The United Nations has recognised Universal Design as critical to shaping inclusive and sustainable environments. The Council of Europe highlighted the need for member states to incorporate Universal Design throughout all design professions. In Ireland, the Disability Act 2005 provided for the establishment of a Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in the National Disability Authority, with a primary purpose of promoting standards, education and awareness of Universal Design on a national level.
A review of international Universal Design teaching was conducted. Primary research was carried out in the form of interviews with third level teachers in Trinity College Dublin to help form an overview of Universal Design teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. On the basis of these findings outline curriculum modules were developed for use in early stage introduction approaches as well as a later stage practical approach module outline.
The recommended outline modules include introduction to social, economic, legislative and business rationale for Universal Design. The practical aspects of the Universal Design modules include methods of engaging with users, the application of Universal Design principles to design projects and the use of selected design tools and techniques and approaches to engage industry collaborations.
Different pedagogical approaches were found in the teaching of Universal Design including, lectures, workshops, seminars and design project based activities. However, there is no evidence of a comparative study that definitively establishes a guideline of best practice in the teaching of Universal Design. In addition, no study was found that determined the overall effectiveness of teaching Universal Design in third level institutions. Therefore, it could not be established in the present study that graduates practice Universal Design in their careers.
The identification or creation of Universal Design experts at various levels appears to be necessary to the introduction and further application of Universal Design principles in academic curricula. Further research is required to inform how best to teach Universal Design for students in different disciplines. Research will also be needed to examine how best to assess Universal Design content and competencies in exams, awards and associated accreditations. In particular, additional research is needed to examine the teaching approaches that lead to embedding Universal Design principles and processes across a range of courses and to ensure that they lead to utilisation of the knowledge in professional practice after graduation.