaching and study of universal design.
Universal Design at the 2002 RESNA Conference
The 2002 RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America) Universal Design Research Symposium in Minneapolis was a joint effort of the two RERCs on Universal Design and the Built Environment. It served as the State of the Science event required of all RERCs. The one-day meeting divided discussion into four topics: human factors research, product research, environmental design research, and international perspectives.
- Meeting participants concluded that in the area of human factors, the field needed better tools and methods for data collection, better information presentation methods, context-specific data, ways to bridge the gap between the research and business communities, and means to draw on the knowledge bases of related disciplines.
- For product design, conclusions included the need for better design tools, such as more product examples of effective universal design, strategies for achieving universal design, evaluation tools, and user-testing methods. Conferees agreed that the field required better training tools and ways to persuade industry to adopt universal design by showing that it positively affects a company’s bottom line.
- Under environmental design research, conclusions were that access codes and standards should be performance-based rather than prescriptive. Moreover, both subjective and objective indicators should be examined when assessing a building’s usability. Finally, an understanding of consumers’ needs can contribute to greater awareness and knowledge of universal design and its benefits.
- At the international perspectives session, speakers described the current status of “design for all” in Europe and universal design in Japan. It was concluded that international efforts should include contacts with developing nations as well as more economically advanced countries.
NEA Leadership Initiatives in Universal Design:
Leadership initiatives funded by the NEA since1999 include the following projects and publications:
Exemplars of Universal Design, Center for Universal Design, NCSU
The Exemplars of Universal Design, 2000, is the second collection of outstanding examples of universal design. Universal Designers and Consultants produced the first collection, Images of Excellence in Universal Design, in 1996. The 2000 Exemplars resulted from an international awards competition conducted by the Center for Universal Design at NCSU. The CD-ROM collection includes 32 examples covering five design disciplines from around the globe. The CD-ROM itself is an excellent model of universal design communication, including more than 300 images that are audio described (verbally) for users with vision loss.
Access to Design Professions, Adaptive Environments, Boston, MA
Access to Design Professions was created as a memorial to Ron Mace. It encourages people with disabilities to enter design careers as a strategy to improve the practice of universal design. Project accomplishments include:
- “Building a World Fit for People: Designers with Disabilities at Work.” The book, funded through a grant from NEC Foundation of America, profiles 21 designers with disabilities around the world.
- The E-Mentoring program and the International Network of Designers with Disabilities support students and professionals worldwide.
- A preliminary survey of design schools identified design students with disabilities, accessibility issues and related policies.
- A paper presented to the triennial Validation Conference of the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) addressed accreditation criteria that would incorporate universal design in architectural education and establish data collection of faculty and students with disabilities.
- Educational programs have been established with the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA’s) diversity program, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).
Urban Spaces—Human Places: A Universal Approach to Urban Design,
PLAE, Inc., Berkeley, CA
Urban Spaces, Human Places: A Universal Approach to Urban Design is a collection of case studies that use universal design as the philosophical basis of the urban design and landscape architecture examples presented in this book. It’s a practical look at successful urban projects that have been in use for a minimum of three years.
The final case in the book presents a design process that itself included people of every disability and ability, and resulted in a schematic design for the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. The campus will be the home of the nine disability organizations that began the independent living movement in the United States. It’s also a civic building designed as part of a transit village in a dense urban setting. The Universal Design Guidelines for the Ed Roberts Campus detail a mixed use facility that would house: offices, a conference facility, a library, a media resource center, gym, café, children’s play center, retail space, and office lease space. The guidelines integrate comprehensive principles of universal design in terms of site, building, circulation, furniture, way-finding, communication, security, and technology. They were developed through workshops that brought experts together to establish usable guidelines and concepts in six areas, including building sciences, infrastructure, sustainability and security, and the multifaceted workplace.
Other projects in the book include streetscapes, wayfinding, special urban settings such as schools, zoos, civic buildings, transit-oriented development, parks, plazas and play areas—all designed for people of all abilities.
Universal Design Learning Site for Youth
Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Kansas State University is developing and testing a dual Universal Design Learnsite (website) for youth, their teachers and leaders that will utilize a variety of interactive learning techniques and resources to educate youth about universal design. The project’s goal is to reach and capture the attention of youth through a wide choice of diverse, age-appropriate active learning and critical thinking problems that will engage teenagers in individual and group learning. The website includes interactive activities such as Design Crimes on Trial with Judge Judy, design competitions, and community events. E-mail announcements through organizations of teachers and youth leaders, plus directed links, will ensure wide dissemination of the Learnsite, that may serve as a model for schools to replicate.
The Easy Living Home Coalition
Concrete Change, Atlanta, GA
The Easy Living Home Coalition, composed of the Home Builders Association of Georgia, AARP Georgia, Concrete Change and several other groups, are collaborating on replicating the successful Georgia-based Easy Living Home (ELH) program. The Georgia coalition has pioneered a voluntary program to certify open-market homes that meet a specified, basic standard of universal design, which incorporates universal design features. In 2002-2003, ELH had signed up more than 20 builders, inspected and certified more than 25 Easy Living Homes, and has over 100 homes in the construction stage. With Endowment support, the program is presently developing a national ELH replication and education plan for distribution to organizations across the United States.
Design for the Lifespan: Aging in Place
AARP, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the NEA
The AARP, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and NEA partnered to reach the mainstream market for homes designed for the nation’s aging population. AARP has shown in its Fixing to Stay project that people want to “age in place” (in their own homes), which raises the urgent need to train remodelers and contractors who are responsible for much of the home modification work. A key outcome is a program called Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS). It teaches the technical, business management, and customer service skills essential to compete in the residential remodeling industry. The goal is to provide comprehensive, practical, market-specific information about working with older and maturing adults when they remodel their homes to age in place.
State and Regional Arts Agencies
The NEA has been involved in many projects with regional arts councils and state arts agencies, as well as universal design initiatives in architecture and other disciplines. The National Accessibility Leadership Awards, an NEA partnership with the Coca-Cola company and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, shines a spotlight on state and regional arts agencies that further the cause of universal design in programs and facilities. The need here is to reach and teach leaders at the state level, so that universal design is infused into their work.
Related National and International Universal Design Developments
National and international programs, along with federal legislation and technical assistance have led to major developments in the universal design of communication through electronic and information technology. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the NIDRR sponsored RERCs on Telecommunications Access and Universal Interface and Information Technology Access at the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Trace Research and Development Center have been in the forefront of research and development related to the universal design of these emerging technologies. These advances are being incorporated into web accessibility and mainstream products, allowing more people with disabilities to access the Internet, telecommunications devices and computer technology.
- The requirements of Section 508, an amendment of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, are spurring mainstream production of electronic and information equipment. This federal law is often referred to as ‘incentive legislation’ as it addresses the procurement procedures of federal agencies. It requires that all electronic and information technology purchased by the government is accessible for people with disabilities. This affects everything from web sites to videos and multi-media productions, information systems to telecommunications, kiosks to hardware, computers to copiers and fax machines. The US Access Board developed the standards for electronic and information technology.
- NIDRR has funded an extensive technical assistance system to support industry in developing accessible communication products. This includes the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center (ITTATC) at Georgia Institute of Technology as well as the national network of the regional ADA and Information Technology Centers.
- Universal Design in Learning is another rapidly growing area. Work by the CAST organization is using electronic tools to transform instruction throughout the educational system, from kindergarten through high school and college.
- The CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH is creating accessible distance learning and multimedia tools for a wide range of educational uses.
Universal design in education is being developed and promoted through work by several design, trade, and consumer organizations as well as design education pre professional and professional development programs.
- The Industrial Design Society of America has a growing professional interest group; the Kitchen and Bath Association provides courses for its members; the NAHB Seniors Housing Council includes universal design in its conferences and courses; and AARP uses its far-reaching website and publications to reach the growing constituency of people over 55 years of age. The Universal Design News is in it 12th year of continuous publication and is the only print periodical that focuses in universal design.
- The Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER) is the accrediting group for interior design education; new criteria in the 2000 standards include universal design, moving beyond its earlier commitment to barrier-free design.
- The National Center on Accessibility is a major provider of continuing education programs for interpretive staff in museum as well as outdoor recreation settings; uses its website to promote and disseminate research and educational opportunities.
- The National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification (NRCSHHM) incorporates universal design in its wide array of educational programs that support successful aging in place.
- Universal design in pre-professional education in architecture, landscape architecture and industrial design is still limited. There are a few examples to note: Design and Industry, the industrial design program at San Francisco State University infuses universal design in its curriculum; North Carolina State University, through the Center for Universal Design, reaches students throughout the College of Design; The University at Buffalo has a Design and Diversity course that is part of the general education requirement that reaches over 200 students every year. More examples can be found on Universal Design Education Online, www.udeducation.org. The recommendation made at the NEA meeting in 1999, to offer incentives to college faculty is still an important objective.
The European Union supports organized systems and networks for universal design. Several resolutions have contributed to the development of these networks. The Council of Ministers of the European Union passed a resolution in February 2001 mandating that every organization working in the built environment include universal design. The program for eEurope has led to the European Secretariat for the Design for All e-accessibility Network (EDeAN), with lead organizations in all European countries.
- Belgium, Norway, and Sweden have initiated national university-level programs in universal design education.
- The Helen Hamlin Research Center at the Royal College of Art works closely with industry to infuse inclusive design into product manufacturing and graphic design. In partnership with the Design Council, they have developed a website of in-depth case studies from a number of industry collaborations.
- The Universal Design Handbook (McGraw Hill, 2001) illustrates the growing phenomenon of universal design all over the world. The 1,200-page, illustrated book examines diverse cultural applications of universal design. It includes unique expressions of universal design from both the majority (developing) world as well as the industrialized world.
- Universal Design – 17 ways of thinking and teaching (Husbanken, 2002) documents educational programs in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.
- Universal design is receiving exposure at the international level, as the World Bank has created a position within its organization for an advisor on disability and development issues.
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