“Céad Míle Fáilte”
“A Hundred Thousand Welcomes”
UDHEIT2018, at its heart is a collective celebration of “Good Design”.
All our contributors, the users, designers, practitioners, educationalists, theorists and policy makers continue to demonstrate that good design enables and that each and every one of us is a designer.
The journey towards realising the UDHEIT2018 congress has been both an emotional and empowering journey bringing the two communities of higher education and universal design together. The themes and subject areas covered in these proceedings capture the wonderful diversity of our community of practitioners – building on a strong foundation in research, policy and practice. This publication marks a moment in time, with each contribution reflecting the shared values and beliefs, at the intersection of the fields of Higher Education and Universal Design. Harnessing this collective ambition is a potent resource with transformative potential.
The “whole systems” approach covering the macro (International/National), meso (Regional/Institutional) and micro (Coalface), the barriers and facilitators to full participation for all citizens will be discussed and debated at this international congress. Each of these elements is drawn from individual experiences, revealing a rich seam of transferable knowledge and skills that will empower a new generation of learners and designers.
The recent report by the OECD showing that people have become more pessimistic about their prospects of “social mobility” over the last two decades is a timely reminder of our need to view the required transformation from a “whole systems” perspective. The perceived risk of sliding down the social ladder is growing in nearly all OECD countries. Our focus must be on creating a more equitable and inclusive society where there is the prospect of social mobility, the alternative is bleak with the strong likelihood of further erosion of economic growth as well as a decrease in life satisfaction and wellbeing. According to the OECD this vista will have a further negative impact on social cohesion and democratic participation.
To support us in our journey, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals advocates for equality, recognising that Universal Design is an important concept that should be incorporated in all person-centred policies. Moreover, the United Nations Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) clearly stipulates that the most effective way of delivering on the promise of an inclusive society is through a Universal Design approach.
The author of “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” – Klaus Schwab calls for leaders and citizens to “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first” empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people. For this “Global Citizen” to live and thrive in an increasingly sophisticated technological world, education has a key role to play in requiring us all to take up our responsibilities now and into the future as active citizens in all facets of our lives whether we are customers, designers, creators, voters or decision makers. It is for all of us to work in partnership with disadvantaged communities and marginalised sectors of society going on a “learning journey together” producing more active, participating citizens which in turn creates a more equitable and fairer society and in doing so enabling us to halt the persistent cycle of reproducing societal inequalities.
The large number of paper and workshop submissions for our congress from across the globe is a testament to the current state of Universal Design – exemplars which illustrate “what to do” and “how to do it”. The next phase of evolution in this field is to continue to articulate the “Why?” The Why question gets us to examine our beliefs and it is our beliefs that ultimately guide our behaviours and decisions. Therefore, what is now required is a transformational shift, which will move us beyond understanding Universal Design to experiencing and feeling it and make it central to our work. As David Rose (Director of CAST) said at our Universal Design conference in 2015 in Dublin, what is now needed is an “emotional response” as too many within our society have had negative experiences and feel disconnected from the mainstream. Universal Design and UDL (Universal Design for Learning) have expanded to look at exclusion from a social-emotional perspective (i.e., physical access is not enough; there must be belief that all students are able to learn, and all students must have access to learning). Our response now needs to be based on a creative and emotional response in how we design our environments, products and services.
Therefore, we humbly request and give you permission to leave your “Mask” behind and lead with your hearts and souls.
In all the social and public spaces, we inhabit including our Higher Education campuses, we meet individuals whose needs are as varied and complex as their personalities. In other words it is “Normal to be Different”. It has become clear that communities of siloed practices are limited and do not deliver for today's complex and diverse world. A vision shaped by the needs of the communities we serve can transform exclusive environments to inclusive, connected and engaged experiences for all. Universal Design provides us with a framework and an opportunity to re-imagine our policies, facilities, services and curriculum, guided by a collective wisdom that declares “Diversity – Is the new normal”.
But, finally this work is an unfinished symphony – it needs your creative and emotional energy to bring this message to new audiences.
To all our reviewers, organisers and editors, the driving force behind UD-HEIT2018, we hold the vision that together we can achieve more. Each paper, presentation and conversation builds towards that goal of good design in all aspects of what we do. Let these papers (and our companion papers on Arrow@DIT) guide and inspire you, as you continue your journey, taking up the mantle by demonstrating that the emotional, philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of universal design can be realized in practice.
“As water takes whatever shape it is in, so free may you be about who you become”
(A Blessing for Equilibrium by John O Donoghue)
Gerald Craddock, Conference Chair
Centre for Excellence in Universal Design
Larry McNutt, Conference Chair
Institute of Technology Blanchardstown