Envisioning Universal Design: Creating an Inclusive Society -- October 2-3, 2003
I. Executive Summary
On October 2-3, 2003, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research(1) (NIDRR), and the two NIDDR sponsored Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERC) on Universal Design and the Built Environment at the University at Buffalo and North Carolina State University(2), in cooperation with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), convened a meeting on universal design(3). Participants included 37 experts (cf. Appendix) drawn from academia, the design field, consumer groups and government agencies who assembled to develop recommendations for: 1) broadening the practice of universal design and 2) shaping future funding priorities. The focus of this effort and this movement is to create more inclusive communities.
Held at the offices of the Arts Endowment in Washington, DC, the meeting was structured to explore three questions: what are the major accomplishments in universal design since 1999; what are the needs in the field of universal design, particularly in the areas of research, development, dissemination and education; and what next steps are needed to infuse universal design principles into the mainstream fabric of society?
Dana Gioia, Chairman of the Arts Endowment, discussed his vision for the agency and its goals as related to the promotion of universal design. Recalling the two seminal meetings held by the Endowment in 1990 and 1999 that set out and measured the progress of an initial set of recommendations and insights into the state of the field, Gioia noted the advances that he has witnessed in his travels around the country.
Chairman Gioia observed that universal design logically fits within the Endowment’s larger mission to bring art to all Americans. Anything, whether an architectural barrier or lack of accommodation that prevents individuals from participating in and enjoying the fruits of American art should be targeted for immediate change. Recalling the democratization of art promoted by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the 1930s under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gioia noted that the Endowment works best as a catalyst and leader. He concluded that the priorities set at this meeting will appear on the agendas of the nation’s institutions in both the private and public sectors.
A series of presentations highlighted recent accomplishments of the RERCs, universal design projects supported by the Arts Endowment and key national and international developments in universal design. Each presentation elaborated on the current status of universal design as a foundation for further action.
Conference participants divided into four working groups: research, development, dissemination and education. Facilitator Todd Chester, Senior Consultant with the AARP charged each group to develop a list and discussion points targeting the accomplishments, needs and recommendations. In each area the overriding goal was to find out what was needed to infuse universal design into the mainstream of society.
Conference attendees convened in a plenary session to discuss and prioritize each group’s findings. The following recommendations will assist the NEA, NIDRR, and other organizations in advancing universal design and shaping future funding priorities.
(1) The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research is a component of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) at the U.S. Department of Education. Its mission is to generate, disseminate and promote new knowledge that improves the options available to disabled persons.
(2) Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers are NIDRR funded projects that conduct programs of advanced research of an engineering or technical nature designed to apply advanced technology, scientific achievement and psychological and social knowledge to solve rehabilitation problems and remove environmental barriers. The RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment at Buffalo is a project of the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA), which is housed in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo. The RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment at North Carolina State University (NCSU) is a project of the Center for Universal Design, housed in the College of Design at NCSU.
(3) Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal