Ebook: Transforming our World through Universal Design for Human Development
An environment, or any building product or service in it, should ideally be designed to meet the needs of all those who wish to use it. Universal Design is the design and composition of environments, products, and services so that they can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. It creates products, services and environments that meet people’s needs. In short, Universal Design is good design.
This book presents the proceedings of UD2022, the 6th International Conference on Universal Design, held from 7 - 9 September 2022 in Brescia, Italy. The conference is targeted at professionals and academics interested in the theme of universal design as related to the built environment and the wellbeing of users, but also covers mobility and urban environments, knowledge, and information transfer, bringing together research knowledge and best practice from all over the world. The book contains 72 papers from 13 countries, grouped into 8 sections and covering topics including the design of inclusive natural environments and urban spaces, communities, neighborhoods and cities; housing; healthcare; mobility and transport systems; and universally-designed learning environments, work places, cultural and recreational spaces. One section is devoted to universal design and cultural heritage, which had a particular focus at this edition of the conference.
The book reflects the professional and disciplinary diversity represented in the UD movement, and will be of interest to all those whose work involves inclusive design.
“All over the world, people are struggling for a life that is fully human, a life worthy of human dignity. Countries and states are often focused on economic growth alone, but their people, meanwhile, are striving for something different: they want meaningful human lives.” (Martha C. Nussbaum, 2012. Creating Capabilities, p. 1, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, UK, Harvard University Press)
From its first edition in 2012, the journey of the international conference on Universal Design has been the story of an expanding intellectual and practical movement. The aim of this movement is to put into practice the aspirations and goals of human-centred approaches to sustainable development founded on human rights, human development and equality for all, such as those encoded in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
After the first meeting in Norway (Oslo, 2012), which was organised by several enlightened governmental bodies in the Scandinavian region as a forum for the exchange of views and sharing of good practice in Universal Design, the second edition in Lund in 2014 saw the entry of academia, with wide participation from across academic disciplines, setting the stage for UD practitioners, researchers and educators to connect directly and to share ideas, research and practice.
The role of academic institutions in organising the UD conference (York, 2016, Dublin, 2018 and Helsinki, 2021) has persisted across successive editions, strengthening over time, as universities have increasingly recognised and taken on board their responsibility as primary actors in working towards societies that are founded on equity, justice and sustainable development for all human beings through their research, educational and outreach activities.
The 2022 edition, held in the historic town of Brescia, Italy, marks another landmark in the journey of the UD movement, as it crosses the alps to be hosted in southern Europe for the first time. Three Italian Universities – the Universities of Brescia, Trieste, and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice – have joined forces to make this edition possible, opening up a space for conversations between researchers, educators and policy-makers in a truly multi-disciplinary vision for UD.
The title: Transforming our World for Human Development is intentionally aimed at realising broad sustainable development goals from a person-centred UD perspective by engaging delegates in a conversation across cultural, geographical, and disciplinary boundaries about what sustainable development really means. This was eloquently put by our dear colleague and friend Elio Borgonovi:
“There is much talk about renewable energies, resources and circular economies. Most of the time, however, we forget that human beings, with their characteristics and capabilities, provide the most precious renewable energy of all. Human capabilities develop with age and grow through education and experience. People flourish when they are given the chance to exercise their potential. This potential is exercised in social and natural environments when human beings can contribute with their physical, intellectual, rational and emotional participation, by people, with people and for people.” (Address delivered at the University of Brescia, December 17th, 2020).
The sessions of the 2022 edition are characterised by their multi-disciplinary and multi-perspective nature, with sessions aimed at the design of inclusive natural environments and urban spaces, communities, neighbourhoods and cities, housing, healthcare, and educational facilities, mobility and transport systems, moving on to universally-designed learning environments, work places, cultural and recreational spaces. Contributions come from 13 different countries and various continents (Africa, Australia, Central America, East Asia, Europe, North America, South Asia) once again demonstrating that this is a growing international movement.
Our special thematic session is dedicated to Universal Design and Cultural Heritage. We believe that cultural heritage is part of what makes our lives human and meaningful. Providing full access for all human beings to cultural heritage combines two fundamental values crucial for human development and flourishing: cultural heritage provides each and every person with the possibility to engage meaningfully with their cultural and historical past, and at the same time it develops the awareness in each human being of the value of conserving the past so that we can better live in and understand the present.
A distinctive characteristic of the UD conference is the coming together of academic, governmental and professional communities under one roof. Our wish and invitation for the conference is for openness to others and to perspectives and experiences that may be different from our own, letting go of professional and disciplinary barriers, engaging with each other with empathy and curiosity. The experience of being so long deprived of face-to-face interaction due to the Covid-19 pandemic has made everyone more aware of the value of coming together during live conferences, in formal and informal ways.
The professional and disciplinary diversity represented in the UD movement is what allows us to transcend current existing separations between communities of knowledge and communities of practice, as well as existing separations between academic disciplines. Only when knowledge, practice and research from different disciplines are allowed to engage meaningfully and to feed into each other in a virtuous circle, can the power of ideas and actions become truly transformational.
Brescia, September 2022
Ilaria Garofolo, University of Trieste
Giulia Bencini, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
Alberto Arenghi, University of Brescia
In this paper we present and propose the concept of Emancipatory Design (ED), which is an alternative way of thinking about the human being and the ever intricate relations between people, design, architecture and the built environment. The paper is given the form of a manifesto and has the overall aim to reflect critically on the possibility of design as a practice that potentially carry emancipatory effects in the everyday lives of particular human beings. Defining ED, we draw on notions from philosophy and the history of ideas to challenge the concept of human disability often at play in writings concerned with design and architecture. This approach allows for a provocative, disruptive and experimental attempt to relativize and cancel the notion of disability – and, subsequently, to explore the possibilities inherent to this maneuver in the realm of design thinking. With ED we propose a concept that works as a contribution to the community engaged in Universal Design (UD), as well as a gentle objection and critique of the abstract and intangible element of universality at play within this tradition.
To reach a broader understanding of person-environment relationships as building blocks for universal design in research and practice, this paper combine and discuss three types of interaction between individuals and environments – instrumental, non-instrumental, and non-physical – and five constituent concepts, i.e. accessibility, usability, aesthetic experience, the experience of meaning and emotional experience. Theoretical frameworks/models for person-environment relationships are synthesized and combined based on a literature review and the author’s previous experiences. The author proposes to classify accessibility and usability as instrumental person-environment interaction, aesthetic experience as non-instrumental interaction, and experience of meaning and emotional experience as non-physical interaction. At the same time, acknowledge the potential of the three types of interaction to embed cues and choices to accommodate the widest variety and number of people throughout their lifespans. This paper contributes to understanding person-environment relationships as criteria to support research strategies and the operationalization of universal designing.
Through this paper, we have highlighted the importance of a Universal Design orientation within the architectural community in Libya; it attempts to shed light on some of the different initiatives, experiences, applications, and projects in the field of accessibility and Universal Design to provide a hospitable urban environment that can accommodate all segments of Libyan society. The paper discusses the difficulties of architectural integration and the need for comprehensive education, training, and proof of concept applications by reviewing some inspiring projects undertaken in Libya to encounter this issue. The paper concludes by looking forward to practicing the design orientation for all in Libya by discussing the opportunities available after the tremendous political and economic change in Libya post-2011 and the need for reconstruction programs that adopt the Universal Design doctrine on suspended and future urban projects, furthermore the need to establish a national strategy, and law binding commitment in this context.
In Denmark, the building sector is in a state of transition towards Universal Design (UD). Thus, UD has not yet completely found its way into the practice of architects and their clients. Legislation about accessibility has dominated. This paper studies understandings of UD through a discourse analysis based on a survey among professionals with experience and interest in UD and professionals who were expected to keep their fingers on the pulse of the profession’s development. The findings illustrate the existence of five discourses: 1) Social sustainability, 2) Re-instatement of humans as a focal point, 3) It is not just about ramps, 4) Equality, and 5) Giving a voice. Across the discourses there exists a genuine attempt to legitimise and mainstream UD into the architectural practice, focusing on multisensory and architectural quality in the design of spaces for human diversity in all scales.
This work discusses how to build online public services and feedback mechanisms such that they are usable and are actually used, while fulfilling the requirements for EU’s Web Accessibility Directive, security, and privacy. By means of an online survey among impaired users of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration’s online services, it is analyzed which challenges these users experience with public services and feedback processes as of today, and how both can be designed for better and more inclusive online services.
The research, carried out at the University of Florence, investigated the tools and methodologies needed to manage the setting up of educational environments in a dynamic-emergency regime. It tested the interoperability of the digital tools deemed necessary for an integrated management of space management activities. And defining a methodology for setting up the spaces assisted by the use of digital systems capable of automating the design activities
India is rapidly growing towards a demographic future where a significant proportion of the population is over 60 years and above. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the restrictions imposed to minimize the virus transmission have a detrimental effect on the Quality of Life (QoL) of the elderly, limiting their mobility and social interaction. As a result, social isolation and loneliness have become significant health issues. This study attempts to understand the QoL of Indian elderly during COVID-19 pandemic from universal design (UD) perspective. The objectives were: (a) Discuss the QoL of Indian elderly during COVID-19; (b) Identify the factors affecting QoL of elderly during pandemic; (c) Find the link between factors associated with QoL and UD philosophy. These objectives were achieved by desk-based literature review and a pilot study of Solanipuram, a typical urban neighborhood in Roorkee located in Northern India. Personal in-depth interview sessions with limited number of (n=20) participants aged 60 years and above; belonging to upper-middle income group, are conducted and analyzed using the inductive thematic technique. The previous research suggests that, to date, QoL has been described as well-being resulting from physical, functional, emotional, social, and environmental factors. Whereas, UD allows for the inclusion of the ‘cultural’ dimension into the discussions. Especially in a country with diversity like India, where elderly discusses the impact of physical distancing, limited mobility, and social interactions on their QoL during COVID-19. This study indicates that the application of UD philosophy in response to pandemic can promote well-being and enhance the QoL of elderly.
Public space has become a relevant factor for cities since it increases people’s quality of life. These areas help reduce physical and mental problems that may arise in society, and in addition, they increase the sense of community and improve the development that children may have. The Covid-19 virus and confinement made this type of space necessary. Although public spaces are taken more into account in the city, they do not take place on the edges of the urban area, as is the case in the community of Paso del Norte in the city of Chihuahua in Mexico. The community has two spaces that can be considered recreation areas, but the reality is that they do not have adequate infrastructure to make them safe and formal places. These make us wonder what the people of this community do in their free time, how they use these public spaces, and how they have evolved over the years. So people in the community were surveyed to solve such unknowns, revealing that these spaces have changed in the last two decades. Especially with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. These green areas added value to the areas where they are, plus many adapted the spaces for recreational, educational, commercial, and productive use. Design is a great tool that can take the detected weaknesses of a community and turn them into strengths to create a good quality public space.
This paper presents the development process of a graph database that connects statements posted by disabled people on various web-based platforms with accessibility requirements in the Danish Building Regulations (BR18). The aim is to bring the lived experience of disabled people into a vocabulary of space-making for architects. By elevating the missing voices of disabled people – describing what matters, how and why – the project supports the decision-making processes of architects to make the built environment more inclusive. The developed database relates statements posted by disabled people with sentences from paragraphs of BR18 through specific architectural features of room, element, and object. Using the architectural features as point of reference, the database not only highlights some of the most common building situations encountered by disabled people, but also allows anyone interested to explore their relationship to the real lives of disabled users and the statutory requirements.
Researchers typically declare in the methods section of scientific papers that the study included a representative sample. A closer look at the composition of participant groups, however, reveal that these samples are typically based on criteria such as age, educational background, and a binary gender division. Nothing is mentioned about other characteristics e.g., functional, or neurocognitive variations. Consequently, many “representative samples” do not really represent the whole population, but rather the majority. In this perspective paper, we argue that there is a need for more inclusive research considering the broad diversity of people. We discuss whether Universal Design of Research (UDR) is a purposeful approach. We go through the proposed definition of UDR and apply three topics as examples, namely participant characteristics, communication, and study design. The overall conclusion is that UDR might be purposeful for many studies but is not ethical or purposeful in all types of research. There is, however, a need for a more precise and comprehensive definition of UDR to comply with ethical requirements and to be purposeful for researchers. We therefore conclude by suggesting a revised definition.
In this paper, we identify and describe early signs of a shift towards 3rd generation UD, of which “nonclusive design” is an essential part. The paper explores the significance of such a shift using examples of the built and designed environment and of signage. Nonclusive design means design that resists categorisations of bodies/roles and that does not come with predefined or presupposed limits in terms of who it is meant for. We outline seven themes characterising the shift towards nonclusive design: 1) from included to undefined users, 2) from person to function, 3) from adaptism to variation, 4) from separation to convergence, 5) from reactive to proactive, 6) from unaware to aware, and 7) from explicit to tacit. Nonclusive design directs attention to context instead of the individual, focusing on possibilities, functions and facilities. It has a convergent character, highlighting variation and unity rather than separation. Nonclusive design presupposes awareness, knowledge and proactive development void of adaptism. It incorporates human variation without reiterating patterns of norm-deviation. We argue that the continued growth of UD demands, is part of, and contributes to a shift in culture, with nonclusive, intersectional thinking as a key future driver. In such a culture, 3rd generation UD can contribute as a common guiding mindset, as a source for innovation, as a way to listen for diversity in all its forms, and as a way to lead towards a sustainable society.
The “aging” world implies a rethinking of housing models, to meet the needs of the elderly for physical and mental well-being, independence, social interaction, safety, and accessibility. “Aging in place” is recognized by experts and international literature as a fundamental strategy for maintaining conditions of well-being and reducing public spending on health care. However, often the houses do not have the requirements to easily adapt to the needs that change with aging and possible downsizing of the family unit. For the elderly, maintaining their own home can become unsustainable due to problems of costs, oversizing, physical and perceptual accessibility, and safety. The contribution, taking as a case study the residential building heritage of Turin (Italy), illustrates and critically compares scenarios of adaptive recovery of homes to make them suitable for the needs of the elderly, intending to promote “aging in place” and housing adaptive refurbishment as a sustainable strategy.
Playspaces bring children and adults together for fun and social interaction but are rarely designed for the inclusion of all community members. In Australia, local government authorities (councils) are responsible for parks and playspaces. The New South Wales state government launched their inclusive playspaces policy in 2017. A guideline document was proposed but a guideline does not guarantee implementation. Consequently, an inclusive design process for developing the guide became the strategy. The task was to develop a guide that explained the concepts of inclusion and universal design within the playspace context. The project took an iterative and collaborative approach to the design of the guide. Intended users were those involved in creating playspaces, not playspace users per se. The participatory governance structure involved three levels of collaboration: a small steering group of experts, a larger group with key stakeholders, and a wider group of stakeholders and interested persons. This collegial and participative process consisted of a series of meetings and workshops which fostered learning and ideation for all participants. Through this process three underpinning concepts emerged: Can I get there? Can I play? Can I stay? The process educated and informed stakeholders, encouraged participants to contribute to the outcomes and provided community-led guidance for those contracted to design the guideline. The result was an inclusive playspace guide that recognized the design guidance required by council personnel in the context of universal design. The process and governance structure provides a good working model to build on. The success of the guideline was recognized with a national award from the Institute of Landscape Architects for Community Contribution. The purpose of this paper is not to comment on or evaluate the outcome of the guidelines. Rather, it is to document the inclusive and participatory governance structure and iterative process from a professional participant perspective.
In 2016 the Italian National Institute of Urban Planning (INU) launched the project Accessible-to-all Cities, aimed at fostering the creation of an inclusive environment for improving universal accessibility to places and services at both scales of the city and the territory, by networking accessibility good practices and stakeholders from all corners of the country. Since then, a community of public and private subjects gathered by INU has been established and growing, sharing experiences, problems and solutions. Through the organization of dozens of meetings, seminars, workshops, conference sessions and webinars, more than 200 experiences developed in Italy have been collected, including studies and research, public policies, projects and actions, both material and immaterial, concerning the overcoming of different kind of barriers: physical, sensory, perceptive, intellectual, cultural, social, economic, health and gender. On these bases, in 2019, the INU Accessible-to-all Cities Community launched an open web archive, an initiative that intends to contribute to increasing awareness and knowledge, as well as to facilitate the implementation and development of actions and policies, by leveraging the good practices widespread, but often little known, in Italy.
Universal Design has become more prevalent in the general use of architectural design buT has rarely been applied to exhibits. This paper features two manuals developed for exhibit accessibility that incorporate several principles of Universal Design.
Persons with stress-related disorders, mental disorders and neuropsychiatric disabilities are in particular vulnerable to cognitive challenges at the workplace. The barriers faced by persons with communicative, social and cognitive disabilities are most often invisible to persons in the environment. The objective of the study presented in this paper is to develop and test a tool that increases awareness by inviting persons without disabilities to experience how cognitive barriers can look like in the workplace. Three 360-degree films were developed iteratively in close collaboration with users. Each film has one part highlighting difficulties and one part highlighting solutions. The films were evaluated with employers, employment experts, special support persons, HR staff and students. The results show that the films were realistic and useful for both supporting employment and for general awareness and insight.
The Norwegian mapping authority has developed a standard method and an easy and flexible tool for mapping accessibility mostly for people with limited or no walking abilities in urban and recreational areas. We choose an object-orientated approach where points, lines and polygons represent objects in the environment. All data are stored in a geospatial database and are presented as web map and can be downloaded and analysed using GIS software. By the end of 2021, more than 250 out of 356 municipalities are mapped using that method. The aim of this project is to establish a national standard for mapping of accessibility and to provide a geodatabase that shows the status of accessibility throughout Norway. The data provide a useful tool for national statistics, local planning authorities and private users. The results show that accessibility is still low and Norway and faces many challenges to meet the goals for Universal Design.
Home adaptation is a practice that addresses accessibility issues in the domestic environment of disabled people, introducing modifications to the spatial environment or devices which improve their autonomy and wellbeing, and that of their caregivers.
Protocols developed to define the right adaptations for each home mainly rely on checklists to verify the normative compliance of the physical environment to predefined accessibility standards. However, these protocols fail to address the complexity of the social, cultural, and economic dimensions that structure the person-environment relationship, thus compromising the efficacy of the adaptations. The excessive rigidity of such approach relates to the current debate on the limits of Universal Design when applied to the domestic environment, and especially when directed to people with specific needs.
As an example of a more productive approach, this essay illustrates ADA, a public funded action-research project that proposes home adaptations for severely disabled people. The paper discusses the innovative strategy of ADA, based on a high level of personalization, and its main tactics: interdisciplinarity, relational setting, and centrality of activities, both in the assessment of the users’ profiles and spaces, and in the design of the adaptations.
This essay also evaluates the impact of the project, showing how in specific domains, such as those of ADA, personalization is the key to achieve the inclusive and sustainable goals of Universal Design.
This paper follows three previous ones which have reflected on the grass-roots campaign in Australia to mandate a basic access standard in all new housing. The original negotiations with government and the housing industry for this reform were at first disingenuous then reluctant despite human rights obligations. A tenacious campaign over two decades by user stakeholders, researchers, and principled housing providers finally convinced political leaders to mandate national access provisions for all new housing in the National Construction Code. The paper discusses what assisted and hampered this campaign. It then discusses why politicians eventually favoured the interests of ordinary people over the self-interests of the housing industry.
This paper discusses the prerequisites of inclusive housing development based on the learnings from Ars Longa, a block of flats for artists, designers and authors in Helsinki, Finland, that was initiated by a group of elderly persons. The study draws from research on co-design and universal design in housing. Post Occupancy Evaluation is used as method of investigation. Interviews with four key actors trace the barriers and enabling factors in the housing development process and assess the final design outcome. The results highlight the role of public institutions in supporting resident-driven projects, the financing of projects as major barrier to laypeople, and the potential of concept design in integrating the needs of stakeholders. Joint design with adjacent plots made extensive shared spaces feasible and clever design moves enabled spatial flexibility, whereas the connection of co-design activities to building design was deemed weak. The study shows that continuous management and community building are needed for negotiating the use of spaces and for fostering agency and belonging among residents. The paper contributes to research on inclusive housing development through an empirical case.
This paper presents findings from 15 interviews of randomly selected Danish landscape architectural offices focusing on how these work with and understand accessibility. The paper finds that Danish landscape architects mostly understand accessibility and its users in relation to existing building regulations. Moreover, in finding that the informants possessed a limited professional vocabulary for understanding accessibility, the paper discusses the type of knowledge requested and by, and necessary for, Danish landscape architects to gain a more reflective understanding of accessibility and its users. Towards such ends, universal design can help the profession. However, with only a few informants mentioning ideas related to universal design, this indicates that more education is needed for universal design to provide a different perspective on accessibility and its users amongst Danish landscape architects.