Forrester’s Gina Bhawalkar offers three effective tips from her latest report on inclusive design that can be implemented immediately.
Now that the first London Design Biennale is over, we take a look at Norway’s contribution, Reaching for Utopia – Inclusive Design in Practice, and find out why inclusive design is an idea the world needs to know about.
Throughout September, London’s Somerset House played host to 37 countries all responding to the theme of Utopia by Design. Contributions varied wildly from the conceptual (Albania’s Bliss – “a concentric arrangement of stainless steel columns and benches designed to encourage self-reflection and solidarity”) to the emotional (France’s Le Bruit des Bonbons — The Astounding Eyes of Syria shared memories of Syria through film) to the downright surreal (Cadavre Exquis: an Anatomy of Utopia was Poland’s 3D version of the children’s game ‘consequences’ first introduced by the Surrealist movement).
The country that seemed to have taken the brief most seriously was Norway. And perhaps that’s because the nation is taking the idea of using design to create a better world seriously. In 2005, 16 Norwegian ministries signed a binding action plan based on the government’s vision for Norway’s entire infrastructure to be created according to the principles of ‘inclusive design’ by 2025.
“We have to keep the momentum now that we are halfway there,” says Åse Danbolt of property company Statsbygg – the government’s key advisor in construction. “This requires systematic work, clear governance and goals and projects that are well anchored at management level.” Reaching for Utopia – Inclusive Design in Practice showcased a number of such projects already delivering lasting social benefits.
Inclusive design looks for solutions that might be needed by some, but that are good for everybody – which means avoiding the stigma associated with the ‘special solutions for special needs’ that typify accessible design. “The idea of democracy is strong in Norway,” says Åsa. “Universal design is about equality [so that] anyone can participate in an equal manner.”
“Far from being restrictive, inclusive design is actually a real driver of innovation” – Liv Haugen, St Olav’s Hospital
In his Strategy for Teaching Inclusive Design, Oslo School of Architecture and Design professor Tom Vavik defines inclusive design as “a framework that accepts diversity of ability and age as the most ordinary reality of being human.” In fact, it is argued that the so-called ‘average user’ often catered for by mainstream design doesn’t exist. But as Smart Design’s Dan Formosa says, “It’s much more difficult to design a product that six real people love, than [a product that] one imaginary average person loves.”
Also known as ‘design for all’ or ‘universal design,’ inclusive design involves bringing those real people into the design process very early on. The Norwegian Design Council’s 2010 publication Innovating With People: The Business of Inclusive Design, explains: “Design can be described as the process of examining a problem and creating a solution. Inclusive Design brings the perspective of real people to that problem, inspiring a multitude of viewpoints and unexpected ideas…people who make greater demands of a product, service or environment and therefore challenge it in ways beyond that of the average mainstream user.”
While this might all sound like hard work, feedback from those who have been involved suggest that it’s often the source of creativity. “Far from being restrictive, inclusive design is actually a real driver of innovation,” says Liv Haugen, Chief Medical Planner of St Olav’s Hospital – one of the case studies in the exhibition and the first hospital patients have had a hand in designing. Insight from first-time wheelchair users that they’d rather encounter uneven terrain within the safety of the hospital grounds led to the creation of rocky paths for them to practise on – something that landscape architect Trond Heggem says he never would have thought – or been bold enough – to include without their input.
Another case study in the exhibition was the Scandic Hotel at Oslo Airport. Ever since one of their chefs became unwell and realised how ill-equipped hotels were to deal with disabilities and allergies, inclusive design has been at the heart of the Scandic’s design ethos. The Norwegian chain now has a 135-point plan, which all new hotels adhere to.
“Inclusive design is not just about good intentions, it is also about good business.” – Onny Eikhaug, DOGA
All rooms are entirely allergy-friendly and welcoming regardless of cognitive or physical abilities. Larger rooms for wheelchair users double up as family rooms with fold-down bunk beds – and children enjoy many of the features originally designed for wheelchair users such as lower peepholes, hooks and hanging rails.
So far, so idealistic. But as Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture (DOGA)’s Onny Eikhaug, says, “Inclusive design is not just about good intentions, it is also about good business.” A common theme when you talk to people who have been involved in inclusive design is the unexpected benefits they see. The Scandic is a case in point. Allergy-friendly rooms have reduced staff sickness, accessible spaces are quicker to clean, and the wheelchair- / family-friendly rooms are so profitable they can’t build them fast enough.
Hats off to Norway for using the inaugural London Design Biennale as an opportunity to bring such an important idea to a global audience. To quote Michael Wolff of international brand consultancy Wolff Olins, “When you include the extremes of everybody, that’s to say differently-abled people of all sorts, you produce things that are better for all of us.”
Author: Katie Treggiden
Katie Treggiden is a design journalist, curator and consultant. With more than 15 years experience in the creative industries, she writes for the Guardian, Elle Decoration and Design Milk. She is also the author of Makers of East London and founding editor of Fiera Magazine and confessions of a design geek. For more infomation on on Katie, please visit katietreggiden.com.
Designing meaningful environments that help people thrive is a primary objective of Universal Design. There is a growing body of evidence-based design research that demonstrates the many benefits resulting from a well-designed environment. Particularly for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, the built environment can act as a therapeutic tool. Research shows there is a strong link between the environment and their behavior, in addition to the environment’s effect on quality of life issues.
As part of my graduate thesis work, I became specifically interested in the design features that support health and wellness for those with Alzheimer’s. I researched memory care environments and how the design impacts resident behaviors and quality of life outcomes. As part of the research, I was able to evaluate current design recommendations in a specific memory care facility to determine how these guidelines are working in practice. I had the opportunity to spend time with and study the population of people I would be designing for, as a way to better understand their needs. What I found through my research was that many of the design guidelines for memory care environments directly relate to the Goals of Universal Design.
According to Steinfeld and Maisel, “Universal design is a process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation” (Steinfeld & Maisel, 2012). The Goals of Universal Design© “define the outcomes of UD practice in ways that can be measured and applied to all design domains within the constraints of existing resources. In addition, they encompass functional, social, and emotional dimensions.”
The following is a list of the 8 Goals of Universal Design©, and what aspects of the memory care environment were found to pertain to them through the thesis research:
- Body Fit- Accommodating a wide range of body sizes and abilities:
The progression of Alzheimer’s disease varies greatly from individual to individual, and impacts everybody differently. Some residents are ambulatory, while others, especially those at the later stages of the disease progression, may rely on walking aids. The design of the facility takes these ranges into account by limiting the length of corridors and providing handrails throughout corridors for those who are unsteady.
- Comfort – Keeping demands within desirable limits of body function and perception:
Environmental features on site were evaluated based on desirable limits of both body function and cognitive function, recognizing the varying degrees of physical ability and cognition in the residents. One example is the design of seating along the corridor, accounting for limits in body function by providing an opportunity for rest while walking if needed. The provision of multi-sensory cues to increase understanding of the purpose of space supports cognitive function. For example, multiple visual cues in the dining area include design elements that would typically be found in a residential kitchen to enhance familiarity.
- Awareness – Ensuring that critical information for use is easily perceived:
Supportive features and design considerations help counteract changes in cognition and perception caused by the disease progression. Design features that allow environmental information to be received by the residents were evaluated. These can include the provision of good wayfinding strategies and multi-sensory cues as part of the design.
- Understanding- Making methods and operation of use intuitive, clear, and unambiguous:
Ensuring the environment makes sense and is easy for the residents to use were important aspects of the design evaluation. Specifically, design elements that are clear in operation and use have the potential to support independence and autonomy in residents were identified and evaluated. Multi-sensory cues, such as residential characteristics, support understanding in addition to the goal of awareness. These characteristics include a fireplace in the living room or dishes hung on the walls in the dining area. Within the enclosed courtyard, the entrance back into the building has a portico that resembles a residential doorway, which has been shown to increase understanding of the door function.
- Wellness- Promote positive health outcomes for the residents through design:
This research acknowledged and emphasized the relationship between the environment and positive health outcomes for those with Alzheimer’s. Design features that promote positive health were the basis for the evaluation, including large windows maximizing daylighting and access to the outdoors in the courtyard.
- Social Integration- Treating all groups with dignity and respect:
Treating the residents with respect through appropriate design and opportunities for social interaction are essential to their wellbeing. The importance of resident identity and dignity, and their relationship to care delivery and the design of the environment were addressed in the research. One example, the memory boxes placed adjacent to the doorway of each resident room, allow residents to express who they are visually, through photos and images. Another example are the multiple activity areas and outdoor courtyard, which provide different types of seating for both formal and informal social interaction.
- Personalization – Incorporating opportunities for choice and the expression of individual preferences:
Residents with Alzheimer’s benefit from personalization in the environment as a way to help draw on their long term memory and maintain identity. Design features that support individual preferences were identified on site. For example, residents are able to personalize their rooms with their own furniture and decorations. The memory boxes not only help residents personalize their space, they also aid in locating the room from the corridor.
- Cultural Appropriateness – Respecting and reinforcing cultural values and the social and environmental context of any design project:
The social and environmental context associated with residing in a locked unit plays a critical role in how the space can be designed to improve quality of life. The research suggests that residents within memory care environments can be seen as a sub-culture; therefore it is important to understand their unique needs and values.
Although some may consider designing for individuals with Alzheimer’s as being specialized and unique, I found through my research that there were many similarities with universal design. I observed that the design recommendations directly relate to the Goals of UD, and therefore are likely to positively impact a wider range of individuals.For example, good wayfinding is one characteristic of the built environment that has been shown to reduce stress and help counteract cognitive decline in those with memory impairments. Forming a mental map or an overall mental image of a space becomes increasingly difficult as the disease progresses. However, if the design is straightforward and understandable, those with Alzheimer’s disease can more easily find their way. Good wayfinding offers benefits to the staff and visitors as well, helping with orientation and navigation within the environment. Memory care environments can be high stress and visits can sometimes be emotional for family members, so reducing confusion and disorientation has great benefits to all users.
Another example, physical and visual access to the outdoors, is critical to resident wellbeing. A connection to nature can alleviate feelings of confinement and break up the monotony of the indoor environment. A secured courtyard provides residents in a locked unit with some level of independence if they are able to get outdoors when they want to. Outdoor access encourages movement, which in turn supports health. However, these positive benefits also impact staff and visitors. For staff members, the outdoor area can be an ideal location to relax or take a break, especially when the demands of working in memory care are stressful. And for visitors, a courtyard is an ideal location to spend time with and participate in activities with loved ones.
While the design of these facilities should primarily benefit the residents, supportive and well-designed environments benefit all users. Ensuring that we are including the needs of those with Alzheimer’s along with the wider population in the design process ensures that the environment is successful and usable by all. And while designing for those who often times cannot communicate or express their needs is challenging, finding design solutions that provide positive outcomes is very rewarding. In the case of my research, the time I spent on site with both residents and staff was invaluable, and has helped define the direction I wish to take as I enter professional practice. Universal Design acknowledges the power and positive impact our designs can have on all people, especially when those benefits improve the quality of life for populations who are often excluded from the design process.
Jennifer McQuilkin, a designer and researcher with a passion for translating data into beautiful and compelling stories. Jen interned at the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access while working on her MS in Architecture. She now works at CannonDesign, a leading integrated global design firm, in communications with a focus on Healthcare.
This article originally appears in Design for All Institute of India October 2016: Vol-11 No-9.
by Elnaz Davoudi | UX Designer
San Francisco State University
Holistic Approach to Research & Design Aging in place is a complicated subject that involves many interrelated factors. Studying any of these factors as a solo lead can be misleading to the researcher. Instead the designer studies ‘aging in place’ as a whole system. By applying the proposed holistic model to the design process, the designer intends to grasp the bigger picture and use this knowledge to enhance users’ experience through designing a product, service or product-service system. This approach to design will include the elderly as well as the younger users in the design process through a top-down design process. This trans-generational approach to the design process prevents segregating the elderly users from their younger counterparts to avoid stigmatization.
Paradigms for designing the ethnographic research structure.
This research has been conducted by a critical, interpretive and social network paradigm.
The critical paradigm
The critical paradigm helps the researcher to use the tools of research to discover inequities and find ways to bring about change in the inequitable actions and policies of the dominant social mindset (LeCompte & Schensul, Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research, 1999). For many years, elderly users were mostly excluded in design target groups. Currently, most of the products and services have been designed with the young generation in mind. This exclusion leaves the elders unable of using certain products or services while they could well take advantage of them if designed with the elder users in mind. For many years elders have adapted to this lifestyle, simply accepting it as ‘how life is’, putting the blame on the natural process of aging. This researcher however, does not find this exclusion to be unfair. The goal of this research is to advocate the participants, call attention to their needs and assist them to have access to their equal rights. Therefore, the research will employ a critical paradigm in designing the research plan.
The interpretive paradigm
This research applies a holistic view to the process. The interpretive paradigm of this research requires observing the participants in the context, as this researcher believes meaning can only be created through studying the participants’ interaction with the setting. What people know to be true about the world is fabricated by how people interact with one another in specific social settings over time (LeCompte & Schensul, Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research, 1999). Therefore culture is a relative matter and is created in a process of people’s socially based interpretations of what they do. What seems to be true at one time is not necessarily the absolute reality but the mindset of people as to what is right at that moment. The interpretive paradigm of this research challenges the current approaches to the problem. Interpretive paradigm requires the researcher to participate in the lives of the research participants to observe their interaction with setting and extracting the essence of what is really happening (LeCompte & Schensul, Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research, 1999).
The social network paradigm
The social network theory paradigm is different from what people know as social network these days. The social network paradigm is a model for analyzing social relationships developed in social anthropology (Pattison, 1981) (LeCompte & Schensul, Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research, 1999). This research provides a view of community that is composed of essentially related individuals. The research does not view the participants as isolated subjects of research but attempts to look at the elders from a broader perspective and study them in relation to the society. The social network paradigm of this research allows the researcher to understand the relationships and association among elders and the society; and study what might influence the development of their social networks (LeCompte & Schensul, Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research, 1999).
Design of research Structure
Based on the nature of this study and the research paradigms, the researcher chose to employ qualitative methods to develop a data collection plan, design appropriate data collection methods and establish analytic procedures to interpret the data.
In this project while the research phase is specific to elder subjects over 65, the design target group is aimed to be as inclusive as possible. The research target group of this project are the elderly, who in United States fall into the category of are people 65 years old and. The goal of the project was to study minimum of 10 elders, preferably with various ethnic backgrounds. Over the course of study the researcher attempted to cover all the three sub-categories known as “young old”, “old” and “Oldest old”. Due to social considerations the researcher did not require the participants to disclose their exact ages however asked them to confirm if they fall into the defined age category. With the exception of 5 participants of those who attended group sessions, they all confirmed to be 65+. Based on the qualitative nature of this research, the researcher collected the data from the five but made sure that they do not play a major role in the final analysis. It is noteworthy that the data collected from the five was parallel to the rest. Data Collection Fieldwork for this study was carried out from March 2012 to March 2013. The study was geared towards cooking experience and aging in place, however over the course of study and after analyzing the gathered data, the research shifted towards the relation of aging in place and shopping in September 2012. During the fist course of ethnographic research, ‘ group interviews’, ‘individual interviews’ and ‘immersive observations’ were the dominant methodological procedure. The second phase of the research was mostly focused on ‘immersive observations’, ‘experience mapping session’ and ‘shadowing’.
The group interviews took place in Alma Via Assisted Living Center of San Francisco. Visits were scheduled biweekly in 5 sessions. The original group was consisted of 4 female and 1 male participants, however at times a few other interested seniors would join the group, too. Each session was followed by a routine of brief explanation of the purpose of research, the significance of their participation and a review of the previous session, followed by informal in-depth conversations around the main themes of the research including; seniors’ needs and wishes, obstacles of aging in place, feelings about aging in assisted living, reasons for their relocation, and individual personal stories. The average time of each interview was one hour. The main obstacles of the group interviews were some participants’ degenerative diseases. Hearing impairment made it hard for two of the participants to follow. The researcher would speak up but often the participants could not hear other participants. One participant was dealing with dementia and would not fully remember the previous conversations.
Individual Ethnographic Interviews
The individual interviews were conducted to gain in-depth information about elders’ needs and wishes in regards to aging in place. The choice of individual interviews was to provide a less stressful environment of elderly interviewees, so that they can safely share the experiences and reply to the questions. Total of 5 elders were individually interviewed, two of who were living independently. The other 3 were residents of Alma Via Assisted Living. Interviewing these two groups helped the researcher to have a better understanding of how it feels to move to an eldercare. It also helped the researcher to compare the data collected from those who lived in their houses to the residents of eldercare and draw further conclusions. All interviews took place in the interviewees living place and when other residents of the place were present. Besides on spot notes, interviews were audio or video recorded depending on the permission of the participants.
Immersive observations were conducted to study the subject of the research and the participant in the context. The researcher conducted the total of 5 observations session; one with two residents of Alma Via and 4 with elders who lived independently. In the first phase of research 3 immersive observation sessions were directed when participants would prepare, cook and clean up and make comments on the process. In the second phase 2 observations were made with 3 elderly when participants were shopping. The participants showed and explained day daily style of shopping. The immersive observations let the researcher to see the situations as they happened. It also helped the researcher to observe participants interaction with other people. Observations were a great resource for comparing what people say they do, need or wish and what happens in reality. The data was collected by means of audio or video recorder. Additionally, some on spot notes and photos were taken.
In the shadowing method the researcher discreetly studied 7 seniors while shopping. Shadowing method was chosen to study the users in the context of use and in their most natural manner. Notion of being observed may have an impact on the research participants. Shadowing the elders without their knowledge allowed the researcher to truly study the subjects’ shopping behavior and interactions with others in its outmost natural setting. The most important obstacle in shadowing was devising a plan to study the subjects with out arousing any suspicions. After a few unsuccessful tries of simply following or video recording with a cell phone camera the researcher decided to use a discreet 360 camera that would sit on a cell phone. The video from the 7 subjects provides a holistic view of shopping experience including the relation of subject to surrounding environment, other people and staff. The collected data from this method was a great resource for comparing the findings of other methods to what actually happens in the store.
Experience Mapping Focus Group
The experience mapping session was held with 6 senior participants in less than 3 hours. The structure of this self-designed technique is very similar to focus group with one exception that the moderator does not ask questions or in other words interview the group. Instead the researcher uses pictures to stimulate the participants and allows them to share what counts the most to them. The advantage of experience mapping is that the moderator does not conduct the subject of conversation by posing questions; the participants conduct the session very naturally. The researcher’s role is more of an observer than a moderator. Image 16- Experience mapping session. In order to gradually prepare the participants for the session the session plan was designed into 6 activities. The activities are as follows.
Activity 1: Stimulation
In the stimulation phase the participants were asked to look at 85 pictures posted on the board. The pictures were about shopping and included different parts of the shopping experience. A large group pictures were deliberately chosen based on the data gathered from previous methods. The objective of this technique was to stimulate the participants and drag their attention into shopping experience. Some shopping related cartoons were also included in the pictures to break the ice and put the participants into a relaxed and informal mode.
Activity 2: Mapping
In this phase the participants were asked to choose the pictures that reminded them of positive or negative experiences they have had while shopping and write a short note about the experience on a post-it. They were then asked to post the notes onto the board. The board consisted two separate parts. The top part of representative of positive experiences and the bottom represented negative experience. Some participants posted some picture in the borderline to represent neutral experiences.
Activity 3: Reflection
In this phase each participant was asked to stand in front of the map and explain the reason she/he had used the pictures. They each showed the audience the pictures they chose and shared their insight with other participants.
Activity 4: Discussion
Reflection activity was devised to create discussion among the participants. Numerous times what one participant had to say triggered others to share more similar or different experiences. A large part of the collected data was derived from these discussions.
Activity 5: Ideation
The participants were also asked to think of creative solutions to address the problems they had found. The researcher explained that the ideas do not need to be feasible or realistic. Participants would largely build new ideas on other participants’ ideas. The ideation phase was very much similar to a casual brainstorming session.
Activity 6: Creation
In this part the researcher provided the group with different stationary and modeling material and asked each to choose one idea they like the best and make a prototype. The researcher who had made a very poorly-made prototype of a shopping cart before exhibited her idea of the next shopping cart and asked the participants to make a prototype without being concerned about the aesthetics of it. The shopping cart was made specifically to show the participants how easy it was to make a prototype and make them feel comfortable in making their prototype. Despite all these actions the participants seemed very reluctant to the idea of making a prototype and discreetly refused to do so by changing the topic for a few times. The researcher respected their hint and did not insist on performing this last step. Data Analysis Data analysis allows the researcher to discover patterns and themes that can be associated to other patterns and themes in the research (LeCompte & Schensul, Analyzing and interpreting ethnographic data, 1999). Data analysis is a critical step to the final interpretation. In this project the data analysis happened in 5 levels.
•Fine tuning results
Inscription is a form of in-the-field analysis that is consisted of words or phrases that highlight the significant point of the data for further investigation (LeCompte & Schensul, Analyzing and interpreting ethnographic data, 1999). The researcher used inscriptions as mental notes that capture the moment until she found time to write down the descriptive data.
Descriptions are comprehensive notes on events, behaviors, conversations and activities that assist the researcher to create a portrayal of the participant and provide a coherent representation of the observed culture. Descriptions usually become more focused and objective as the research advances (LeCompte & Schensul, Analyzing and interpreting ethnographic data, 1999). Shortly after each ethnographic research session, the researcher documented a preliminary analysis that included initial interpretation of the data and the researcher’s insights.
Since most of this ethnographic research was recorded by audio or video the researcher had the advantage to capture all the details. The important parts of the files thereafter where transcribed for later use. Transcription also included documenting non-verbal data.
The volume of data in ethnographic data can be overwhelming at times, making it very hard to conclude. Coding helps the researcher to categorize and condense the data to the point that ideas, themes, patterns and structures become apparent (LeCompte & Schensul, Analyzing and interpreting ethnographic data, 1999). To this end the researcher read through all the notes and assigned categories and themes, looking for certain patterns, behaviors, ideas or categories that occur repeatedly in the data. She used descriptive words to represent each category and studied the relative frequency of each category.
In this part of analysis the researcher looked for coherent relationships among the most repeated patterns and themes. As the outline and contents of the analyzed data became more distinct, a clear portrait of the subject of study appeared. A quick review of the theoretical research paradigms and the research questions plus the collected quotes and data, assisted the researcher to see the bigger picture and create a conceptual framework of what was discovered.
The fine-tuned results
In many ways findings of this research is a confirmation to the existing literature. Most of the physical needs that the elderly are facing today and their aspires have been mentioned in some studies as old as 40 years. What stands out in this study is its social approach to the shopping experience and aging in place. In this project the researcher does not consider elders as isolated individuals but as part of a social network and rigorously attempts to capture the emotional and social aspects of shopping. Based on the analysis of the empirical data gathered, the researcher identified two main categories;
•Physical needs and wishes
•Social and emotional needs and wishes
Physical needs and wishes
Choice of store and timing:
Findings exhibit that most elders prefer to shop at one or two specific local store. They usually try to avoid shopping in weekends and the busy hours. Instead they mostly preferred to shop on weekday mornings when most people are at work. They showed interest in shopping at a store that has a good balance between quality and price. This was also seen in the literature. A group of elders preferred the stores that were relatively small but had a wide array of items. They found some stores to be too large with too many choices. These participants exhibited interest in shopping at a store with fewer, but better choices.
Carts and baskets:
Several comments regarded shopping carts and baskets. Some elders found the majority of shopping carts to be too deep; requiring them to bend and stretch to reach the products. This issue was consistent with the data from shadowing method. Some found the carts to be too large and hard to handle. The videos from shadowing confirm this statement; especially in the cases where there were pillars in between the aisles some difficulty and slight hitting incidents were observed. Most of the elders stated a better experience with smaller carts especially since they did not buy a lot each time, due to smaller households. Elders’ choice of using a basket or cart was very different. Some preferred carts because they could lean on them and use them as an assistive instrument. One woman specified, “I will always use the cart, even if I want to buy very few items, because I can lean on it, specially in the long check outlines. They should think of a bar or something for the customers to lean on.” On the other hand some preferred baskets because they were not interested in pushing the carts around the store when they had little to buy or as one participant puts it used it as a scale for how much they should shop. “I used to take the carts but then I would get out of the store and not know how to take it home. So now I will always take the baskets. As soon as the basket gets heavy enough I know that I should finish shopping.” Some participants used their own personal cart to carry the shopping bags from store to home. Some suggested having a shopping cart that could be carried from home to store, used in the store and carried back home; in order to save the bending and stretching to take out the items and put into their personal carts. In general a considerable amount of data regards shopping carts and baskets. There seems to be a great potential for re-designing these products to provide elders with a better shopping experience.
Another frequent complaint was about packaging. Many participants asserted that the portions of the packaged food were too large for them. They were not content about having to buy more than they need. To avoid waste each had come up with their personal style of maintaining or using the food. The most common approach was to divide the food into smaller portions and freezing it. The issue of large packages was even more evident when it came to foods like meat. The participants expressed a negative feeling towards letting the complete package taw in order to be able to divide it into smaller portions, and freezing it again. The proposed solution was to freeze pieces of meat individually. A remarkable group of the participants declared that a large group of packages are hard to open. Frequent examples of this issue were resalable plastic bags, jars and packages similar to chips bags.
Labeling was another significant issue of old adults. Most of the participants found the print on the labels to be too small. Some participants revealed that they do not read the labels in the store for that matter. While a participant minimizes the gravity of this issue by saying, “I do not need to read the label. I know all the information by heart”; others mainly agreed that they are interested in reading the labels but as one participants puts it are, “embarrassed to take out my glasses to read a label and no matter how far I take the package from my eyes, there is no way I can see”. The issue of labeling has been mentioned in the literature many times from 1970’s to present. According to some participants, not all the information on the price tags is legible for elder customers. They desired a price tag that specifically notes the unit price with large fonts, so that they can compare items together.
A significant number of the participants expressed negative feelings about standing in line. They demanded a place to lean on when standing in line. Most of the participants stated that they usually use the express line, where people have fewer items. Some participants would plan their shopping schedule around the hours when they knew the lines would be short. One participant says, “I usually avoid weekends. If I go shopping and seethe lines are crowded I will try to finish shopping as fast as I can so that I can still wait in the lines. I have had some cases when I just left the store because I did not want to stand in long lines for buying a few things. Even the express lines are as fast as they should be.” Most of the elders had similar reactions towards using self-checkout lines. Most of the research participants preferred to stand in conventional lines rather than using the self-checkout lines. With the exceptions of a two who said they use the service when they are in a rush because the waiting time is shorter; elders did not find the machines to be faster then regular lines. Some mentioned that the lines look shorter but the time it takes people to figure out how to use the machines outweighs the regular line. Many reported to have been very confused by the instructions of using the machine. Most of those who had tried the self-checkout service mentioned being confused to the point that the intervention of a staff was necessary. Some people stated that they simply enjoy the short conversations with the cashiers; something they could not find in the machines.
Shelves and Location of Products:
Difficulty in reaching the top and bottom shelves was also a noticeable complaint. Similar to the issue of carts, some research participants found it hard to bend or stretch to reach these shelves. One participant also commented on the relation of the weight of the items in the store to the shelves where they are located. She elaborates, “I do not feel safe when I want to take a heavy package from the tops shelves. The heavy items should be located on the mid-shelves, easily within the reach of customers. They should be where you have the most control.” Size and layout of the store:As noted in the beginning of this part, some participants found some large stores to be too large for the elder customers. They pinpointed the extensive amount of energy one should put into finding all the items on the list from different parts of the store. They criticized having too many choices for each item; instead they desired fewer choices with better quality and fair pricing. One major complaint of the participants was about regular changing of the location of items. Parallel to literature, elderly customers found this relocating to be confusing and waste of their time and energy. Some said they had sometimes encountered new items that were better what they were used to, because of this relocation but most of them also mentioned that they would rather know about a new product through tasting than extra trip around the store. Social and emotional needs and wishes While one would imagine shopping experience to be more of a physical act, social and emotional aspects of shopping frequently came up in this ethnographic research. The research revealed some usually ignored inner emotions about social life that will be elaborated here.
Based on the common themes found while data analysis the researcher presents following categories:
Nostalgia was a very strong theme of the research. Often time elders were talking about enjoyable memories of the past and drew comparisons with the existing situation. The need was sometimes expressed in more subtle way. “We had a personal relationship (with the seller) who had good information (about the food being sold). We had high quality food”. Sometimes there were direct references. “Our age group are trying to pull back in time to what we grew up with”. Having personal relationship with the seller was one of the main nostalgic themes that came up frequently. Social Interaction: The results disclosed a strong sense of desire for social interaction. Shopping experience in United States was often compared to the same experience in other countries, pinpointing the absence or scarcity of social interaction and leisure activities incorporated with shopping. “In Europe the social aspects and leisure aspects are much more integrated with shopping experience” or “Design should lend itself to create an environment where you want to sit and have fun” and “I like to go to a shopping center were I can sit and sip on my coffee while looking at people running around” or “In Europe you see so many people sitting and having meals together right in the middle of malls. The restaurants and coffee shops are woven into the structure of malls”. The research participants clearly wanted a social and fun shopping environment. In some occasions the participant regarded shopping experience as a way to manage loneliness. “People who come into a new city, they don’t know anybody. Sometimes it is very hard to meet people” and “it is also part of the routine that you have. No matter what, you will go to store every week”. In several occasion stores were mentioned to be a great place to meet new people. The participants showed plenty of desire for having personal relationship with people working at the store. They wanted to have a relationship based on familiarity and trust. They liked to personally know the seller they buy from and wanted him to know them personally and be familiar with their preferences. “Old days you used to have your butcher and they knew you for years” or “He (a seller in the past) knew our preferences. We did not have to tell them what we wanted. He already knew”. One of the participants in the experience mapping sessions puts a lot of emphasis on personal face-to-face relationship when she is talking about her idea of a new way of delivering food to elders, “This way you go to the chef. You look him in the eye” or “the (the chefs) get to know the customers so much that because they know the person they decide to put more carrots and less spice (in the package)”. Similar to what literature suggests the senior participants enjoyed special treatments. One good example of this is when one the participants explains how their butcher from old days would try to please them based on their personal relationship saying, “There is nothing (desired meat) here but let me see. I have something down here”. Trust and advice are also two prominent factors observed in the ethnographic research. Looking for advice, may it be on cooking; finding the right item or best quality food was one of the recurrent topics. “I would ask the guy (grocery seller) to give me the sweet ones (watermelons)”. Trust and advice were used hand in hand. There seemed to be a relationship between how much the customers knew the seller personally and how much they trusted them and took their word. “He (the seller in the fish market) would provide recipes as to how to cook the seasonal fish”.
Another recurrent element that could be extracted from the ethnographic research was an inner demand for respect. Concept of respect was used many times in the conversations. “Once I was so tired and the checkout line was so long. The young lady in front of me noticed. She offered me to go first. She said she was in no rush. I liked her attitude very much. I wish all young people were like her”. Another time a lady says very unexpectedly her experience of pleasant respect she and her husband received from a younger man. She explains how a Japanese young man on an international flight automatically took their carry-ons from them and fit it in the over-head bin. She then continues, “Wow! Can you imagine that?! I had lived here for so many years I forgot what it means to be respected back there (Asia)”. The concept of respect was one of the prominent elements of the ethnographic findings. Seniors never stated to need to be respected but they viewed it as a very pleasant experience.
Almost all the participants has consensus on the importance of generational integration. Some would express their feelings towards segregation very calmly, some very strongly. “I do not like to only talk to old people. Old people keep talking about their pains and medication. I would rather hang out with young people” versus “I hate the idea of segregating the aging population (at the self-check out line) intentionally. I would rather see an intergenerational force to the system to enhance integration.” Although the tones might be different the concept remains the same. Longing for an integrated society was expressed in many different ways. One interesting example of these comments is when one of the participant’s comments on the small cars designed for the children to play with while parents are shopping. “I don’t like those cars. I believe kids should be closer to their guardians… not separated from the experience of shopping.”
The main motivation of the study was to study the issue of aging and forced relocation. Based on the general purpose of the research, the study persisted in investigation on how to redesign the shopping experience in order to facilitate aging in place. The questions and sub-questions were defined. Existing literature was studied to learn the current knowledge of the matter. Qualitative research methodology was chosen based on the nature of the research. Three paradigms were chosen as guideline to the researcher. The paradigms include inclusive or ‘critical paradigm’ that investigates inequities and advocates design for aging to as a right not a privilege, this paradigm; holistic or ‘interpretive paradigm’ which encourages the researcher to look at the bigger picture and study the research participants in the context of their environment plus ‘social system paradigm’ that considers the research participants as part of the society not as isolated individuals. Several methods were employed such as group and individual in-depth interviews, immersive observations, shadowing and Experience mapping session. By means of these methods it was conceived that elderly face several physical challenges while shopping. These challenges are mostly due to their physical decline, are mainly coherent with the existing literature most of which have not been responded for many years. The main areas of concern were the large size of food packages, standing in long checkout lines, reading the labels, using the carts and baskets, size and layout of stores, shelves and location of products. The study showed a very social aspect to shopping experience. Participants found shopping to be an experience than can be fun and social. The nostalgia from old ages and existing cultures around the world were two main sources of comparison for the elders. Elders showed to be very perceptive of personal social interactions of them as customers with the seller or store staff. They desired to personally know the staff and be known by them. They liked the staff to remember them and their preferences. They looked for a personal relationship with the staff; one that helps building trust in both parties. They also liked to make conversations and take advice from them on which food to buy or how to cook a special dish with the food and more. Talking of advice was always hand in hand with ‘trust’. Findings showed that the seniors associated the personal familiarity with the seller and making regular conversations with him to sense of trust towards the seller. The general view of shopping environment was an environment for shopping, having fun and social interactions. They were specifically enthusiastic about communicating with the younger generation and truly appreciated the young people’s patience when they needed more time to learn. The participants liked to be specially treated, not in a manner that suggests they are not capable of doing it themselves or that they are old, but a special care based on friendly relationships and respect. Care and respect were two major phenomenon linked to this behavior.
The study revealed that seniors love to be respected. The desire for respect did not seem to arise from an egotistical behavior, but a feeling of being recognized for their wisdom they have gained through years. The seniors loved to be viewed as a intelligent characters and treated with high levels of dignity. They loved to feel being cared for. This was obvious from their statements through the research and behavior towards the outside world and the researcher. The researcher found having sincere respect and being genuinely honest and kind to the senior participants of the research, to be her main key to success in communicating with them.
Approach to Design Solution
The findings of the research showed a very wide spectrum of physical, social and emotional needs and wishes. Most of the physical needs have been greatly highlighted in existing literature however there is very little attention paid to aging adults’ social and emotional needs. Based on this finding and the social network paradigm of this research, the designer of this creative work project chose to focus on social needs and wishes of aging adults. The designer made an effort to find a way to strengthen aging adults’ social networks in the neighborhood, naturally and effortlessly.
New Design problem Statement
Scenario #1: Most aging adults prefer to age in the comfort of their houses independently rather than having to be relocated to other headquarters. One of the factors that can help elders age in their houses is having a strong network of people who can support them when they are in need of help, specially during temporary sicknesses or accidents. How can we bring older adults of the neighborhood closer together through shopping experience? Scenario #2: Most aging adults prefer to age in the comfort of their houses independently rather than having to be relocated to other headquarters, however often the house can be too large, making it hard for an aging adult to live in and maintain. Therefore some elders decide to downsize to a smaller house, which may lead to living in a new neighborhood. Literatures exhibit that elders’ health decline each time they relocate. Stress, isolation and grieving of relocation contribute to adults’ overall physical and psychological decline (Maag & Krisztal). How can we bring new aging adults of the neighborhood closer to others through shopping experience?
Research Finding Used in the Final Concept
Studies suggest that having a strong network of supporting people can contribute to individual’s health, which is one of the main factors of aging in place. Also a strong social network can support elders when in need and allow them to age in their houses for a longer time. On the other hand the findings of this research illustrated elder shoppers’ interest for having a more social shopping experience. They mostly viewed shopping as an experience that should have more fun aspects to it. The most significant related concepts were respect, feeling of being taken care of. The participants liked to personally know and be known by the staff. They liked to receive customized advice from the staff and found the staff’s notion of customers’ preferences to be an ultimate sign of care. They paralleled trust with personal notion of the person. Concepts of trust and advice were often used together.
One of the prominent findings of the research was elders’ discomfort when standing in long lines. Some had to physically strain while standing, finding leaning on the carts to be the only option to alleviate the hardship. Also, over the course of study a few times people brought up the idea of a resting area where they could sit for a while and take a breath. The combination of these findings led the researcher to design a service to address the mentioned issues. The service is called, “Valet Checkout”.
The Design Narrative
Based on the factors mentioned above the designer designed a new service to bring new and old aging adults of the neighborhood closer to others through shopping experience. The service also responds to seniors’ desire for being respected and known to the staff, being cared for and receiving appropriate special treatments and having a more social, relaxing and fun shopping experience. From business point of view it is predicted that the service can generate more loyal customers. From the social standpoint the service aims to create a context in which aging adults can meet neighbors living in the same neighborhood and shopping in the same local store. Here is the story of Joe, a retired senior who just moved into the area 2 weeks ago, 3 years after losing his spouse. The story explains how Joe found friends in the neighborhood and helped Gabby to continue living in her home.
The Valet Checkout Service in brief
The valet checkout service (VCS) is a service that does not require the costumers to stand in lines to checkout; instead VCS creates a better shopping experience for costumers by allowing them to sit, sip their drink and enjoy chatting with other costumers while waiting for their receipt.
To gather feedback the researcher devised one survey to collect aging adults research participants’ opinion about VCS and another survey from general population shopping in stores to have an understanding of the general reaction to the idea of having a valet checkout service. The results are as follows. In this step, the researcher defined the Valet Checkout (VC) service to 12 aging adults and asked them to answer to a short survey. In response 1/3 of the participants stated they will always use the service given the VCS exists. Almost half said they might sometimes use the service while 11% showed no interest in using the service. Almost 20% of the participants declared that in their opinion the service will definitely catalyze conversation among the customers while 77% believed it might encourage conversation. In response to the possibility of creating friendships among the customers that last outside of the context of store about 44% had a negative opinion a little more than half of the participants found it likely to happen. When asked about their general idea of implanting the VC service in the stores, 88% found it to be a great idea and the rest viewed it as a relatively good service. Some participant share their concerns or suggestions about the valet checkout service. The main question was about the money transaction. Participants liked to know specifically where and how they pay. One participant was concerned about coupons and how they can be used in the VC system. Two participants suggested a permanent cashier for VC line who can is welcoming and friendly.
To gain a better understanding of how the valet checkout system works the researcher prototyped the service. She then noted out areas of problem and suggested solutions to improve the experience. The researcher’s first goal was to prototype the service in a grocery store, yet due to liability issues could not get permission to do so. Therefore, she replicated the checkout point in a different area and assigned roles to actors and actresses. The prototyping process showed a series of issue, which should be considered in designing the experience.
Findings of the Prototyping Activity
The prototyping activity helped the researcher to understand the issues in the designed service through roleplaying the VC service; starting from when a customer puts a shopping cart in line to when he is ready to leave the store. The role-play revealed several problems in the designed service.
1- Name tag: How does the costumer identify his/her cart from the rest of the customers? Sub-problems: In case of requiring a name tag where does the customer get one? In case of requiring writing down his name, where does he get the writing tool? In case of having to attach a nametag to the cart, where and how does the costumer attach the nametag?
2- Shopping cart should be carried to the customer to provide him/her the choice of using one. This was not predicted in the original idea.
3- One aspect that was not predicted in the original idea was the fact that the receipt needs to be printed after the transaction is completed. Sub-problems: How does the receipt get printed after the transaction? Is there a necessity for printed receipts? How does the information from the scanner transfers to the card reader? What if the costumer changes his/her mind about one product?
4- Dragging the carts: There will be a gap between the carts, after the cashier drags the one in the front towards himself. The gap between the first and second cart might be negligible, but becomes a real issue when there are more than 2 carts in line.
5- Cash transaction: When doing cash transaction the staff member who delivers the service should carry change with him to the resting area. The cash should be organized and easy to reach.
Based on the findings of the role-play prototyping session the original design of the service morphed into a more practical design. In the new service the resting area is located right after the valet checkout line and allows the cashier or staff member to call the customer to the checkout point after scanning and bagging all the items. In the new version of designed service all the money transactions take place at the cashier’s desk, which is located very closely to the resting area. In this model the customers will still find the chance to omit or add another item effortlessly or use their coupons. If the cashier’s desk is located close enough, customers might even be able to do the transaction while seated. Conclusion Literature suggests that healthy and independent aging relies on more than merely medicine and elderly-friendly environments. Social support is another major contributing factor. Studies have shown that a strong social network of support can directly contribute to one’s health. People can also provide assistance to each other when in need, preventing the force to relocate for further assistance. A great example of this model is the ‘Village’ movement; a neighbor-help-neighbor system that allows old people to age in their home and community. This research showed that elderly shoppers have many physical, social and emotional needs and wishes when it comes to shopping experience; including spending less physical energy on standing in long check out lines, a sense of nostalgia and desire for rich human interactions at the store such as a sense of familiarity and respect by staff. Elder shoppers loved to be known and respected by the staff and regarded it as one of the most important factors that is missing from their current shopping experience. One went to the extent of describing the experience as “cold & mechanical”.
The final design allows customers to use their physical energy more efficiently for picking the items of their choice by avoiding standing in line through valet checking out service (VCS). VCS can also address some emotional and social needs and wishes of elder costumers to create a better shopping experience. Customers can relax and enjoy talking to other people and maybe make some social connections that is a contributing factor to again in place, by possibly meeting and connecting with other costumers that are likely to live in the same neighborhood while waiting in the sitting area. Having a set schedule for cashiers at VCS line will facilitate forming social connections between costumers and cashiers through repetitive interactions with same costumers and provide an opportunity for a richer human interaction between costumers and staff. Calling costumers by name after scanning and bagging stages will provide a more personal and friendly atmosphere and a sense of familiarity. In general the goal of the service is to create a sense of being respected and taken care of, and bringing back the sense of nostalgia that elder shoppers mentioned they miss in so many occasions during the research, while allowing shoppers to spend their time and full physical energy on choosing the items they needs rather than shorting their trip to leave some time for standing in line, as some costumers had mentioned to do in the research phase. To avoid segregation or creating a negative connotation, the service is geared towards general public.
Works Cited(Partial Listing)
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Universal Design: A Driver for Transforming Global Education
The 1983 release of the federal report “A Nation at Risk”sparked an obsession in the United States on rectifying America’s decline as the world’s educational leader. Today, as many countries eclipse the U.S. on rankings from international standardized tests such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and TIMMS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, leaders from business, politics and education have been calling for major reforms. The general message is that in a global economy, students from the U.S. find themselves competing with the best and brightest from all over the world. The demands of global competitiveness therefor requires significant reform in our educational system especially targeting increased performance levels in math and science.
Here’s the dilemma. Reform implies that the basic elements of a system are sound. The premise is that moving around or “re-forming” those elements can generate positive change. While the world is well into the 21stcentury, the U.S. has been pouring literally billions of dollars in reform efforts that fundamentally do not diverge from the 20-century industrial or factory model of education that were relatively successful for past generations. In the recently published book, “Most Likely to Succeed” Sir Kenneth Robinson points out that the current system that drives education is a highly functional configuration of rules and regulations, like standardized lists of subject matter to be covered at very distinct age levels and carefully orchestrated chunks of time orchestrated through bell schedules. This system is indeed highly efficient in keeping masses of youngsters in line and moving them through a standard set of actions, much like a product moving down the assembly line. Instead of a fully assembled car emerging at the end of the line, the end product of this factory model education assembly line is a properly educated student. As Robinson argues, while the dominant system is highly functional, it is out archaic.
This article originally appears in Design for All Institute of India July 2016 (Istanbul Technical University, Turkey) Vol-11 No-7.
by Nisan Tunçak | Industrial Designer, Vitra
Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
“Are companies really interested in people and in culture? Do manufacturers discuss personal rituals, the depth of private relationships, the warmth of family, the codes of love, the signs of human emotions, the regard for happiness, freedom, personal expression, and the wellbeing of our human existence? And do they address these questions through the product they sell? Business can only be holistic and comprehensive if they are able to address these issues”
Every year VitrA delivers thousands of products to customers all around the world. From WC pans to sinks, bathroom furniture to bathtubs and tiles, VitrA portfolio offers users and professionals (architects, interior designers, designers) the products they need. As the VitrA design team, we strive to diversify and update our portfolio by developing new products and collections, and collaborating with other designers.
It has been two years since we embarked on the mission of making the “Design for All” concept an integral part of the design principles of the VitrA brand. Reading Roberta Null’s paragraph above, early on in my research, affected my approach to my profession significantly. I still have this paragraph hanging on my office wall. It is a strong reminder of my function as a designer. Designing products by identfying them as a part of the users’ everyday life instead of the main component of a process that ends with sales, renders the production-sales cycle sustainable while creating value.
Design for all and Bathroom Environment
World Health Organisation indicates that between 2015 and 2050 the number of people aged 60 years or older will rise from 900 million to 2 billion (up from 12% to 22% of the total global population). As the senior population continues to grow rapidly, universal design keeps on gaining currency. There are many developments on a global scale such as state endorsed projects emphasising the concept of aging at home and certain governments setting targets of creating accessible cities within the next decade. For instance, the vision of the Norwegian Government is that Norway shall be universally designed by 2025. These developments closely concern the future of the bathroom industry.
There are numerous projects and programmes aimed at making homes safe and comfortable for seniors and disabled individuals. And in this context, one of the issues at the top of the agenda is the bathroom layout. Besides risks associated with wet surfaces, health problems and other special needs might require modifications to or complete refitting of bathrooms. For example the “Disabled Facilities Grant”in the UK offers support to disabled and senior citizens who need to make modifications in their homes. In countries such as Belgium, France and Germany the cost of home modifications are paid in the form of tax deductions or direct support.
When we suggested to work on the concept of “design for all” to other departments in the company, we knew that this was more than just an approach to design. The concept should also transform into a product development and marketing strategy. The growing number of studies particularly on ageing populations providing statistics like in the example above, the concept’s coherence with the VitrA brand values as well as the feedback from sales teams in Ger- many and UK encouraged us to make such a move.
“VitrA for All” Concept
We work closely with colleagues from the marketing, communication and product development teams on all our projects. As the design department we are in the position that guides the process and ensures inter-departmental communication. Since we first brought the Design for All concept on the agenda other departments have openly embraced this issue and this is very encouraging for us.
To have a portfolio backed up by the principles of universal design means a better bathroom experience for very diverse user types and makes it possible to have bathrooms that can adapt to our changing needs throughout a lifetime. Based on this approach, we decided to emphasise the idea that VitrA is a brand that always stands by its users and this ultimately gave birth to the “VitrA for All” Concept.
Think about it – even users without any physical disabilities go through childhood, age, suffer temporary or lifelong diseases, gain weight, get pregnant, or help their siblings and elders in the bathroom. Also, people from different generations using the same bathroom at home. In this context we have developed messages that support this motto. These are:
- VitrA cares about every user and their specific needs.
- VitrA cares about the future of users.
- VitrA manufactures products suitable for all age groups and health conditions.
- VitrA has a product range that suits users from different age groups and needs.
- VitrA aims to design products that provide the same performance and comfort to all user types.
- VitrA regards all users equally.
Having these in mind, we set our main objective to be: VitrA aims to design usable and safe products to satisfy different user groups without making them feel “different”. Our first step was to evaluate existing products and determine our shortcomings. For this task we employed product assessment tables that were developed according to the principles of universal design.
We created two main groups for our products that fit the definition of the “VitrA for All” Concept:
- The Performance group features products designed according to specific standards in order to meet the needs of the physical- ly impaired (like the wheelchair compatible special needs WC pan).
- The Comfort group includes products that will improve the bath- room experiences of different user types (like the walk-in shower area with a shower channel).
In this way, it is easier to understand which user groups we can include and what should be the next steps.
After having provided the necessary analyses and classifications, our achievements have been summarised below:
- A bathroom collection consists of a product range that is determined according to different styles and income groups. Different products from the same collection share a common essence in terms of design. Products for disabled use are usually classified under a custom group rather than being featured in a particular collection. In order to change this, we have added faucets for disabled use in our most recent collections. Our aim was to meet the standards without compromising the common design language and aesthetics that transpire in the collection. We intend to maintain this logic for future project briefings and in doing so adopt an approach that embraces different income groups.
- Another initiative is to kick-start an extension project for a bathroom collection that came on the market two years ago. The collection that was marketed with a family theme was quite fit to include products aimed family members with different needs. We are working with Finnish design office Pentagon for this series that will be released in 2017.
We are well aware that it is difficult for users to go beyond physical abilities and age related psychological barriers. Experiences suggest that such people refrain from installing additional modules such as grab rails due to these barriers, which would otherwise improve safety in the bathroom. There are certain reasons for this. First of all these accessories mostly look as if they have been removed from a hospital environment. Second, they look out of place next to other bathroom installations. In our opinion another hurdle is that the primary users of these products do not have an access to variety in design. We aim to go beyond that. The collection we are developing with Pentagon feature grab rails, washbasins and bathroom furniture which look appealing and still meet the necessary standards. In order to overcome the barrier of feeling “different”we plan to use the products developed in scope of this project alongside existing bathroom collections.
- In scope of the Design for All perspective we are also working on comfortable (with seating function) and easily accessible shower spaces. It is clear for all of us that shower areas can be risky, even for young and healthy individuals. That is why we are working on a number of ideas to reduce these risks. In designing these products we always try to keep in mind scenarios where individuals require assistance in the shower (families with children, physically impaired individuals).
Design for All is not a practice that is constrained by standards or rules, it is an innovative process. I personally think that we will succeed in creating an improved bathroom experience and reach more users as we keep on studying and following developments in this area.
Events & Activities
“VitrA is creating the bathroom of the future with your stories”,
2014 Istanbul Design Biennial
Our first event linked with this topic happened at the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial under the main theme “The Future Is Not What It Used To Be”. The theme of our display area developed with the support of Assistant Associate Berrak Karaca Şalgamcıoğlu was “VitrA is creating the bathroom of the future with your stories”. We wanted to let users know that we value their ideas and experiences in this area. This is why we encouraged them to share their bathroom experiences with us. We tried to give visitors inspiration by displaying some of the feedback and exhibiting products that were designed accordingly. The notepaper in the form of toilet rolls was soon flood- ed with funny, surprising and, most importantly, inspiring input. I read each and every one of these notes and prepared a report to share with my colleagues in other departments. It was a mind opening experience to read user notes on their personal relations with the bathroom and the problems they faced. It was really exciting to read poetry on the toilet seat and see remarks like “home is where you go to the toilet comfortably”.
“Bathrooms We Share”Workshop, 2014, Istanbul Design Biennial
The “Bathrooms We Share” Workshop that took place as part of the same biennial gave us the opportunity to collaborate with participants to analyse our experiences on public toilets. Participants clas- sified public toilets and shared their personal observations and prob- lems. The main objective of the workshop was to analyse public toi- lets in detail rather than seek solutions to problems. I can confident- ly say that the information obtained was very eye opening.
VitrA For All Area, ISH Bathroom Fair, Frankfurt 2015
ISH is undoubtedly the most important international fair in the sector and in 2015 we created two bathroom settings for the “VitrA for All”Concept. Participants’interest was greater than ever thanks to a warm, stylish and lively concept presentation. We are already making preparations for ISH 2017 using our new products.
VitrA For All Area, Unicera Bathroom Fair, 2016
Back in March 2016 we developed a “VitrA for All”area at the Unicera Bathroom Fair in Istanbul with the slogan “VitrA – home to products designed for changing needs”. By using icons representing different user types next to each product, we aimed to emphasise that a single product could actually be used by a variety of users with the same degree of comfort.
Notes about the process
VitrA is the first company to manufacture special needs bathroom products in Turkey. In this regard VitrA is familiar with ergonomic criteria and has a certain degree of background knowledge, however, Design for All is a concept that is relatively new to most of us and that is why it can take longer than expected to develop and test ideas and ultimately create new products. I think two points are quite important for a company which intends to adopt design for all approach:
- To understand & explain how the “Design for all” concept is different from the concepts of Accessibility or Barrier Free: It is very important to understand that having custom products for disabled people is not an adequate criterion to lay claims on this concept.
- It is crucial to effectively brief sales teams who are in direct contact. For example, although the risk of slipping or the need to sit in the shower area can be valid for all users, the way these products are presented may prevent better sales figures. In my opinion an effective marketing strategy and purchasing experience can make the product appealing for a wider audience.
- There were two main sources of motivation for us during the development of the “VitrA for All” Concept: Being one of the first brands to talk about this concept in Turkey and stepping forward as the pioneers of the Turkish bathroom industry. While most of our domestic and foreign competitors chose to communicate with an emphasis on senior and disabled use products, we preferred to adopt a broader approach. We want to spread this approach and encourage other brands to follow suit. This is why it is important to lead the way and remain in- formative. So it is not surprising that our design and communications departments work thoroughly on our corporate communication methods.
- We aim to design practical and accessible products that are compatible with the bathroom during the phase the individual is going through. Making changes in the bathroom is not usually straightforward. Our aim is to design products that can adapt to different stages in our lives with just simple modifications rather than having to break down walls for example.
- One of the first steps to take from hereon is to achieve a better understanding of “VitrA for All” concept throughout the company. We intend to inform all our colleagues with the help of presentations and communication materials.
- Reaching out to professionals (including architects, interior designers and designers) is rather important so that living spaces are designed with this perspective in mind. The guideline we are currently preparing in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University Lab4livingaims to provide information and inspiration to professionals about the concept of “ageing in the same house”.
- Our long term objective is to liaise with state institutions in Turkey to raise awareness on this matter and, in the long-term, lay the foundations for state-funded bathroom renovation projects. We continue to work on this topic.
To be working for the development and application of the “VitrA for All” Concept is undoubtedly the most exciting of my responsibilities. In an age where the future is shaped on experiences, it is no longer adequate for brands and designers to develop ideas based on standard user profiles. I believe that listening and being equal to everyone will take us a step closer to a more liveable and sustainable existence.
EczacıbaşıBuilding Products Division-VitrA
The EczacıbaşıBuilding Products Division operates globally and owns a total of 15 manufacturing facilities: 9 spread out over Germany, Russia and France and 6 in Turkey. Combined, these factories produce an average of 5 million ceramics sanitaryware, 36 million square meters of ceramic and wall tiles, 370 thousand modules of bathroom furniture, 3 million faucets, 350 thousand bathtubs, 2,5 million bathroom accessories, 150 thousand concealed cisterns and 550 thousand WC pan seats and covers every year.
With a wide range of products and an extensive distribution net- work, EczacıbaşıBuilding Products Division currently exports its products to more than 75 countries. It has become a globally recognised supplier of bathroom products and tiles through acquiring the Engers Keramik, Villeroy & Boch Fliesen and Burgbad, alongside VitrA.
The VitrA design department comprises a versatile team of professionals from a wide variety of disciplines who carry out research on design and consumer value trends and develop functional, ergonomic and aesthetic products that anticipate future needs. In addition to bathroom products and complete bathroom solutions, the team designs tiles, visual aids and exhibition spaces.
Roberta Null, Universal Design: Principles and Models, 2014
World Health Organisation, Fact Sheet No: 404, 2015, September
Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, The
Delta Centre, “Trends in Universal Design” report, 2013
About the Author
Nisan Tunçak graduated from Istanbul Technical University, Industrial Products Design Department in 2011. During her degree, she studied at Politecnico di Torino as an exchange student. Since graduating she has been working at the bathroom design department for EczacıbaşıBuilding Products focusing on bathroom product design, trend studies and design strategies. Tunçak also continues to work on adapting the Design for All principles to bathroom settings in scope of the “VitrA for All”concept, which she played a leading role in its establishment.
This article originally appears in Design for All Institute of India June 2016 (GAATES) Vol-11 No-6.
by Thea Kurdi
Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES)
Creating accessible built environments – that are actually accessible – is almost as much of a challenge today as it was years ago when the first technical requirements addressing accessibility for the built environment were addressed in building codes, standards and accessibility guidelines. Certainly there have been breakthroughs in our society’s understanding of what accessibility means, some progressive research indicating what dimensional requirements are actually needed for people using assistive equipment, and even movement at the government level in the form of new legislation and cyclical changes to building codes. Despite all these positive changes, the new building projects reviewed for accessibility during the design phase continue to have many of the same issues encountered years ago. Certainly some problems persist due to attitudinal bias, and many others are due to insufficient training in schools of architecture about accessible and universal design. Yet it must be recognized those can’t be the only reasons.
This past year I set out to determine if I could discover what is hindering our progress and find the cause, or causes, of so many of the common mistakes. It seemed that the issues must be occurring before the design phase where accessibility specialists do most of our consulting. Speaking to clients seemed the best place to start. These conversations quickly revealed that the biggest obstacles were items that had a space requirement in conflict with the spatial allowances listed in architectural programming, an earlier step in the process for creating a building. Following up on this information, and in speaking with contacts at a well-respected architectural programming firm, it was surprising to learn that there is no one typical process for establishing room space requirements.
Image used by GAATES with permission, and with thanks. Image by Tiffanni Reidy, Interior Designer
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) defines architectural programming as, “[the] thorough and systematic evaluation of the interrelated values, goals, facts, and needs of a client’s organization, facility users, and the surrounding community.” In summary, an architectural program identifies and prioritizes client and user values, determines project goals, and also identifies project constraints and opportunities[²].
Who is responsible for creating space requirements? Typically this work is undertaken by building owners and property developers who often do not have the training, awareness of the need for, or knowledge about accessibility and the principles of universal design. For larger corporations and government projects, a great deal of time is spent on space planning during early building stages, as Master Planning or Feasibility Studies. Smaller buildings with smaller budgets, space planning and programming is frequently done by the architect prior to the design phase.
The size of a building is based on the total of the rooms and spaces which are required for the building’s use. Determining the size of each space starts with deciding how many people the space is to accommodate, choosing the equipment and furniture required, and then designing a typical room layout which establishes the amount of physical space or square footage required. When all room types have been designed and calculated, the programming stage determines the size of the future building by adding up how many of each room is desired with the additional space need for circulation, which include corridors, stair cases, and elevators, etc.
If accessibility requirements are included in space planning, they typically only meet the basic requirements of the current building code. By the time the building gets to the design phase a year or two later, the accessibility provisions are usually out of date or insufficient because the building codes they were based on have changed or the items included to be accessible were not extensive enough to meet the building owners and stakeholders accessibility needs.
How could accessibility in space allowances be missed so often? There are many reasons, but this article will focus on addressing perhaps the two most important. First, as indicated by the nature of the problem, accessibility specialists are not consulted during the space planning or programming phases. Second, and just as important, only building code requirements are considered instead of future population demographics, which means the full range of functional abilities and needs are not considered.
Globally, there are over 1 billion persons with disabilities. Using Canada as a ‘typical’ developed country, Statistics Canada indicates that 14% of the Canadian population are people with disabilities, a percentage that we are told will increase to 25% by 2025. By the summer of 2014 in Canada, there were already more older persons (aged 65+) than children under the age of 15. We know older persons are more likely that younger people to not only live with one type of disability, but typically two or three as they continue to age. Experts in health also tell us that we can expect that by 2025, approximately 25% of our population will be overweight and obese – which means they will have additional spatial and dimensional requirements beyond what codes currently accommodate. According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction.
In addition, approximately 70% of disabilities are ‘invisible’ which means that people with some disabilities do not need to use assistive equipment that distinguishes them from the able- bodied. Statistics are also not collected for the percentage of the population that has a temporary disability due to a change in health, accidents and illness.
Making all spaces in our buildings accessible is not just a human right, but supported by our demographics. Our statistical information does not clearly support this conclusion because of how the data is collected. The number of people with disabilities is not based on an objective or knowledgeable source, like from our doctors, but instead only relies on each of us to self-identify as having a disability which of course will be inaccurate. The number of people who would benefit from accessible design is clearly not known and appears to be far greater than we design for.
By ignoring or not accounting for the space needs of persons with disabilities and older persons as a part of the population of people who use all of the spaces in our structures at the beginning of the building process, it is clear why during the design phase architects often feel that making the built environment accessible is difficult, expensive, and frustrating. When accessibility spatial requirements are addressed so late in the process, architects and building owners are often forced to make difficult choices about where this space can be taken from. Resentment and hostility is not an uncommon reaction, and frustration often leads to blaming people with disabilities or claims that these space needs are ridiculous and unjustified.
If we want to stop building discrimination into our built environment and finally make significant progress for accessibility, the process for creating buildings needs to start including accessibility requirements from the very beginning. When space allowances are allocated and included during the programming phase, the problems and limitations that currently obstruct accessibility in the design phase will be gone and the improvements in accessibility for all types of buildings will be immediate.
6 http://glassescrafter.com/information/percentage-population- wears-glasses.html
About the Author
Thea Kurdi (GAATES member) is an accessibility code consultant and universal design specialist for the built environment. Thea has over fifteen years of experience practicing and teaching accessible architecture with a specialization in universal design. In her role as an accessibility consultant, Thea has assisted design teams realize the benefits of universal design and achieve higher levels accessibility on projects within the health care, education, justice, institutional, commercial, residential, and entertainment sectors.
Thea has presented workshops and participated in conferences, educating design professionals, building owners, and policy makers about universal design of the built environment. She has also had several articles published exploring convergences in accessible and green design as well as how to improve the accessibility outcomes in the built environment.
This article originally appears in Design for All Institute of India May 2016 (Prof Pekka Harni, Finland) Vol-11 No-5.
by PEKKA HARNI | Professor, Architect, Designer, Finland
CULTURAL EVOLUTION OF OBJECTS AND BUILT ENVIRONMENT
The slow evolution of handcrafted artefacts and buildings from the Stone Age to the initial stages of industrial manufacturing has shaped many of our best objects. It was simple, ecological, practical and functional, but at the same time, it was able to spread the cultural values and express inner beauty in the most authentic manner.
Traditional buildings and artefacts in different parts of the world compliment their own surroundings, local climate, materials, and culture harmoniously. They are created from the necessity for survival and based on potentials of the available local materials. Furthermore, they are inspired by local traditions and a deeper understanding of it.
Since objects are created by man, they reflect the needs and values of their own time. Architecture and design express personal, local and international cultural values and meanings. Instrumental needs and their continuous changes impact the forms and properties of tools. Fashion, changing values and lifestyles, as well as technologies are always looking for new forms and tools.
Since the industrial revolution which commenced in the latter part of the 1760’s, the development of technology and applied innovations leads to the use of new tools and tool systems.
Our most recent objects are often products of commercialised technological innovations and increasingly rarely developed from any real individual human needs or cultural aims. Therefore, some of our new tools no longer promote human life in any comprehensive manner but instead restrict its scope. Moreover, tools increasingly dictate our way of life and dominate our whole culture, in addition to consuming and destroying our natural resources.
Consumption has been increased by creating artificial needs, weakening the quality and durability of utility objects, making object irreparable, and by marketing short-lived novelties and bric-a-brac.
The faster circulation of goods reflects man’s inability to gain any clear picture of his own needs. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to distinguish between what they themselves want and what they are wanted to want.1
Some people may think, that all new innovations are good for human society. Unfortunately, not all of them improve the quality of life or bring human culture to a higher level.
Every new innovation threatens the balance of existing organisations.2 The result can be either good or bad or somewhere in-between. In the worst case, a new innovation which solves one problem can cause unforeseen new problems in other areas.
However, we can hardly know the consequences of inventions in advance. At worst, they will alienate us from our original experiences of the environment or become artificial substitutes for them. Modern technology often has the basic characteristic of physically isolating people instead of connecting them.
The modern hospital environment is a typical example of this phenomenon, where fewer nurses can take care of a larger amount of patients by using modern control devices and robotics. To save money, modern technology also makes it possible to leave old people alone, while they are all remotely under control!
For most consumers, modern tools naturally give new and ever more amazing experiences, expanding human operative possibilities in many different ways.
At the same time, they foster inequality by leaving whole groups of people outside the new opportunities provided by means and tools. Barriers are not only physically existing. New digital technologies, for example, can create new psychological barriers and isolate some groups of people and make them outsiders.
If present-day technologies could be better applied to real human needs, and with respect for local culture, completely new opportunities would arise.
DESIGN FOR SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY
In the future, all the objects and buildings must consume less energy and material resources. We must gain more from less, minimise the use of energy and material resources and create the same services more efficiently from renewable materials with less and less pollution.
We do not necessarily need revolutions, we need considered fine tuning of existing organisations, and the raising up of the qualities of the human life. New tools and new tool systems must be fitted to the existing environment and to the socio-cultural context of it.
Design and architecture can also express and underline diverse minorities and their rights and create new positive ways of action. They can demonstrate indirectly through new solutions that things can be made differently in more sustainable ways. In sustainable design, for example, design can be a strategical concept instead of the materialistic outcome.
It can be utilised in the re-evaluation of organisations, ways of acting, the cultural and social dimensions of sustainability and services.
INCLUSIVE DESIGN FOR ALL
The function of an object is always related to its user and to its environment and manner of use. Its ultimate functioning properties can only be defined from the perspective of the individual user and the situation of use; moreover from the very moment when a person uses a particular object in a particular setting.
Even design aimed solely at the average consumer finds it hard to take into account the differences of people using the objects, their individual needs, limitations and habits – not to mention minorities or different cultures.
Together with their real users, individual objects and the space in which they are located form the functional entity in which all the parts are, at best, in strictly defined organic interaction with each other. Most objects are necessary only at the moment when they are being used. At other times, they are in the way or lost, consuming valuable space around us, the empty space in which we operate. Far too often, the wrong users use their wrong choice of objects in the wrong place and in the wrong ways. Not everything is realised as it was planned in advance! The essential aspect is for people to be able to choose the right tools for their specific environment and life situation and the intended purpose.3
There must be enough political will that supports people who are socially disadvantaged or with disabilities and the professional planners shall be employed in a correct way. Designers and architects should be sensitive to respond to the various diversities of the individual needs of different minorities in different cultures, climates and locations. It is also important to understand the essential differences of the level of requirements in private, semi-public and public spaces and areas.
Unfortunately, the formal rules and regulations are preventing us from applying creative problem-solving for individual and local needs to the final design solution in some cases. Therefore, the formal rules are often lowering the quality of the final result. People with disabilities must also have the right to enjoy individually good architecture and design, and badly made inflexible rules may not spoil it.
Not being a specialist on Design for All myself, but I have the impression that some of the regulations for the barrier-free environment are not always based on any scientific or practical design research. In the worst case, the regulations are just copied from other countries without any careful adaptation to the local conditions?
Many times, dizzy old people lose their balance and fall down, hit their head and get injured, especially in a bathroom or toilet that is made for a wheelchair-access because there are no nearby walls to lean on. Why on the earth, the wheelchair turning circle diameter varies in different countries? Some countries recommend 140 cm and some others 150 cm? Is this because of the various local conditions? And why many guidelines recommend a very big and heavy door like 90 cm wide for a wheelchair access. Is this good design for all? Could it be more reasonable to divide the big door opening, for instance, in two different smaller sizes of doors, or to replace it with a sliding door?
Or should we think more openly to find fully new alternative solutions instead of just basic doors and wheelchairs? Automatic doors already exist, and there are new robotic “wheelchairs” (with or without wheels) which can also go through stairs. Do we always need to apply the newest and often expensive technologies, or can we solve these problems in more simple and sustainable way? Also, very simple, economical and low-tech solutions for new types of wheelchairs exist. Would it be cheaper and more efficient to develop a better “wheelchair” than to make all the flats in this world completely barrier-free?
It is a fine ideal that homes are designed for whole life long. Everybody at any age or condition can live in the same flat as long as possible. However, in some European countries, very strict design rules demand that all the new apartment houses with more than three stories must be equipped with lifts. Lifts and accessible bathrooms in every flat are making apartment houses very expensive.
In other countries in Europe, there are more flexible strategies. In Austria for instance, apartments can be built in that way that each flat can have a separated toilet and bathroom, however they are planned in advance to be easily combined as a barrier-free bathroom later in a short time, whenever needed, just by removing a light separating wall.
It is obvious that some of this barrier-free accessibility guidelines must be very soon updated. Instead of the unreasonably formal building regulations, professional designers and architects should be allowed to have more flexibility to apply alternative solutions for those challenges. This could also create new smart flexible solutions and conceptual models.
Design for All must be inclusive, functional, culturally long-lasting and beautiful, considering sustainable design, accessible environment, minorities, and cultural diversity.
- Bosquet, Michel (André Gorz), 1977. Écologie et liberté, Éditions Galilée, Paris.
- McLuhan, Marshall, 1964. Understanding media: The Extensions of Man 1st Ed. McGraw Hill, New York.
- Harni, Pekka, 2010. Object Categories: Typology of Tools. Aalto University School of Art and Design Publication, Helsinki.
Steadman, Philip, 1979. The evolution of designs, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
About the Author
Pekka Harni is an architect MSc. and industrial designer MA., who works widely on applied art, furniture design, and architecture. He lives and works in Helsinki. Collaborating with industrial designer Yuka Takahashi since 2002 at their own studio, Harni – Takahashi Ltd. design & architecture. Pekka Harni has designed products for leading design companies, like Arabia / Fiskars, Marimekko, and Artek in Finland, Satira in Portugal etc.
He studied architecture at the University of Innsbruck, later in Vienna University of Technology in Austria and in Tampere University of Technology, Finland; as well as, industrial design in the University of Art and Design Helsinki in Finland in 1979–1985.
He has been teaching at the University of Art and Design (now Aalto University) in Helsinki since 1988. He has been a visiting lecturer in several European design universities and a leader of several design workshops in Europe and worldwide.
His study about morphological “object categories”, delves into the possibility of dividing basic home objects into seven main categories, that correspond to different functional and morphological categories of objects, has already been applied in several European design schools. This study is published by Aalto University in his book “Object Categories” in 2010.
In 1999, he received the Design Plus Award from the Ambiente Frankfurt Fair. In 2011, he was awarded as “the industrial designer of the year” by the Finnish Designers association. Since 2012, he is Artist Professor for 10 years, appointed by the Arts Council of Finland.
see also: www.harni-takahashi.com P
How to enhance everyday understanding among different users and cultures
This article originally appears in Design for All Institute of India May 2016 (Prof Pekka Harni, Finland) Vol-11 No-5.
by SANNA SIMOLA | Designer, Researcher, Finland
In this reflection I will discuss challenges of creating public services and communication forms that should reach all recipients in equal way. In 2012-2014, a working group of design and accessibility experts was gathered by the Finnish Ministry of Transports and Communication to rethink the guidelines for accessible communication. The imminent EU directive on WCAG 2.01 created need for a new guide to be distributed for all the Finnish public and private enterprises creating web content and public services, using information tools and strategies from the simplest to the most complex ones.
GOOD EVERYDAY DESIGN AND INTUITIVE INTERFACES
Design is a great form of non-verbal communication, and in many cases it reaches universal multicultural audiences with no need to question “What is this for? How can I use this?”. The main purpose of good everyday design is to make mass-produced things, public services and systems understandable to all, so that you can easily know how to handle different artifacts, interfaces and tools to get your operations done, preferably with joy and pleasure. Unfortunately, you need to interact with many public systems and websites which don’t meet any common usability criteria or logical synthesis of forms and functions. The problems of accessibility (when design is for nobody) are mainly due to lack of design knowledge among service providers and public procurement of goods and services.
upper: highway ticket machine, Italy
lower: vending machine of the electric fare cards for the public transportation, Istanbul. Both are difficult to use without knowing locallanguage.
When the interaction with computers and other (smart) devices started to challenge our cognitive skills, it was popular to speak about interfaces.2 Vending machines, domestic appliances and remote controls preceded the virtual world of our PCs. Good usability became a mainstream issue in industrial design: how to make complex things simple and clear, understandable to everyone. User- friendliness meant products that don’t need massive manuals or courses to learn their functions. You don’t need to be an engineer to domesticate new technologies. You should not feel stupid every time you try to encrypt a strange interface in public services: it’s the design made without usability criteria that is stupid.
The Finnish company Nokia became a market leader when it produced the first mobile phones that were easy to use. When the models became too many and too complicated,3 the company lost its market position. At the same time Apple’s iPhone (just one model in two colours) started to sell world wide for the same reason of simplicity (as beauty): it was easy to learn to use it, even if the touch-screen was a radically new interface innovation. Furthermore you could adapt it to many special needs, like those of visually impaired users. Apple was already usability design leader, well-known for its great Macintosh interfaces and stylish designs, that was always a nice surprise to consumers.
But what is making an easy-to-use interface so nice, intuitive and good? Why don’t we apply a similar design concept or navigation principles to all the websites and online information of public services as well? Why do we think that bad design might be more cost-effective? Or not design at all?
In 2016 we have devices that can be adapted to a fantastic amount of uses with images, sound, video, tv, navigation tools and much more. But how many of us can really own smart phones and tablets – and know how to use them?
EQUALITY, DIVERSITY, USER EXPERIENCE, AND WCAG 2.0 EU DIRECTIVE
In 2012-2014 my colleague from Cities for All Helsinki project,4 Sami Virtanen, Special Advisor on Accessibility at the Finnish Federation of Hard of Hearing, had the task to form a working group of design and accessibility experts for the Finnish Ministry of Transports and Communication to create guidelines (for a new guidebook) on accessible communication facing the challenge of the new EU directive on WCAG 2.0 – to be distributed for all the Finnish public and private enterprises providing web content and public services, using information tools and strategies from the simplest to the most complex ones. The group agreed very soon, that the topic of accessible communication can not be limited to web content, because it would discriminate against those not having the latest (smart) equipment. Actually, it would be a new form of disability not being able to access to the internet from home, or not having the requested broadband speed in the area.
Today, many of the traditional face-to-face services are becoming virtual internet-based pages: you need to navigate alone, and serve yourself. This may not be a problem to a younger digitally native generation, but the ageing population with little experience in computing is getting lost with this speed of change and lack of modern devices. Not every citizen is having the same equipment to follow the public services switching in the internet. And if they have, they may have problems in navigation and interaction with badly designed web pages.
How many times do you feel a strong frustration when trying to find the main issue on a corporate web page – hidden in a jungle of all possible menus from recruitments to corporate history? If you want to travel by train, you need the timetable and maybe the tickets to buy, not all the trivial information about the company. In Finland, for example, the state railway company is closing the traditional ticket selling desks and insisting all travellers buy their tickets online and show them on the train with their smartphones. How about the tourists?
DIGITAL CUSTOMIZATION AND MULTICHANNEL ENGINEERING
Some users need adaptive technologies and supporting “applications” to follow TV and web content with their PCs and TVs. These accessibility resources, such as graphic user interface concerns for blind computer users have been widely studied,5 but this knowledge published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is not widely spread among web design service producers, providers and customers. The new EU directive on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.0 is challenging the public sector to adopt new accessibility regulations and to create all the information content respecting sensorial and cognitive diversities. You can consider the hard of hearing with subtitles and volume options, give a video-box in sign-language for the deaf who cannot read, and produce written material in forms that can be translated in Braille display or auditive forms, like synthesised speech. And last but not least, how to communicate in a multicultural society where just one language or alphabet type is not enough?
The guidelines to accessible communication for all, are not only technicalities of “translations” or software adaptations to consider. When not speaking about special adaptive designs for minorities, but about inclusive design considerations in mass produced items, services, and environments, how could we enhance the use of basic good design principles to make one solution to fit better to all? This means different social groups, different generations and levels of education, and cultural diversity. A senior citizen with bad sight and hearing problems, and e.g. no knowledge of foreign languages, or no command of computer skills, may have feelings of lost independence with badly designed information and service environments. This can happen to each and every one of us. The communication design of public sector needs better follow-up by design professionals, because the key answer to shared spaces and services is to make them work for a majority, considering properly the problems of minorities, as part of the whole.
Too many manuals are made too heavy and repulsive looking instead of making them beautiful and inspiring. The use of information graphics and information architecture is the best way to start putting together “instructions for use” and tips for creating good communication materials. Furthermore, the world and the web is full of useful information, but we don’t know how to find it. The wise suggestions by the users with disabilities can be worked out by software developers and designers outside the academic research groups when the usability data is available. How to obtain information about these existing sources?
Above: Audio guide for blind & visually-impaired, Vienna
What you need is an address, a map and a portal to go further in. To be accessible for all, a guide should be published open source on the internet and downloadable in many different pages. And to be effective, it should be like a map, connecting useful links all over the world. To not get immediately outdated, a guide should be continuously updated by those who develop new solutions and services: that’s why the open source publishing in accessibility issues is important. One gate or portal to reach successive deeper research links. The beauty of internet-based services is in their intercultural potential: web translators help us and google search helps us further on. We can’t deny the importance of good coaching in the matter, so that every professional in communications business could be aware of accessibility issues.
TOOLS OF VISUAL DESIGN, INFO DESIGN AND SIGNAGE
Many of you may have seen the bubble chart graphics by the Swedish company Gapminder with Dr. Hans Rosling: global surveys visualised greatly with animated statistics. The idea of complex issues shown in very immediate and impressive visuals works greatly with our perception of amounts. The power of info graphics and pictograms should be considered and recognised better in public services and web designs.
A public interface or information should always be designed to beginners’ level. Order, clarity and plain, concise communication. When words are not understood or quick enough to read, an image can tell much more. Maps, signs, and instructions for use, are great examples of common signage; such as traffic signs, safety instructions and labels warning with symbols, icons and colours.
Above: Toilet sign with embossed letters and braille in a huge hall. Are you really going to touch the doors to find the right toilet? Heathrow airport, UK
Above: Highly visible toilet- signs at airports in Lyon and Helsinki
Above: Highly visible toilet- signs at airports in Lyon and Helsinki
Above: DIY WC sign, Warsaw
Pictorial languages have been successfully developed to help children with learning difficulties. One of these methods is the Canadian Bliss language, working with PCs, while the Finnish Imagetalk6 was adapted to mobile devices by Nokia and others. The study of the correctly designed metaphors is a professional design task, to make illustrations work smoothly on multichannel devices.
The use of visual language, the meanings of metaphors-be they symbols, icons or indexes-might help in this global jungle of intercultural communication. We know how washing instructions can fit in a stamp-size label in our garments. The symbols tell us exactly what we need to know. An opposite case is food packaging with the same text in several languages: more languages you add, less you can read, because the font size decreases. At the end, we have the same information in 7 invisible languages instead of one well visible information with symbols or icons.
Above: Bus platform with airport connection at the Helsinki central railway station. Why is the air- plane icon not on the top instead of the multiple languages? Overlapping number systems are confusing.
Above: Bronze map for blind and visually–impaired people. This is more like a tactile sculpture and you just happen to find it. Rome, Italy
Today we have a new diversity problem with refugees who can not read or write at all, and whose own language is written in a different way. The Finnish society is a very reading and text-based one: children start to read early, they are used to reading the subtitles in TV programs as well, and the school-examinations are almost never oral. This is different from Southern Europe, which is more auditive and emotive, less silent and more expressive. You may speak loudly with your hands and touch the person you are speaking to – something that might violate the invisible personal distance of nordic individuals. We have lots of cultural “registers” to consider in communication issues (what you can do or not, what can be misunderstood, misinterpreted and lost in translation). Maybe we can face these culturally bound values with studies of affective communication and find new solutions with wearable computing, channelling the “correct message” to the beholder of the culturally adapted device. Meanwhile we are creating signs with graphics and alphanumerical invitations to obey our culturally bound rules. We do it with our outlooks as well. Every little thing can be a message. And even if we don’t mean it, someone else can get it as a message and misunderstand it. The semantic values are culturally bound.
Above: Clothing recommendation for the holy place, Istanbul
No Sitting signs, left: Istanbul, right: Venice
Mason ad is taped on old mationary work, Venice
Above: WC sign: men with skirt and women with trousers, Istanbul
Above: Toilet sign, not so accessible…, Venice
COMMON MISTAKES WHEN DESIGNING WITH DIVERSITY
My impression is, that many times, when solving inclusion problems, a real design process is lacking and there is a mere translation of the “normal” or a technological adaptation: like Braille or other tactile signs in impossible sizes and places, a map in a place that you cannot find, a signage to touch in odd and dirty places, instead of one to read with your stick on the ground. A text or web page may appear without a proper layout or use of basic graphic design tools. It may also be so long that you lose the message.
When listening to a broadcast of news in plain language you hear a robot sounding voice without any colours or melody of a normal spoken language (that in my opinion makes you understand more even if you don’t understand that language: you can feel the moods). The experts (the ones who know the problems very well), and the users (the people with special needs or disabilities) should find the innovative solutions in co– design processes with professional designers who can see beyond the obvious.
I would like to conclude this communication accessibility issue stating that a great amount of things would become more accessible with a normal communication design practice. Some issues are engineering based software developments, but many others might work greatly with a little help of design thinking: The new multicultural challenges with the request of reading and writing in foreign language could be avoided by using cartoons, pictorial communication, and storytelling with videos.
Keep it simple is a very good advice in designing for all. Fortunately lots of things can be designed for different sizes and perception needs. And fortunately there are clever portable devices (such as eye- glasses, smartphones with navigation applications etc.) to adapt different physical conditions to the shared public environment.
Above: Pasta packages with too many languages
Above: Tactile paving for blind and visually-impaired pedestrians goes toward the wall.
Audio signage in Venice for tourists works greatly for visually-impaired and with the devices of the hard of hearing. The technology integrated in the paving is not disturbing the historical environ- ment. In Venice, there is an ancient way–finding system for pedestrians hidden in the paving: tiles in one direction are meaning direction San Marco (S. Marc Square) and in the other way the perpen– dicular “calles”.
“A new momentum for web accessibility is provided by the ratification of the convention by the EU in December 2010, the adoption of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), the finalisation of the work on standardization mandate 376 to incorporate accessibility in public ICT procurements, and the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on the accessibility of the public sector bodies’ websites.”
- Many great books by Donald A. Norman (founding Chair of the Dept of Cognitive Science at the University of California San Diego), from “Learning and Memory” (1982), and “The psychology of everyday things” (1988) to “The Invisible Computer” (1998). “Il Progetto delle interfacce” (1993 Domus Academy) edited by Giovanni Anceschi was an early Italian collection of articles about interaction and discourse between users and artifacts. In 1998, the first Finnish doctoral dissertation in industrial design on this subject was defended by Turkka Keinonen at UIAH with “One-dimensional usability”, a study on heart-rate monitors interfaces.
- The hierarchy of contents of our mobile devices should follow the main functions that a common user needs. So, the function of making a phone-call or writing a message should be quickly available, immediate, and never hidden under other choices like “utilities, tools, settings”. Moreover, we should have a basic standard calling principle in all the mobile phone models for reasons of security in cases of alarm.
- Cities for All Helsinki conference and exhibition were organised in the occasion of the WDC Helsinki 2012 with EIDD Design for All Europe, Finnish Association of Industrial Designers TKO/ Ornamo, The Finnish Federation of Hard of Hearing (Kuuloliitto), Avaava and Hahmo Design. The exhibition toured in Europe between 2012-2014. Read more on this newsletter issue May- June 2012.
- Information and Communication Technology Devices such as screen magnification software, screen reading software, computer controlled braille embossers, web-browsers for non-visual output etc.
http://ec.europa.eu/ipg/standards/accessibility/eu_policy/index_en.htm http://www.euroblind.org/resources/guidelines/nr/88 http://www.rnib.org.uk/knowledge-and-research-hub https://www.uiciechi.it
http://www.eud.eu/news/european-platform/partners/european-federation-hard-hearing-people/ http://www.hearinglink.org/connect/useful-organisations/useful-organisations-international/ http://www.mcmaster.ca/accessibility/info_communication.html
About the Author
Sanna Simola (Helsinki, Finland) is a design thinker, researcher and educator. She studied industrial design in Italy at the ISIA in Florence, graduating in 1988 with a thesis on design and wayfinding for the visually impaired that was supervised by Enzo Mari.
Since 1995, she has been active on the academic side of design, first teaching industrial design at the University of Lapland and more recently working on her doctoral thesis, “Design Diversities: Design as a System of Communication. Italy vs. Finland”, at the Aalto University in Helsinki.
Sanna has been active in the Finnish Association of Industrial Designers (TKO) since the early 1990s and has served as the organisation’s president for six years, in 2007–2012. In 2012 she served also as Vice–President of the Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo. In 2008–2012, Sanna served as a Member of the Board of BEDA (The Bureau of European Design Associations) and participated in EIDD Design for All Europe activities on behalf of Ornamo. On the occasion of the WDC Helsinki 2012 year, she organised the EIDD congress in Helsinki, hosted by Ornamo. As “Chairmama” of the Cities for All Helsinki conference organisation she was responsible for the international conference program content. She is the co-editor of a book about the history of the industrial design profession in Finland, published by TKO and Avain on the occasion of the first World Industrial Design Day in 2008.
Excerpts from: Design for All Institute of India, Special Issue, April 2016 (University at Buffalo - State University of New York), Vol. 11, No. 4
by Beth Tauke and Korydon Smith
University at Buffalo, School of Architecture and Planning, United States
Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him.-Mahatma Gandhi
Universal design (UD), sometimes called inclusive design or design for all, is one of the most important design movements of our time because of its emphasis on empowering all individuals, particularly those who otherwise have not had voice. Based on the principles of social justice, this global movement seeks to improve not only the built environment, but also social and institutional systems for the widest possible range of people.
This issue of Design for All, devoted to universal design education and research, features individuals who have dedicated themselves to social justice issues across an array of design disciplines— architecture, interior design, industrial design, urban design and planning. Contributors range from world-renowned UD educators and researchers to those at the beginning and mid-levels of their careers. Interviews, short essays, and longer articles provide a spectrum of viewpoints that offer new ways to think about universal design in our changing world. The issue begins with a personal reflection from Professor Craig Vogel, director of the well-known
Live Well Center at the University of Cincinnati, who tells the story of how a book and a boy with autism led him to a life-long career in inclusive design. Following this is a set of macro-level thoughts by Dr. Edward Steinfeld, director of the State University of New York at Buffalo’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA), the premier research center on universal design in the built environment, on the need to develop a global community of UD practice. As an experiential learning expert, Professor Mary Jane Carroll, Chair of the Interior Design Program at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada, introduces four essential elements of inclusive design education. Furthering discussion on the multi-disciplinary aspects of UD education and research, design anthropologist, Dr. Jo- Anne Bichard, writes about the importance of considering sustainability in relation to inclusive design. Recent graduate student, Kristen Gabriele expands on the social sustainability aspects of her thesis, which addressed improved housing design for transitional villages. Another recent inclusive design graduate student, Daniel Nead, summarizes his thesis, which examined the viability of re-using residual military equipment in Afghanistan to develop mobile classrooms for young girls who otherwise would not receive an education. Bridging the disciplines of universal design for learning (UDL) and UD, Professor Eric Dolph reveals the various ways that students learn in the design studio setting, and encourages inclusive teaching strategies. Dr. Jennifer Webb focuses her essay on workplace design changes, and the need to accommodate workers with various working/learning styles and physical abilities. The issue ends with Professors Kavita Murugkar’s and Abir Mullick’s comparative study, which explores the ways that those with vision loss understand form through touch. Clearly, a wide variety of topics are presented; yet all of the interviews, short essays, and longer articles allude to a common set of questions: How does universal design challenge our conventional concepts of making? How does UD affect the ways we teach, learn, research, and practice in ever-changing pluralistic conditions?
The contributors to this issue are leaders in moving the universal design paradigm from one focused primarily on accessibility to a broader concept that includes all marginalized groups–those with low income, victims of disaster, women, and others whose needs are often neglected in design. This new paradigm gives priority to providing a higher level of access, safety, and convenience in all products and places. Moreover, it extends UD to domains outside the built environment to include the design of systems, services, and business practices. This work is timely. According to Dr. Edward Steinfeld, several global trends are driving the need for new initiatives in inclusive design:
- The increasing diversity of societies in race, ethnicity, income, age, and disability
- The recognition that supporting social participation of women and minorities is a necessity to reduce discrimination and segregation, and increase independence
- The aging of the population, which is driving increases in disability rates throughout the world
- Devastation caused by disruptive natural and human-caused disasters that leave large populations in states of emotional and physical distress
- The globalization of business that is providing opportunities for positive change, but also leading to widening income gaps
- The rapid pace of technological change that is increasing the potential for design to make positive differences in people’s lives
- The crises in health care and education in many countries that demand innovative solutions, particularly in rural areas
- Population growth and rapid economic growth in developing countries that is taxing global resources, especially energy and food.
- Global warming that threatens major disruptions in ecosystems, especially along the seacoast.
Not only do these global transformations and attitude shifts indicate areas in which UD is needed, but they also open opportunities for education and research. For example, design curricula could include the areas of human diversity; health, safety, and wellness; sensory perception; and social justice as core elements of study for all students. Researchers could examine the gaps in knowledge about relief-system effectiveness in meeting the basic needs of victims of natural and human-made disasters. Studies that explore the roles of planning and local government policies in facilitating sustainable food systems could help to provide access to healthy food in marginalized communities. These few examples demonstrate the call for new ways of designing, and could drive efforts for change. Design disciplines have started to respond with organizations such as Design for Good, Design Action Collective, and Design Corps. However, it is the responsibility of UD educators and researchers to ensure that students and professionals are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skill to effectively practice design for social justice. Inclusive design methods provide the evidence base and critical details required to develop work that benefits the broader population. In that sense, universal design is a process of social construction – a representation and shaper of attitudes, values, customs and trends. The role of UD educators and researchers, then, is to identify and develop the knowledge needed for designers to best respond to social realities.Design educators, researchers, and practitioners need to understand these processes and their implications on one hand, and, by taking on leadership roles, develop new socially responsive visions of design on the other. In that way, inclusive designers assume catalytic roles in communities through work with positive societal impact, and become arbiters of change.
Beth Tauke, M.F.A
Korydon Smith, D.Ed
On inclusive design education and research
College of Design, Architecture. Art, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
I would define inclusive design as the ability to help others achieve their optimum potential. Everyone should also be able to achieve a state of flow that balances their ability with their challenges and opportunities.
When I was an undergraduate psychology student at Marist College, in Poughkeepsie New York, I volunteered and visited many of the public institutions in the region, from prisons to a facility that housed adults with cognitive disabilities. I had the opportunity to work with a boy with severe autism at Hudson River State Hospital. Needless to say, all these facilities were horrible places for humans to be “housed” and for people to work. I realized that David was not receiving the stimulation he needed through behavior modification therapy, and hoped that one day I could find a way to do better. Talking him for walks and talking to/with him was more stimulating than the therapy I was asked to use to get him to talk.
When I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I was accepted into the Master of Design Program at Pratt Institute. Shortly after starting the program at Pratt, the book Design for the Real World was published. It was Victor Papanek’s book that made me realize that I could connect my interest in improving the lives of people who were not well served through design. I have kept that promise to improve conditions for humans ever since. I also was raised in a three-generation family; my grandmother lived with us and later my great aunt also came to live with us as well. This experience made me aware of the differences and needs of children, middle age and older adults all living in one house in a diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn. The concepts of universal design and inclusive design were very easy for me to embrace because they gave a title and a definition to a world I had experienced most of life.
Individuals either turn away from opportunities to help people or sympathetically/empathetically embrace opportunities to reach out to those in need. I could have been appalled by the condition of the autism ward at Hudson River State where I found David. Instead, I responded to the fact that he needed help. Design gave me the tools to take insight and convert it into action to develop solutions. Design as a discipline for inclusive design starts with human beings and their needs, and works backward. Teaching and conducting research at several design programs and universities has allowed me to evolve my thinking and translational ability along with greater awareness in society with the growing recognition for embracing diversity on every level. I have been able to pass my interests and beliefs on to decades of students who, like me, embrace the ability to make a difference in people’s lives.
During my career the word ‘cripple’ evolved into the use of the term ‘disabled’; these terms were coupled first with words such as ‘accessibility’, ‘adaptive design’, and then evolved into ‘universal’ and ‘trans-generational design’. I believe the words‘ inclusive design’ match the conceptual evolution of designers’ and societies’ attitude and awareness of meeting the greater needs of society. Inclusive design implies solutions that embrace the greatest range of people. The term also covers the opposite approach to designing for specific needs with a non-stigmatizing approach.
Most of my career has been devoted to the goals of inclusive design but I have not been able to make it a sole focus until my recent opportunity in the College of Design, Architecture Art, and Planning (DAAP) at the University of Cincinnati (UC). For the past eight years, I have worked with others at UC and Proctor and Gamble to form the Live Well Collaborative. I have been able to take 20 years of experience and, with support, turn from being a fisherman to help to teach others to “fish” for inclusive opportunities. My recent work has been to establish a working with relationship with Children’s Hospital, which is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati. This work has been the most rewarding work of my career. I have also been able to connect this work to other universities in the world, specifically in China.
There are wonderful opportunities for designers in this century to continue to expand our concept of inclusive design. Social awareness and technology with appropriate economic support could continue to make inclusive design a globally integrated part of every society, for everyone across the lifespan and across economic levels. There are, however, also threats that come with ignorance, limited views of how resources should be allocated, and even if helping others in need is a valid practice. It is important to realize that the counter to inclusive design is the practice of exclusivity, and I would define it as the act of deciding who should not be included. This practice is going on throughout the world in every country. Inclusive design as an area began with serving the needs of people with limited physical and cognitive abilities. I have found that this concept can be expanded. Those of use who are perceived as “fully functional” often have short term and long term needs for inclusive design solutions. Steve Hawking is physically challenged and requires a wheel chair and artificial voice to talk. He is also one of the most influential thinkers of the past and present century. Many of us with limitations accept them and get on with life and have become acutely aware of the importance of valuing every moment. On the other extreme, Bruce Jenner was arguably one of the most abled individuals and an icon of the 20th century male when he won the decathlon gold medal in the Olympics. No one realized that he was dealing with his own challenge of feeling he was a women trapped in a man’s body. He is now a symbol of 21st century sexual awareness and inclusivity.
I think we have new dimensions of exclusive design that are threatening the basic assumption of what our connected global society could be. The most destructive force challenging inclusive design is political and religious rhetoric that preaches hate and attempts to define good and evil. The best exclusive design is not a luxury car for a limited elite; it is an individual with a cell phone and bomb vest. While growing up in Brooklyn, I was taught to fear communism and the atomic bomb. The A bomb was and is a weapon capable of killing hundreds of thousands. Today we fear a completely different scale of exclusivity and destruction. One or two humans with vests of limited destruction but complete mobility can paralyze a city. The current political rhetoric of division and isolation could derail all of the work of inclusive design that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. I remain committed to the goal of global inclusivity and fulfilling the mission that started when I volunteered to help David and failed, and was then enlightened by a book that gave me a path to potentially make a difference.
Craig Vogel, M.I.D. Associate Dean
Interview with Dr. Edward Steinfeld
Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA)
School of Architecture and Planning, University at Buffalo – State
University of New York Buffalo, New York United States
What do you believe to be the essential elements of inclusive design education?
All students need at least three courses in inclusive design with high quality, relevant readings and projects for each: 1) an introductory course for all university students that would get them interested in universal design. Diversity and Design: Understanding Hidden Consequences is a great text for that. 2) a foundational lecture course on universal design that provides concepts, identifies issues, and identifies best practices. We developed a textbook that can be used as the basic reading for such a course, Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments, and 3) a studio or clinical practice course, depending on the discipline. It is particularly important that these courses do not become courses on accessibility regulatory compliance. Such content should be part of a general course on regulatory issues, ideally taught to all students.
What do you see as the major challenges of the inclusive design field? How would you address these challenges?
Building a constituency is a major challenge. To do this, we need to change paradigms from legally mandated accessibility for people with disabilities to a broader approach to design that seeks to improve usability, health and social participation for all people, including those often marginalized and under-represented in the design process. We are addressing this challenge through university education, continuing education, improving codes and standards and development of a UD recognition program based on the adoption of clearly defined universal design strategies.
Building capacity to teach UD also is a challenge. Not many faculty in design schools really have adopted UD. They pay it lip service, but do not have the knowledge and skills needed to teach it in a comprehensive way and are not active in research. The solution is to provide advanced degrees with a concentration on UD for graduate students who want to become educators.
What do you see as the major opportunities of the inclusive design field? How would you address these opportunities?
Industry sees the value of universal design more so than the design professions. But, whatever the client wants, the professionals will do. So, finding early adopters among clients is the key to taking advantage of this interest. One way to do that is to publicize best practice examples and demonstrate their value through design research. Another is to organize communities of practice in UD among existing communities, e.g. housing, arts facilities, workplace environments, health facilities, etc.
What changes do you see on the horizon in inclusive design education?
Universal design is starting to take on a broader emphasis, going beyond the traditional disability focus to address issues of income disparity, health promotion, social integration and a broader approach to design participation
What changes do you see on the horizon in inclusive design research?
It is important for universal design researchers to increase emphasis on knowledge translation by mining the scientific literature. Research is needed that addresses priorities in practice and gaps in the literature, especially in the ambient environment, e.g. acoustics, lighting, thermal comfort, etc. In addition, research is needed that develops useful tools for practice, e.g. virtual and digital tools for incorporation in the design process.
What changes do you see on the horizon in inclusive design practice?
First, validation of UD knowledge is a next step. At the present time, anyone can say they practice universal design. I think there will be a move toward an accreditation or credentialing program to demonstrate that a practitioner really has the knowledge and skills needed to implement a UD approach.
Second, there needs to be a stronger community of practice in UD across the globe. Sharing information and coming together on key concepts and initiatives will help everyone achieve their goals more effectively. This is starting to happen.
What aspects of your inclusive design teaching/research/practice are most compelling and/or satisfying to you? Why?
I am encouraged to see the interest that students have in design for diversity. They are hungry for knowledge that they can use to solve real human problems that are evident all around them. While they value the technical skills they get in design education, aside from sustainable design, they are more interested in human problems. The educational establishment has not addressed differences related to the body, social class, race, culture and others sufficiently. While educators may provide courses with content on diversity, it is often addressed in a critical way rather than in a productive and problem solving context.
What changes have you brought to inclusive design education?
My colleagues and I developed the first graduate concentration program on UD in the U.S. The IDeA Center also has the first online series of courses on the subject that are available as continuing education for practitioners. I am particularly heartened by the excellent students from all over the world who we are attracting to our graduate concentration.
Figure 1. Dr. Ed Steinfeld working with an M. Arch. student in the Inclusive Design Graduate Research Group.
What are your current research interests? How have you involved your students in your research?
I direct a federally funded center of excellence in universal design and the built environment in which we are doing targeted human factors research on anthropometry for people with disabilities, safer stairway design, reduction of slips and falls and developing products for improved way finding. We are also developing evidence-based design strategies that will be available for use in recognition programs like certification.
I also co-direct a federally funded center of excellence in accessible public transportation in which we are studying how to improve accessibility to large and small buses, how to reduce barriers to accessing transit systems and developing accessible software for next bus apps.
We have launched a consulting program for product manufacturers through which we help them develop and test products with UD features.
We also have services directed specifically to design for disability. Our staff design about 60 home adaptations a year for local households with accessibility needs and we have an increasingly active accessibility consulting practice focusing on design reviews and access audits.
I am also involved in a collaborative study with the University of Limerick on continuing education needs in UD among Irish architects. We are doing this work for the Irish Centre of Excellence in Universal Design. We hope to expand this shortly to Australia and the U.S.
Figure 2. Dr. Edward Steinfeld conducting a workshop in Dublin, Ireland for UD educators and clients.
What will drive adoption of UD in the future?
The aging of the population is the most important driver of interest in universal design in first world economies. As you know, I am a gerontologist as well as an architect and I have always advocated for applying UD to issues of aging. In particular, I believe if we had universally designed communities, older people would have very little interest or need for age segregated retirement settings. The IDeA Center is a partner in leading a local Age Friendly Communities initiative with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and our county government. Through this work we are finding many ways that UD can be applied to issues of aging.
In developing countries, the focus needs to be on addressing the needs of the most marginalized people. This includes addressing problems of homelessness, access to adequate sanitation and water, resiliency in response to disasters, etc. The new University at Buffalo Community of Excellence in Global Health Equities is taking on these challenges, and we hope to play an important role in showing how UD can be applied to these problems effectively.
Edward Steinfeld, Arch.D.is a Distinguished SUNY Professor
Interview with Professor Mary Jane Carroll
Department of Interior Design, Sheridan College, Mississauga, Canada University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
What do you believe to be the essential elements of inclusive design education?
I believe that there are four essential elements in inclusive design education. The first element is advocacy: that is to raise student awareness so that they will become advocates of inclusion, both in policy and practice. If they become advocates as students, they are more likely to become advocates as practitioners. The second element is to make inclusive design key in content across the curriculum, and not limited to courses that are specifically focused on inclusion. If inclusive design becomes ingrained as an expected component of a design strategy, then inclusion becomes a part of normal practice for the design student, and later the design professional. The third is to offer inclusive design curriculum that is open to non-majors, thereby creating greater awareness and potentially greater advocacy across disciplines and beyond the educational realm. The fourth is to make inclusion a part of the delivery model for the teacher. This means the recognition that student groups are by nature diverse and therefore attention to methods of delivery to include different learning styles, as well as differences in physical and cognitive ability benefit the learning experience.
What do you see as the major challenges of the inclusive design field? How would you address these challenges?
In my experience, one of the greatest challenges in practicing inclusive design has centered on client misconception. Specifically, clients incorrectly believe that inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities are synonymous terms, and that inclusive design solutions are an expensive luxury. I try to address these myths by raising client awareness. As the bottom line is generally the prime motivator for clients, I have found the best method in advocating for inclusion is through the use of a comparative cost breakdown. This helps clients to understand that they need not invest more money in the job for it to be inclusive. And, at the same time, they need not compromise on aesthetics to create an inclusive environment. Of course, this approach is dependent upon the type of job. It is easier to advocate for inclusion in commercial work rather than in residential work as building codes are more stringent and as clients are less personally invested in commercial projects. In residential design, advocacy is more complex. In these cases, I generally advocate for lifespan decisions, and show design decisions that speak to these decisions. Personalizing the need is also important. Life events such as a broken leg, bringing in heavy loads of groceries or aging in place resonate with most clients. However, I have found that this lifespan argument can be age sensitive. Older adults are more likely to be persuaded than younger adults to employ lifespan strategies.
Another issue facing the inclusive design field is that it has not received the level of public attention that other initiatives, such as the sustainable built environment initiative, have received.
Sustainability has become an essential part of practice for designers through the establishment of LEED standards. A building that meets LEED standards is celebrated with public awards, given substantial financial incentives and is heralded as socially responsible. Most design firms now have practitioners on staff that are LEED certified. Although I realize that there are initiatives to this effect in process for the inclusive design field, this type of widespread industry recognition has not been achieved.
What do you see as the major opportunities of the inclusive design field? How would you address these opportunities?
I think most designers would agree that the changing demographics in North America will provide a major opportunity for the inclusive design field. Now that the rights-oriented boomer population has reached senior status and now that we have a greater portion of our population than ever in our history that is over the age of 65, new opportunities will emerge for this area of study and practice.
Some of the opportunities related to the age-quake will be job-based and some academic. For instance, at present, we have a decided lack of professionals who are trained to work in this area of design, and so I see this as a potential niche market for emerging young designers and education to address. Likewise, not all post-secondary design programs include inclusive design curriculum content, and so that is also an area of opportunity and perhaps of specialization.
The other opportunity that I see for the inclusive design field concerns inter-disciplinary research. The design disciplines have been slow to embrace evidence-based research studies and to work closely with other disciplines, such as gerontology or public health. The changing demographics provide a real impetus for interdisciplinary research to occur.
What changes do you see on the horizon in inclusive design education?
One of the most dramatic changes on the horizon for design education is the inclusion of inclusion in the curriculum, and as a focus for design research. The past few years have seen a renewed focus on the end user in design education, and this has lead to greater importance being placed on environment-behavior research and curriculum content. For instance, educational accreditation bodies such as CIDA (Council for Interior Design Accreditation) now include whole standards that are devoted to human factors and universal design. And for Ontarians, the new standards act, the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act), will mean increased emphasis on training to work in a more inclusive manner. This will occur both within the traditional academic curriculum but also as part of the continuing education seminars and workshops available to professionals.
Likewise, the shift in demographics and the needs of the client base that is associated with these demographics will also provide incentive for academic programs to include content that addresses issues such as aging in place, and public accommodations.
What changes have you brought to inclusive design education?
Over the past decade, my course content has focused on experiential learning, self-reflection, and community outreach rather than following a case study and lecture approach as in the past. For example, I now encourage students to evaluate public interiors using sensory impairment exercises. These exercises reinforce the need to be inclusive early in the design process rather than removing barriers later. I have also developed a community outreach program that requires third year students to work with a local not-for-profit organization to raise awareness through design. Each student group works with a different community group. These include a First Nations organization, an LGBTQ organization, two mental health organizations (one for youths and one for adults), an elder abuse organization, an eating disorder organization and so on. The final realized project is a built exhibit/booth that showcases issues important to the organization. Each kiosk is sited prominently within the college for a one-week period.
And finally, I have developed a first year, multi-sensory design project, the design of a Snoezelen room (a controlled multi-sensory environment used in cognitive therapy) for autistic children.. This project asks students to design with all of their senses, particularly as they are asked to go beyond the layout and design of space to design a new multi-sensory element that could be used for this group.
What are your current research interests? How have you involved your students in your research?
In the past few years, I have focused two areas of research: affordable aging-in-place and people over the age of 50 returning to the classroom for a second career. Students work with me through small internal grants from the college, or alternately through their thesis projects in year 4.
Mary Jane Carroll, M.Arch.is Chair and Professor of Interior Design at Sheridan College in Toronto, Canada
Interview with Dr. Jo-Anne Bichard
University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom
Royal College of Art – Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, London, United Kingdom
What do you believe to be the essential elements of inclusive design education?
I believe the most important element is that the student wants to design inclusively. At the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design we used to have long debates about ‘teaching’ inclusive design as some universities offered it as a module. However, we felt the desire had to come from the designer in the first place–they are designers first, then they find inclusive design. So we offered workshops for newly arrived students and tutorials for those who were further on in their courses, but who wanted to undertake inclusive design. We also had a mantra that inclusive design is just good design. Ideally we are looking for design to be automatically be inclusive, and I am beginning to see this. More and more design has considered the wider population as part of its process, and a current design committee I am working with definitely sees inclusion as mainstream.
What do you see as the major challenges of the inclusive design field? How would you address these challenges?
I have always felt inclusive design to be a philosophy, in that it is a way of thinking and, therefore, beginning the process of design (and it works far better if it is inclusive from the start), but this philosophical perspective might also be because I am a design anthropologist. The challenges remain the same as those that have always been there–how to convince business that despite the overwhelming evidence that inclusive design is good business, it should be incorporated in the design of new products environments and services. It is not mainstream yet. I do not know how to address the inertia of business–one would think the business case would be enough–but it seems the perceived outlay is still considered too costly. So I guess that is one thing we could change. The other is that I often see inclusive designers become facilitators on projects, especially when they have been trained in inclusive design; they know how to work with people and how to engage them in the design process. Subsequently, they are sometimes sidelined, acting as the conduit between users and other designers. This is worrying as there might be key insights that the inclusive designers might be able to contribute, but that might not be taken up by their non- inclusive peers as it did not come directly from the users. Sometimes it is overlooked that it is not just giving the users what they want, but also reading between the lines of what they desire as well. Finally, I do think from a philosophical perspective, we should challenge when inclusive design is merely special needs design– there is still quite a lot of confusion between the two.
What do you see as the major opportunities of the inclusive design field? How would you address these opportunities?
The biggest opportunity is that more consideration is given to inclusive design, we train more designers to undertake it, and they carry the inclusive design philosophy throughout their careers. It has to be remembered that it is not a process that serves every designer. There are a number of skills that are needed that go beyond merely being good at design–being good with people as well as having patience and empathy. There are some people who have tried inclusive design and have not enjoyed it. So from a perspective of introducing it to students, I always emphasize the training in resilience, both professionally and personally, that it also provides. So the opportunity lies in bringing designers to the inclusive programme so that they are aware of it; even if they are not the type to undertake it themselves, they could contribute through their own skill set.
What changes do you see on the horizon in inclusive design education?
Well, I read somewhere that European legislation would make it compulsory that all architecture students are taught inclusive design. I don’t know the details as I don’t teach, but I do have reservations about this. Firstly, this action would require clarification about what exactly inclusive design is, as in the UK, the practice in built environment construction is radically different from the practice in built environment research. These need to be somehow brought together or we are going to continue to have poor quality environments that have merely met the letter of the law rather then use creative problem solving to address people’s needs. This again may come down to the question–can we actually teach inclusive design or is it something designers have to come to and which we mentor?
What changes do you see on the horizon in inclusive design research?
The innovation in research will come from the engagement processes designed to bring people into the inclusive design process. These are key in communicating with users, understanding their perspective and experience, but in a way that speaks creatively to designers. Having used techniques from the social sciences, I now see social scientists using these research methodologies developed from design, and it could be that design leads the way in creative interaction with research subjects across all disciplines. Having worked across many medical, engineering, and social disciplines I am very excited to see design methodologies being engaged across disciplinary boundaries.
What changes do you see on the horizon in inclusive design practice?
I am beginning to see a more engaged consideration of sustainable elements in inclusive design, in an attempt to tackle our most serious global concern of climate change. Unfortunately, these design perspectives have often been treated as singular movements when, in my view, they are closely aligned. Inclusive design is, by its nature, a socially sustainable practice and can be argued to be economically sustainable. Now it needs to make the case for being environmentally sustainable and bringing in considerations of the circular economy. However this also means it needs to engage with the very controversial perspective that population ageing is contributing to climate change. Hence it is, in my opinion, that inclusive designers do so from a sustainable design perspective.
What aspects of your inclusive design teaching/research/practice are most compelling and/or satisfying to you? Why?
For me, it will always be making the difference for just one person. So the student who attends one of my workshops in the early stages and then returns throughout their two years, and then possibly becomes a research associate is a great satisfaction. In research, it comes from the users who have engaged with the process and come forward for further studies. It is always very hard to recruit a diversity of people for research, and so I am always grateful for those who willingly share their time and experiences with us, especially in my particular area of built environment and public toilet research as it often takes a long time for the research to be realized in practice. And finally in practice–I would say it is the excitement of seeing your research delivered. For me, this has been the creation of The Great British Public Toilet Map and having it go live for people to use.
What changes have you brought to inclusive design education?
I have set up a dedicated Design Ethnography workshop that introduces design students to the structure and processes of undertaking ethnographic research, and gives them a foundation to begin exploring their interaction with users. This has now been delivered at the Royal College of Art, the IE School of Architecture and Design in Madrid and the University for Art and Design in Berlin. One of my aims is to introduce as many social anthropologists to designers as possible, so that they can share knowledge and experience that helps bring the user to the forefront of design research.
What are your current research interests? How have you involved your students in your research?
My current research interests focus on the development of the design anthropology field within inclusive design, as well as the access/inclusive debate that is still evidenced in the design of the built environment. At a micro scale, I am still interested in the design of public toilets and their failure to meet people’s needs from a functional design perspective, but also am currently interested in the problem of dog fowling. Pet ownership is an excellent way for older people and those with disabilities to combat feelings of loneliness. However what happens if dog owners, whilst benefitting from the companionship cannot meet the civil responsibility of cleaning up after their pets? I am very inspired by the work of Hen power who have introduced chickens into older people’s lives. I would like to not only explore how pets can help combat loneliness and increase well-being, but also how design may possibly help those who are less able, to take care of their animal friends.