Keywords: India, Universal Design, accessibility, architecture, university  

Opening Minds to Universal Design

The Universal Design Center is based in an architectural college in Maharashtra, India. They have developed a teaching syllabus on universal design and accessibility for people with disability, including a curriculum, teaching methods and resources, to build the capacity of architecture students to integrate Universal Design into their work. The syllabus is now being used in 30 architecture institutes across India and they want to further develop their network across South Asia, Asia Pacific and Africa.

About the practice at a glance
Name of OrganisationUniversal Design Center, BNCA
Type of organisationUniversity
Country
of Implementation
India
Year started2014
Funding modelSelf-funded

IMPACT

Universal Design Center through its strategically designed architectural studios, workshops, electives, short courses and research, has sensitised and trained 3000+ budding architects, 500+ architectural educators from more than 30 architectural and design institutes across India . It has also successfully imparted technical training to 1000+ practicing architects and civil engineers. Starting from a mere 2 architectural institutes in 2014, the practice has actively engaged with more than 30 architectural and design institutes across India in 2018. 

People with disabilities (PWD) have been engaged as core team members in formulating the syllabus, creating course content and studio assignments. Training for PWD is also being conducted for improving their spatial sense and learning use of tactile guiding paths.

The Council of Architecture (COA), which governs the minimum standards of architectural education in India, has mandated inclusion of Universal Design in course curriculum as the result of the advocacy done by the practice. 

THEORY OF CHANGE

We asked projects to outline their impact model (also called Theory of Change) – their main target groups, the key activities they offer these target groups, and what impact they want to achieve:

Target GroupActivityImpact
Architecture/ Design students and professionals including architects/engineers in public and private sector
Sensitization and Training

Empathy and Capacity building for creating Universally accessible Designs and Environment
Architecture and Design Educators/Institutions in Public and Private sectorSensitization and TrainingCapacity building for making them Centres and Agents of Change for promoting and integrating Universal Design as an embedded layer in the Design Thinking process and Pedagogy
People with DisabilitiesArt and Architecture based trainingEmpowerment and self reliance through skill building for
enhanced spatial perception, mobility and use of accessible solutions in the built environment

REPLICATION EXPERIENCE

We have not replicated our innovation yet, but we have a clear idea about what to replicate, where and with which partners.

The pedagogy and the resources developed by Universal Design Center for integrating Universal Design thinking are being widely applied and used by all the 30 institutes that have worked with us so far. The institutes where the workshops / seminars / teacher training programs have been conducted have successfully scaled up the practice to include students of all  academic years at undergraduate and post graduate levels. 

ORGANISATIONAL CAPACITY AND STRATEGY

Our practice has resulted in mainstreaming Universal Design in architectural and design curriculum across the country and is now in the position to be developed into a model for replication at the global level.  

The strategy of replication is a model to create an international outreach, hence our board and team supports this strongly and can make available human resources as required for the same. 

The practice aims to actively engage with all the 500 architectural institutions , governing and professional bodies in the country, and mainstream universal design in the current framework of architectural education in India. Regional Sub-Centres are being developed for conducting Train the trainers programs and help institutions in making Universal Design an integral part of the design process.   The practise also aims to introduce post graduate courses in Universal Design in India. The strategy of replication is a model to create an international outreach, hence our board and team supports this strongly and can make available human resources as required for the same.  

We would like to replicate our capacity building model by creating an IBD (Inclusion by Design) network in the geographies of SAARC, Asia Pacific and Africa. Our partners could be NGO’s/ DPO’s working in the Disability sector , Architectural / Design institutions or organisations , Government agencies / departments involved in the building construction and infrastructure domain or social entrepreneurs.

The project would be represented by its founder, an architect, educator and a Universal Design evangelist with over 20 years experience in the industry  

MOTIVATION

Participation in the Zero Project Impact Transfer Program can help us to reach out and collaborate with partners across the globe to bring about this much needed paradigm shift in architectural / design education and practice in their respective countries. We hope to expand our reach and depth in India to reach out to as many design institutions and public sector entities involved in this domain.  

Key challenges we hope to address: 

  • Access to funds required for establishing and empowering Universal Design ( UD ) labs and development of transferrable resource materials for teaching and learning across educational institutions imparting architecture, design and building construction domain in both private and public sector.  
  • Research, dissemination and continuous refinement of learning resources and information to avoid stagnancy and stunting of growth. We believe that a continuous process of research driven methodology will yield a rich and diverse database and results, which can form the basis for development of user centric and contextually relevant learning resources.  
  • Building a larger pool of Research and Best practices through knowledge sharing. Create a network of educational practices to catalyse the creation of universally accessible environments. Businesses, Universities and Government agencies to be empowered with the tools they need to bring about to realize the goal of changing the conventional narrative of “design” to “inclusive design approach.”  
  • International peer pressure to create and foster an environment and ecosystem within architecture and design education institutions across the public and private sector conducive for creation of universally accessible environments. Benchmarking against global best practices creates the necessary traction to accept a paradigm shift in the design thinking process.