Earlier this summer, Eoghan had the chance to deliver a presentation at Oslo UD2012 Universal Design Conference, with speakers from academia and practice attending from all over the world. This was a diverse mix of architects, engineers, designers, sociologists, geographers, policy makers and legislators, including keynote speeches from notable authors in Universal Design such as Professor Edward Steinfeld from the University at Buffalo, USA.
Eoghan’s presentation was based on his postgraduate research into methods for testing and analysing Universal Design in buildings, a project being funded by the National Disability Authority and the Irish Research Council. There was a real sense at the conference of universal design becoming a central human rights issue, and an emerging area for politicians to address in the next few decades – Professor Inger Marie Lid in particular linked the concerns of universal design advocates in the design of objects and buildings to the design of communities and institutions through a flexible framework.
The Norwegians are way ahead of everyone else, having committed to a Universally Designed society by 2020. This involves creating universal access to all social institutions, infrastructure (including physical infrastructure and design of web and all ICT services), educational services, buildings and built spaces, as well as demanding high standards of product design that meet the needs of the whole population. What emerged was an idea of universal design that is almost a synonym for democracy, and perhaps a way for making true democracy happen.