Good intentions in universal design: A global challenge for higher education

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Harrison, Jim
Busby, Kevin
O'Shaughnessy, Tessa
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IOS Press
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It is not often that a high-level edict requires higher education centres to promote universal design through their programmes; however the recent United Nations Beijing Declaration and Action Plan (UNESCAP 2017) expressly states that, “academic institutions should provide training programmes on universal design for policymakers, building inspectors and contractors, as well as integrating universal design and accessibility into curricula related to architecture, urban planning, transport, civil engineering and other relevant academic branches”. This is particularly timely in the Asia-Pacific region, where economies continue to show massive expansion of their built environments. This imperative to future-proof any development therefore is vital, especially considering the growing percentile of older people with their needs for safe and accessible living. Achieving these ends clearly implies a need both to educate professionals and to enact appropriate codes and standards, which in turn require the training of personnel to carry them out. Anticipating this need, Goal 3 of the United Nations Incheon Strategy (UNESCAP 2012) optimistically calls for “civil society involvement in conducting accessibility audits, creating guidelines and advocacy work to promote universal design” and “to enhance mechanisms for tracking its progress”. While such good intentions are admirable, they will require radical steps to be achieved. The paper describes examples, including those from the writers' own experiences, outlining a range of practical methods which academics and teachers involved in inculcating universal design principles in both European and Asian centres, through their teaching, training and technology transfer, can positively support continued cooperation towards a more inclusive World for everyone.
United nations , UNESCAP , Universal design , Physical accessibility , Education
Harrison, J., Busby, K. and O'Shaughnessy, T., 2018. Good Intentions in Universal Design: A Global Challenge for Higher Education. Studies in health technology and informatics, 256, (8pp). DOI:10.3233/978-1-61499-923-2-594