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Design for One And All


Attendants at the reception desk of the Scandic Hotel

Students studying at Bergen University College Library
Bergen University College Library

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.

Aerial shot of public space with bike rank and bench
Sitting area and biking parking at St. Olav, Hospital in Norway – Photo: Trond Heggem

“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.”

Two gentlemen waiting at a bus stop
Two gentlemen waiting for the Light Rail in Bergen – Photo: Bergen Light Rail

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.”

pool with a built in ramp
Built-in ramp in the pool at St. Olavs Hospital – Photo credit Synlig design og foto AS

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.

Wheelchair user navigating an outdoor garden at St Olavs Hospital
Wheelchair user navigating an outdoor garden at St Olavs Hospital – Photo – R¢e Kommunikasjon – Stein Risstad Larssen

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.

Scandic Oslo Airport Hotel

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

Designing for Alzheimer’s using the Goals of Universal Design


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:

empty corridor
Corridor with ceiling to floor window views to a garden

elderly exercising
Elderly exercising in memory care facility

elderly playing pool
Elderly gentlemen playing billiards.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Photo of article author Jennifer McQuilkinAuthor:

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.

Designing a Better Shopping Experience with a Holistic Approach to Aging in Place

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).

Shoppers at different parts of the grocery storeDesign 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.

Demographic analysis
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’.

Group interviews
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
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.

•In-the-field inscription
•In-the-field description
•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.

Fine-tuning results

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.

Food packaging:

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.

Checkout lines:

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:

•Social Interaction
•Integration Nostalgia:

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.

rendering of a grocery store checkout areaFinal Design

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)
Wise Connections. (2010). The “Village” Movement. Retrieved August 14, 2012, from Wise Connections:
World Health Organization. (2013). WHO, Definition of an older or elderly person. Retrieved March 4, 2013, from World Health Organization:
Village to Village Network. (2013). About – Village to Village Network. Retrieved March 27, 2013, from Village to Village Network:
Almeida, I. C., Sette, R. S., & Rezende, D. C. (2012). Food for elderly people: Considerations of ethnographic contributions . African Journal of Business Management , 6 (24), 7106-7113.
Anderson, G. (2012, September). Loneliness Among Older Adults: A National Survey of Adults 45+ . Retrieved February 25, 2013, from AARP:
Ball, M. M., Perkins, M. M., Whittington, F. J., Connell, B. R., Hollingsworth, C., King, S. V., et al. (2004). Managing Decline in Assisted Living: The Key to Aging in Place. The Journals of Gerentology Series B , 59 (4), s202-s212.
BBC Health. (2013). Healthy eating in older people. Retrieved 1 5, 2013, from BBC – Health:
Bermudez, O. L., Falcon, L. M., & Tucker, K. L. (2000). Intake and Food Sources of Macronutrients Among Older Hispanic Adults: Association With Ethnicity Acculturation, and Length of Residence in The United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 (6), 665-673.
Berry, E. M., & Marcus, E.-L. (2000). Disorders of Eating in the Elderly. Journal of Adult Development, 7 (2), 87-99.
Cuba, L., & Hummon, D. M. (1993, March). A Place to Call Home: Identification With Dwelling, Community, and Region. The Sociological Quarterly , 34 (1), pp. 111-131.
Chandra, R. K., Imbach, A., Moore, C., Skelton, D., & Woolcott, D. (1991). Nutrition of the Elderly. CMAJ , 145 (11), 1475-1487.
Chen, C. C.-H., Schilling, L. S., & Lyder, H. (2001).A concept analysis of malnutrition in the elderly. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 36 (1), 131-142.
Clancy, K. L. (1990). Preliminary Observations on Media Use and Food Habits of the Elderly. The Gerontologist , 15 (6), 529-532.
Clarckson, J., Coleman, R., Hosking, I., & Waller, S. (2011, April). Why do inclusive design? Retrieved January 16, 2013, from Inclusive Design Toolkit:
Clarkson, J., Coleman, R., Keates, S., & Lebbon, C. (2003). Inclusive Design: Design for the Whole Population. London: Springer-Verlag.
Cohen, D. (2013, February 22). Why does being lonely make you ill? Retrieved February 22, 2013, from BBC World Service:
Cohen-Mansfield,J., & Parpura-Gill, A. (2007). Loneliness in older persons: a theoretical model and empirical findings. International Psychogeriatrics, 19 (2), 279-294.Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce . (1995, May). Sixty-Five Plus in the United States. Retrieved March 3ce, 2013, from United States Census Bureau:
Davidson, M., & Geohas, C. (2003). Efficacy of over-the-counter nutritional supplements. Current atherosclerosis reports , 5 (15-21).
Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Profile of Older Americans. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from Administration on Aging:

Improving the Eye Drop Experience

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.

VitrA For All-A Business Practice Of Design For All

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:


Product Projects:


  • 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.

interior rendering showing accessible bathroom features


  • 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).

accessible shower

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

“Bathrooms We Share”Workshop, 2014, Istanbul Design Biennial

“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

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

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.



“Bathrooms We Share”Workshop, 2014, Istanbul Design Biennial


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.


Next Steps
  • 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

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

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.

What is holding back progress in creating accessible buildings?

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[1], 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

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.

Floor plan drawing

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[3]. 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[4]. 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[5]. According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75%  of adults use some  sort  of vision correction[6].

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[7]. 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 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.

Related Link: Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES)


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


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.

The historical evolution of helmets according to Basford Dean.
The historical evolution of helmets according to Basford Dean.



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.

It took a few decades before the bicycle, which was a completely new innovation, achieved its characteristic form through trial and error.
It took a few decades before the bicycle, which was a completely new innovation, achieved its characteristic form through trial and error.

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.



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.



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.


  1. Bosquet, Michel (André Gorz), 1977. Écologie et liberté, Éditions Galilée, Paris.
  1. McLuhan, Marshall, 1964. Understanding media: The Extensions of Man 1st Ed. McGraw Hill, New York.
  1. Harni, Pekka, 2010. Object Categories: Typology of Tools. Aalto University School of Art and Design Publication, Helsinki.

see also:

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: 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.


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.

highway ticket machine, Italy

vending machine of the electric fare cards for the public transportation, Istanbul Both are difficult to use without knowing local language.

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?



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?



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?

Audio gude for blind & visually-impaired, Vienna

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.



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.

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: 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

Highly visible toiletsigns at airports in Lyon and Helsinki

AboveHighly visible toilet- signs at airports in Lyon and Helsinki

Highly visible toiletsigns at airports in Lyon and Helsinki

AboveHighly visible toilet- signs at airports in Lyon and Helsinki

DIY WC sign, Warsaw

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.

Bus platform with airport connection at the Helsinki central railway station. Why is the airplane icon not on the top instead of the multiple languages? Overlapping number systems are confusing.

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.

Bronze map for blind and visually-impaired people. This is more like a tactile sculpture and you just happen to find it. Rome, Italy

Above: Bronze map for blind and visuallyimpaired 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.

Clothing recommendation for the holy place, Istanbul

Above: Clothing recommendation for the holy place, Istanbul

No Sitting signs - Venice No Sitting signs - Istanbul

No Sitting signs, left: Istanbul, right: Venice

Mason ad is taped on old mationary work, Venice

Mason ad is taped on old mationary work, Venice

WC sign: men with skirt and women with trousers, Istanbul

Above: WC sign: men with skirt and women with trousers, Istanbul

Toilet sign, not so accessible..., Venice

Above: Toilet sign, not so accessible…, Venice


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.

Pasta packages with too many languages

Above: Pasta packages with too many languages

Tactile paving for blind and visually-impaired pedestrians goes toward the wall.

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 environment. 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 perpendicular “calles”.

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 wayfinding 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 perpendicular “calles”.



  1. See:

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.”

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Information and Communication Technology Devices such as screen magnification software, screen reading software, computer controlled braille embossers, web-browsers for non-visual output etc.


Some links:


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 – Guest Editors Beth Tauke and Korydon Smith – April 2016

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.

professor beth tauke of university at buffalo school of architecture and planning 

Beth Tauke, M.F.A

professor korydon smith of university at buffalo school of architecture and planning

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

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.

Dr. Edward Steinfeld conducting a workshop in Dublin, Ireland for UD educators and clients.

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

Edward Steinfeld, 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

Mary Jane Carroll, 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.

Dr Jo-Anne Bichard

Jo-Anne Bichard