The main selection criteria are “whether the principles of universal design (UD) have been espoused and whether superior activities to achieve them have been proposed or carried out.” Judging is based on both the advocacy of the principles and the activities and actions that result from it. Both are comprehensively evaluated as a whole. The judging perspective mentioned in the application requirements is also given importance in the evaluation process.
(Konnichiwa. Good day everyone and welcome to the 2015 IAUD Awards Ceremony.)
As Chair of the Awards Selection Committee I welcome the opportunity to review a selection of impressive designs and creative solutions to the challenge of creating a universally accessible and enjoyable ‘society for all’. This year I and my fellow jurors have all been impressed by the rising standard of entries and the clear evidence of a widespread and growing understanding of Universal Design in practice.
In the past we were encouraged and excited by the degree of enthusiasm and commitment with which major companies and municipalities were confronting the joint challenges of population aging and the integration of older and less able people into the mainstream of society. But we also acknowledged that there was much to learn and a long road to follow. Last year, however, we could see a step change in the level of understanding and achievement, which, I am pleased to say, has been sustained and built on.
The standard of the best of this year’s entries is very high, and as judges, our expectations have also risen. We are no longer looking simply for the enthusiasm and commitment of earlier years, but above and beyond that for the rigor and method that are essential to the sustained delivery of the benefits and delights that are the mark of a maturing Universal Design. Key features for us include, genuine user consultation and involvement, along with the building of a knowledge base and the spreading of expertise within and between companies. Consequently, where we feel adequate supporting evidence of such key factors and other claims is lacking, we have declined to make an award.
This year, Her Imperial Highness Princess Yoko, the second daughter of our late and beloved Prince Tomohito, who since August 2013 has taken his place as Patron of IAUD, joined the final jury session and shared the process of selection and the discussions around each entry. The jury greatly welcomed her close interest and contribution to the deliberations, and we look forward to her future support and valued input to the awards.
On the broader issues of the purpose and future of the awards, the consensus among the judges was that we were moving beyond encouraging interest and awarding engagement with Universal Design – excepting for those areas where major progress is still to be made – and are now seeking to promote and commend high-quality examples of Universal Design practice, methodology and delivery. In particular, we are looking for innovative projects, products and services that demonstrate company-wide commitment to, and an understanding of, Universal Design as a driver for the continuous development and improvement of products and services that will deliver the inclusive society for all that was the goal of our His Imperial Highness Prince Tomohito, in founding IAUD.
We have come a long way in these past 14 years and in the 2015 IAUD Award winners we celebrate that journey and the successes it has delivered.
The grand award for 2015 has been made jointly to three exemplary programs and projects that in very different ways demonstrate a deep commitment to Universal Design. Together, the three Grand Award winners have pushed the boundaries in their own fields to deliver truly remarkable results in terms of attention to detail and maturity of thinking, that show what can be achieved when UD principles are put into practice in a coherent and considered way.
Nishikasai Inoue Eye Hospital is a specialist hospital that faces increasing demand due, among other factors, to the super-aging of Japanese society and the consequent increase in the numbers of people with vision-related problems and conditions. This growing patient base required the refurbishment of existing premises and the construction of new buildings, whilst the devastating events of March 2011 focused attention on the imperative of disaster mitigation. To address these needs as effectively as possible, Nishikasai Inoue Eye Hospital established its own independent Universal Design study group to review and oversee key design issues, and initiated a cycle of user interviews and trials to inform and validate the process. The result was a coherent strategy of universal “design for all five senses”.
A combination of visual, tactile and auditory clues ensure a high level of intuitive understanding and navigation of the facilities, while careful attention has been given to highly visible safety and emergency signage supplemented by information in other formats and features such as handrails and the design of spaces to eliminate trip hazards. The combination of all these elements ensures easy navigation and safe and comfortable use of the building, all of which has been achieved and validated through an iterative process of user consultation, involvement, verification and evaluation, that has become central to the organizations commitment to continuous improvement through the application of UD principles.
The jury was particularly impressed by the high level of staff and user involvement in and the continuing commitment to Universal Design demonstrated by Nishikasai Inoue Eye Hospital, and its commitment to making its premises as user-friendly and convenient as possible, while at the same time ensuring high standards of patient safety and disaster mitigation.
Founded in 2004, the DJ Academy of Design is the only design school in India wholly committed to Universal Design education. Since its inception, it has played a major role in the introduction of Universal Design thinking and practice to the Indian sub-continent. Its Dean, Professor Singanapalli Balaram, and his colleague and collaborator, Jim Singh Sandhu, Professor Emeritus at The University of Northumbria, UK, have together raised international awareness of majority world issues in the field of design, and significantly influenced and shaped the development of Universal Design thinking and application.
The central aim of the DJ Academy of Design is to inspire future generations of designers and thinkers in design and industry, and equip them to develop, apply and implement Universal Design in a majority world context. The vision is to create an integrated and equitable society in the democratic and developing context of 21st century India. A goal to be achieved through a strategy based on championing and advocating Universal Design throughout India and beyond; influencing professionals in design, industry and the public sector; encouraging and supporting the Indian government in the making and implementation of Universal Design policies; and building a research centre and capability at its campus in Coimbatore to support and sustain these activities.
The jury was impressed by the level of energy and commitment shown by the Academy and its key staff, in spreading the message of Universal Design and inspiring other institutions to follow its lead. The DJ Academy of Design has played a crucial role in the development of Universal Design thinking in India by developing extensive international links and collaborations leading up to a major international conference in March 2015, which resulted in a Universal Design declaration and helped further international interest in majority world issues and their impact on design.
Beginning in 2010, Mitsubishi Electrical Corporation has put in place a Universal Design strategy, which it has made central to its product development program. RakuRaku Assist is based on three principles – safety in use, ease of use and pleasure in use – with the goal of creating products that can be used readily and enjoyably used by as many people as possible.
Applying these principles across the whole product development process, from conception to delivery, has lead to the identification of key factors, features and qualities that are integral to the goals of safety, ease and pleasure in use. This has been achieved by developing a thorough in-house UD system and guidelines that are close to the design process set out in the UK British Standard BS7000-6 guidance on managing Inclusive design. The Mitsubishi UD system is integral to the entirety of the new product development process and applied across the entire product lifecycle, including packaging, product literature, manuals and catalogs. It includes an internal assessment, validation and certification methodology, and involves extensive user consultation at key stages in development, from need identification to in-use assessment, as part of a program of continuous improvement.
The jury highlighted the practical way in which the application of the three central principles through a well-structured process led to the identification of important, user-friendly design features, and the implementation of these features in universally inclusive and non-stigmatizing ways. It welcomed the level of company-wide commitment to this initiative and the success with which Universal Design has been embedded in Mitsubishi Electric Corporation’s working practices and product.
Historically, little attention has been given to the ways deaf people experience and modify space to fit their personal and collective needs. Due to the lack of relevant information, architectural design has failed to respond adequately to the needs of the deaf community. To address this knowledge gap, and based on a unique architectural project at Gallaudet University, Washington DC, the DeafSpace Project, has published the ‘DeafSpace Design Guidelines’, an extensive set of guidance and design recommendations for creating spaces and environments responsive to deaf sensibilities.
The DeafSpace project, which inspired the book, was a radically inclusive co-design program in which deaf people, empowered with basic design and research skills, documented their experiences and proposed design solutions to everyday challenges and situations in collaboration with a team of architects and lighting designers. The project first resulted in the Living and Learning Residence Hall VI at Gallaudet University and has since influenced the design of other buildings.
The jury thought that, although the original DeafSpace project and campus buildings were created for use by deaf and hard of hearing students and faculty, the published detail of the extensive and comprehensive design guidelines offers real insight into how deaf and hard of hearing people experience space. The publication has potential for universal application, importantly by raising issues about the social use and perception of architectural spaces and environments that hold good for people of all ages and abilities.
As a result of a collaboration with the FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences, Austria, and extensive user collaboration, TU-Berlin has created an innovative talking tactile model of Berlin. The goal was to significantly improve on existing 3D models, which are used extensively as a way-finding tool for vision-impaired tourists and to explain the navigation of buildings to users. The intention was to enhance the perception of large, three-dimensional environments through a multi-sensual presentation, by adding sound and enlarged elements, and employing the latest in available technologies, such as RFID navigation and smart phone integration. The result is a multi-dimensional presentation of the city, which appeals to blind, visually impaired and sighted users alike, and delivers a detailed and information-rich experience for all.
The four-year research and development project was implemented in close cooperation with German associations of blind and visually impaired persons. This collaboration between key users and experts in technology and design resulted in creative synergies that break new ground in the representation of large structures and environments to people of all ages and abilities.
The jury found the TU Berlin’s Talking Tactile Model an innovative and creative extension of the well-established idea of ‘haptic’, or touchable and feelable models of cities. The addition of sound and animation to an essentially static model greatly extends its value to vision-impaired tourists. Beyond that it enhances the appeal of the tactile model by adding to the interactive experience in a genuinely inclusive and universal way.
Seniori365.fi is a digital platform with free access to users and service providers, promoting health, wellbeing and social activities for older people and their families. By acting as a gateway to suitable domestic products and a wide range of local services in and around Espoo, the second largest city and municipality in Finland, Seniori365.fi encourages independence and social engagement, as well as providing an extensive information resource for older people and their families. It is highly regarded by users and providers alike and following its successful implementation in Espoo the concept is set to be taken up by other municipalities in Finland.
Seniori365.fi was developed between 2012 and 2014 Laurea University of Applied Sciences, by a multidisciplinary group of students. Extensive research into the needs and concerns of older people led to the concept of a digital service, which was developed as a co-design exercise, using a variety of research and user-involvement and co-creation methods. Initial development was followed by extensive user testing and validation, resulting in iterative changes to the structure, usability, appearance and content of the website.
The jury warmly welcomed the initiative as an excellent example of intergenerational collaboration through co-creation and co-design, and was impressed by the level of engagement and commitment shown by young creatives in addressing real-life issues of considerable social importance now and in the future.
As provider of high accessibility vehicles, which come in many variants in order to meet a wide range of mobility needs, Daihatsu Motor Co. Ltd. recognized the importance of a coherent approach to customer advice and service. The company has taken steps to implement this across its dealer network with the ‘Friendship Shop’ concept, which sets out to complement its ‘Friendship’ vehicle series by ensuring consistency in showroom accessibility and customer relations. The system is built around three key criteria that dealers must satisfy in order to qualify as a ‘Friendship Shop’: their premises must be validated as barrier-free, in particular for wheelchair users; sales staff must be suitably qualified by the Japan wheelchair-accessible vehicle association; customers must be able to personally assess and try out vehicles with the help of expert advice.
At present, well over 100 Daihatsu distributors have been awarded ‘Friendship Shop’ status, but for the company this is just a beginning, and the ultimate goal is to see all 600+ distributors across Japan authorized and compliant with the scheme.
The jury praised the scale of Daihatsu’s ambition to present a coherent experience and ambience for all its customers with specific mobility needs. In the context of an ageing society, and with the goal of greater social inclusion and independence, this is a significant step towards achieving a Universal Design society in Japan.
While the importance of handrails in bathrooms is well understood, there remains a level of consumer resistance to products that are perceived as stigmatizing. To address this issue, Panasonic Corporation conducted repeated assessments with users and specialists to establish a comprehensive set of performance requirements and better understand user needs and preferences. The result is a handrail which doubles as a storage shelf and thereby establishes an aesthetic of comfort and security combined with style and functionality by helping to organize and present care products and other items in an accessible and pleasing way.
The goal was to provide firm support for a series movements and activities – such as getting in and out of the bathtub – that might otherwise be hazardous, in particular for older and vulnerable users. Panasonic’s proprietary Digital Human Technology was used to optimize the design, in combination with a representative sample of end-users based on an extended family group, with an emphasis on older and less able users. As the handrail is an integral element in a prefabricated bathroom, security of fixing and reliability in use are ensured,
The jury was impressed with this simple and elegant solution to an important safety consideration that is often overlooked or inadequately provided for in the modern bathroom. Its relevance in the context of an ageing population was also highly commended.
On the basis of extensive consumer research, involving over 30,000 households, Panasonic Corporation has created a new range of domestic appliances addressing the needs, aspirations and lifestyle preferences of older consumers. While focusing on the 50+ consumer, Panasonic has applied universal design thinking to ensure that key features of this product range offer benefits to a wide range of consumers, regardless of age and ability. With an emphasis on convenience, ease of use and operation, combined with reduced size and weight, the build standard speaks of durability and attention to detail, while the aesthetic is one of simplicity and timelessness.
A goal was to reduce the capability demand made of the user by making operation simple and intuitive. The success of this approach is demonstrated by a coordinated suit of products, including: a washing machine, air conditioner, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, steam and microwave combination oven, and a small-size rice cooker; each of which has been recognized with a 2015 IAUD Award.
The jury felt that with this carefully researched approach Panasonic is developing a truly age-friendly consumer offer that is lifestyle-driven and universal in its usability and simplicity. Although Panasonic’s focus was to develop a range of products in harmony with the Japanese lifestyle, the jury thought that the resulting designs have the potential to appeal to a broad international consumer base.
Population aging and environmental sustainability are two major social challenges now and for the future, which FabCab has responded to with a component-based pre-fabricated housing system that facilitates a personalized approach to housing provision. A set of standard designs allows clients a choice of basic elements that can be tailored to personal needs, pre-fabricated and delivered ready for an approved contractor to assemble on site. Standard designs include a range of UD features and accessories that are both age- and ability-friendly and environmentally sustainable. The aim is to facilitate and support healthy lifestyles for all, whilst minimizing waste, conserving energy and ensuring resource-efficiency.
The jury commended the attention to detail, in particular with regard to sustainability and UD features, and the enabling nature of the complete service offered by FabCab. It saw particular value in the product in terms of ageing in place and enabling older family members to live independently near their loved ones, and also for sheltered accommodation.
Accessible website design is of great importance now and for the future. Website design is a fast-changing field in which guidelines and accessibility requirements are often seen as a costly impediment to imaginative design. Unfortunately, poor and inaccessible website design can exclude and disable, and in some countries, including Japan, this is a significant problem. To address this challenge, the technology division of Business Architects Inc. has created and published a Japan-centric book on web accessibility. The goal is to convince companies and website designers, that good, accessible design can be part of a normal workflow, and deliver enhanced customer satisfaction at no appreciable extra cost.
The jury applauded the direct, practical approach of the book, which gives guidance based on worked examples. This open-ended approach allows the reader to understand web accessibility standards and guidance without feeling constrained by it, and offers practical advice on problem solving and workflow in an accessible, designer-friendly format.
This hand-held flashlight can accommodate four different sizes of dry cells, from AAA up to D. In normal use it functions as a conventional flashlight, with the added advantage of extra-long battery life made possible by the use of LED technology. Its compact size, of just 135mm in length, and light weight, combined with a generous grip, make it suitable for a users of all ages, while its stable shape allows it to function as a convenient up-lighter. Importantly, the multi-function elements make this product ideal for emergency situations, especially during prolonged power cuts, as the multi-battery capability makes it possible to use any batteries that are to hand, including those in other temporarily unusable appliances.
The jury was particularly impressed by the way the Panasonic design team had responded to user feedback and adapted LED technology to enable significant reductions in weight and size, coupled with increased functionality. This second iteration of a successful product is a good example of continuous improvement through the application of UD thinking.
The remote abstract note-taking system links hearing impaired individuals with note-takers via the Internet by establishing a two-way flow of data from the classroom and back to it. It also manages requests for support and assigns note-takers to students. The system was developed in response to a chronic shortage of note-takers at universities and colleges, where expert knowledge is often required. Additional problems come from differing local constraints, including the cost of travel by note-takers and their availability. By accommodating both students and ex-students who can find limited time windows to act as note-takers and people working from home, and all regardless of location, the system reduces costs and greatly increases the availability of note-takers, in particular when specialist knowledge is needed.
The jury commended the adaption and integration of Internet technology and time/resource-management systems in a seamless service tailored to end-user needs and the availability of note-taking resources. This is an innovative and much-needed system meeting a significant user-need.
The Bradley Timepiece was created to accommodate both sighted and vision-impaired users equally. Just like glasses, watches are now utilitarian items with high fashion value, which means that an inclusive watch design has not only to work for sighted and vision-impaired people, equally importantly, they have to feel good wearing it. This imperative cuts to the heart of inclusive or Universal Design. Functionality is not enough; it must be coupled with desirability. Only then do products and services transcend the psychological distance that all too often separates able and less able people. The Bradley Timepiece achieves this in an elegant and innovative way by combining a quality Swiss mechanism with magnets and ball bearings moving in concentric grooves around the watch face.
The Jury applauded the focus and dedication of the designers, engineers and blind participants who worked together as an exemplary, co-creative Universal Design team to achieve this elegant and sophisticated product.
The iNSTICK cordless cleaner combines two functions – vacuum cleaner and air purifier – in a single product with a tiny footprint, and simple design. The intention behind the product is to reduce the burden and inconvenience of cleaning, and at the same time make it easier for children and older adults. This is achieved by significantly reducing the bulk and weight of the product, and by ensuring that the grip is suitable to large and small hands alike. The controls have been simplified as two adjacent buttons and the associated stand/air purifier is designed to occupy the minimum of space. By doubling as an air purifier the product can remain in a room or hallway without occupying storage space.
The jury was impressed with the focus on air quality, convenience and Universal Design features embodied in the product, and found the dual function as vacuum cleaner and air purifier innovative and space saving. Its lightweight, combined with ease of operation and cleaning, is also age- and child-friendly.
Conventionally, the height of office desks has been fixed, paying little regard to the variability in body type and size among the working population. Variable height seating offers some possibility of adapting the office environment to individual needs, but as working practices change there is a growing need for a more flexible approach to the work environment. Okamura Corporation has responded to this challenge by creating a variable-height desk and table system that is adapted to working in either a seated or standing position, as recommended by the Institute for Science of Labor. The raising and lowering function is fully mechanized, with built in safety features, and the desk/table top gently profiled to suit both modes of working.
The jury commended this well-researched and engineered office system both for its ergonomic performance and wellbeing benefits, and for its elegant design and support of modern working practices, in particular with regard to an aging workforce and hence increasing diversity in user need.
This Panasonic LED Lantern is a multi-use handy light for everyday use. A highly portable, battery-driven task light that can double up as a bedside or camping light, it is intended to be kept at hand and thus be ready for emergency use if needed. With very long battery life of up to 1,000 hours, it can be confidently used during a blackout, and with two brightness levels it can be used in a child’s bedroom, for nighttime feeding, or in suspended mode as an occasional light in dark cupboards and other unlit spaces. The light is softly diffused and the bulb shape gives a sense of familiarity and function to this LED light source.
The jury found the multi-functional qualities of this simple both appealing and utilitarian, while the availability of a reliable and durable emergency light source was seen as a significant and reassuring benefit. The simplicity of operation, with a gentle touch of the bulb, added to the overall sense of user-friendliness makes this a good example of UD applied to everyday items.