Appendix B: Questionnaire Responses Excerpts and Discussion
Understanding of Universal Design
All interviewees who participated in the survey were aware of the term Universal Design. This is to be expected as the selection process for interviewees was that they work in disciplines that have some element of design or accessibility.
This definition of Universal Design is a summary of what most said it means to them:
"Designing Products, Services and Processes so that they are accessible to people of all backgrounds and abilities, without adaptation"
Terms such as Environments, Buildings, Communications Procedures and Organisations were also included in the definition by some of the respondents.
Only one interviewee considered that it is:
"... Design taking into account accessibility issues for people of various disabilities."
This is in direct contradiction to the interviewee who said:
"..It is not disability or accessibility design"
What is interesting about these two respondents opposing viewpoints is that they are members of the academic staff in the same School.
It appeared from the sample interviewed, that if an individual has no direct contact with accessibility, either personally or by professional association, they appear to associate Universal Design as design for:
"Not the mainstream"
While those working with people of restricted accessibility said:
"If you design for the slowest or the weakest person
or the person with difficulty moving then you design for everybody"
All but one interview respondent regarded the terms Inclusive Design, Design for All, User Centred Design and Universal Design as synonymous. While the remaining respondent was of the opinion that Inclusive Design addresses the average and a few typical profiles that are non-average and that: "Universal Design pushes the envelope more .....With Universal Design we cater for all"
When asked about the importance of Universal Design it was unanimously believed to be important: "Absolutely" and "it is essential"
One respondent qualified this with: "It is important to everyone here (TCD) bearing in mind the legislative background. We are bound by various acts - 2004, 2002"
When asked who Universal Design is important to, the respondents provided a range of responses:
"It is most important to disabled people and people with a vested interest in disability"
"Any programme with a significant design component"
"Everybody, it is not just older people or people with disabilities. It is also people who have transient
difficulty with movement. It is important to design with everyone in mind"
Most respondents agreed that it was important because it is important to design for everybody. But there were two interviewees with more specific opinions on why Universal Design is important:
"We are living longer and therefore are a little more
infirmed and so we will need these kinds of things and it's cheaper in the
long term. It takes more forethought but it is cheaper because trying to
maintain 2 parallel universes; 1 for the "average" and 1 for people with various disabilities and impairments is too expensive. So it is cheaper to be inclusive from the word go but it is harder"
"Good design does not affect the eco system and is affordable and is as usable by as many people as
Introduction of Universal Design to Curricula
The interview respondents who currently include Universal Design on their curriculum were asked how and why it was included. According to the respondents, where Universal Design is included in the curriculum, the individual teaching the subject was instrumental in having it included. One of the lectures did say that the key motivation for including Universal Design in the curriculum was that:
"I don't want to be encountering these barriers"
This respondent also expressed the same motivational drive as all other respondents: that including Universal Design on the curriculum results in better engineers and better designed environments.
When asked about student responses to the Universal Design course content, one respondent involved in the teaching of Occupational Therapy said:
"They love the course, we have done a fair bit of evaluation of it and we have always had really positive feedback for it. They do seem to take it on. We set specific examine questions on Universal Design when we had written exams and they were generally fairly well answered"
While a respondent involved in Engineering teaching said:
"When I started out, engineering students tended to dismiss things that can't be captured in an equation. So, to a large degree it was a question of this is all touchy feely stuff and we'll have to write an answer to an essay in an exam and forget all about it. And that will be that box ticked and we can continue in our narrow little world. But it has changed over the last couple of years. I'm getting increasing numbers of people actually doing serious bit of coursework. I get them to write an essay that will either design something new or redesign something existing and we begin to see the little grey cells ticking over and actually addressing the issue and coming up with things that are more usable. And they are getting involved."
Current Universal Design Teaching at Trinity College Dublin
There is a specific Universal Design component in the curricula of both the Engineering and the Occupational Therapy undergraduate courses. Both courses have been running for 5 years.
In Occupational Therapy there is a lecture and workshop series of 2 hour workshops that are linked together. Students do case study work and group study work in the seminars.
The current assessment is based on the student's portfolio made up of worksheets produced for each time. There is no longer a written essay because students work their way through.
Feedback from lecturer: "A couple of them do quite well and I found with accessibility audits particularly they have done well."
In Engineering, students have 4 contact hours of formal lectures, outside reading and an essay. This has not changed over time.
Assessment: There is a multiple-choice exam with a number of questions on Universal Design and a question based around the coursework. The coursework is not obligatory but the exam question is. You do not have to pass the question to pass the exam.
Feedback from lecturer: "take up was poor in the beginning but now it is getting big. I would say 50% do it and 40% do coursework."
Future Universal Design Teaching in Trinity College Dublin
When asked if there was scope for expanding Universal Design teaching at Trinity College Dublin, one respondent said:
"There are too many things competing in the curriculum... I would be in favour of doing design and just leaving Universal Design as part of that. I would not separate Universal Design from design"
All other respondents said that it would be beneficial to have Universal Design taught more extensively in Trinity College Dublin.
Responses on how to the expand Universal Design teaching on the respective curricula included:
"The School of Engineering is moving to semesters and modularisation and revisiting the way engineering is taught. One option is introducing required humanities options in each year to expose students to the ways that non engineers think and present information and ideas. Also the design modules which are quite a departure from traditional teaching are being reassessed. Therefore it would be useful to integrate Universal Design into a practical design activity, to front load a design project with surveys, a literature survey and a user survey before students put concept to paper. Lectures would be minimised and assessing user requirements would be a priority."
"In Physiotherapy there is opportunity to look at the undergraduate [curriculum]. This is accredited by a specialist body so it cannot be changed completely. But there is an opportunity to look at it differently."
The importance of a Universal Design champion was highlighted by one respondent:
"[Expanding Universal Design teaching] requires a dedicated lecturer specialising in Universal Design because it is a departure from the way design is taught, and because you would need a champion of it and
whether that champion would have to do it all or they infused that enthusiasm
into others, it would be a time-intensive thing to do and a lot of lectures
would resist that level of loading."
When asked what form Universal Design teaching should take, one respondent made the point:
"An intensive course is a good idea but it can be very difficult for timetabling getting everyone in the same room for a solid 2 weeks. It might work really well every Friday afternoon in one term. With advance planning this can be fitted in the timetable. If the course is only over two weeks you will only get surface learning because people don't have time to go and reflect....The benefit with a 2 week module is that it can be opened to industry".
Communication between disciplines was highlighted by a number of respondents as important:
"There needs to be more awareness built into all disciplines, so that the graduates of those disciplines can come together in an
innovative way. So 2/3 years from graduation a medic, a physicist and engineer
might think to come together to solve a problem."
"Having an element of Universal
Design in all the final year courses such as engineering, psychology and other
"In Physiotherapy Universal Design would fit in very, very well in a future general interdisciplinary taught masters programme that covers disability and rehabilitation. A high level masters programme that would look at rehabilitation models, Organisational behaviour and some high level topics and a module on Universal Design would be something that would be very helpful. A masters level in rehabilitation would meet the needs of people who want to specialise in physical medicine and rehabilitation. And that would potentially cross Physicians, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Psychologists, etc."
When asked who would benefit from more extensive Universal Design teaching most respondents said that this would benefit end users. No respondent mentioned a benefit to Trinity College Dublin. One respondent said it would be of benefit to: "the graduates but most lecturers would see it as a
When asked what might encourage expanding Universal Design teaching, responses included:
- "if there is money out there backing Universal
Design then it will expand but at the moment, money is backing nano, money is
- "if there is money out there backing Universal
- Growing Pressure From Industry
- Push By Economists
- Push by Insurance Companies
When asked to identify the main barriers to introducing Universal Design on the curriculum, respondents identified the following:
- Lack of skills and knowledge required to teach it
- Limited resources
- A lack of perceived need "Maybe you would need to
educate people to understand that there is a need to know more about this. There might be a sense of "what's that got to do with me?", that's the designers and the architects and the IT people and the people who do the systems and structures".