The origin of Universal Design

Universal Design is all around us. It makes sure that products and environments are usable to all people, by design. In this episode, we’ll be taking a look at the origin of the concept and how the principles have evolved to all parts of society. We’ll be hearing from different perspectives how inclusivity by design can be applied in different settings, both physical and digital. Gain insights from:

  • Paul Crowe, Managing Director of TODD Architects
  • Gordon McCullough, Chief Executive of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RIDC)


Joni Degner (00:15):
Welcome to a new season of the Texthelp Talks podcast, your space online to listen, learn and explore disability inclusion. Make sure you're subscribed through your preferred podcast player or streaming service so that you'll never miss an episode. I'm Joni Degner with Texthelp and I'll be guiding us through season two where we'll be talking about all things universal design, a topic I'm very passionate about, very enthusiastic about, and excited to get started on today.

We're going to spend some time breaking down some of the myths around universal design for learning, take a deep dive into universal design for learning, as well as hear about the impact of inclusivity by design from lived experiences. So this is going to be a fantastic season, make sure you're subscribed through your preferred podcast player.

First to kick off this season, I'm joined by two guests, Paul Crowe and Gordon McCullough, and today we're going to explore the origins of universal design, which I think is actually a very fascinating topic and we've definitely got the right experts on hand to enlighten us and engage in conversation today. And hopefully by the end of this episode you'll come to realise that universal design is in fact all around us. It really is a matter of knowing what you're looking at, knowing what you're looking for, and I think amplifying those pieces that really resonate with you or you know will land with your learners. So after our chat, we're going to leave you with one thing to know, one thing to do and one thing to think about. So let's get started.

Paul and Gordon, it's fantastic to have you on the podcast today. And Gordon, I know that you've actually been on an episode of Texthelp Talks before, so welcome back. Can you both please tell our listeners a little bit about yourselves and the work that you do?

Gordon McCullough (02:03):
Well, I'll go first since I've been on the podcast before. Joni, thank you so much for having me along today. I'm really delighted to have been asked back, must mean the first time wasn't that bad. My name's Gordon McCullough, I'm the chief executive at a research charity called the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers. And I think our name pretty much says what we do. We try and get the views, experiences, insights of disabled people into the process of thinking about creating inclusive and accessible products from the very beginning. So we've been around for, it'll be 60 years next year. So we have spent a long time trying to work with businesses and government to really begin to understand and appreciate the voice disabled consumers have in terms of product design and services.

And so me personally, I've been working there for about four years now and it's a very, very interesting and challenging area to work in. Certainly every day on any project we're working on, you always have that light bulb moment where somebody goes, "I never thought of that or I never considered that particular thing." So it's actually a real pleasure and privilege to work in this area because the change you can see happen at so many different levels is so gratifying. So yeah, great to be back and I'm really looking forward to this conversation.

Joni (03:23):
Thank you, Gordon.

Paul Crowe (03:27):
Thanks Joni, and good to meet you and good to meet you too, Gordon. This is a new experience for me being involved in a podcast, not only for Texthelp, but at all. So delighted to be here and thanks for the invitation. So I'm Paul Crowe, I'm managing director of TODD Architects, and I'm based normally in Belfast in Titanic Quarter. We are Northern Irish owned architectural practice, but we do have studios outside of Northern Ireland in Dublin and in London and in Manchester. And we employ around 90 people in total working across a wide range of sectors from healthcare to education, commercial workplace and down to residential projects, airports, a very wide range. And I suppose all of those come with different challenges and different regulation, different approaches, different clients, different aspirations.

So I think the breadth of experience that we have, we come across issues around universal design and other accessible issues continuously and there's always challenging but innovative solutions around those. So yeah, it's always challenging, always complex and always exciting, but it's good to be here and hopefully again add some value to the conversation today.

Joni (04:48):
Really, really excited to connect with the two of you. And so let's go ahead and just dive in and get started here. I think we first need to kind of set the scene on universal design because I think that there are a lot of people out there who have got a little bit of information, some folks have got a lot of information and some folks who are really just starting to dip their toe in the water. So let's go ahead and just kind of talk about the term universal design, which was actually created by Ron Mace. And Mace was an American architect, a product designer, an educator and a consultant. He's best known for coining the term universal design and for his work advocating for people with disabilities. And so Paul, as our resident architect on the podcast today, I'd love to get your insights on this. What does universal design mean to you as an architect and as someone who works in the built environment?

Paul  (05:45):
So I suppose I prefer the words inclusive and diverse. I suppose universal encompasses that, but it's maybe more understandable. But for me, it is designed for everyone. And it's not just the buildings in the built environment, it's the spaces between them, how we move, how we navigate between public space, parks, streets, crossings, traffic, et cetera, as well as it's just how we move around and how we access buildings.

But it does come with its challenges and difficulties, often requiring very innovative solutions. There is regulation, there is the minimum go-to standards, but I think the intent and the aspiration of universal design or whatever we want to term it goes beyond that. I think it's taking things to different levels. You don't want to start with the lowest common denominator, I think, in thinking about these things we need to raise the bar. It's perhaps becoming more to the fore as a major issue, and that's a great thing. In the past it was rroll of the eyes and, "Oh, do we really have to deal with this?" Whereas now at least regulation has brought things forward and is bringing it much further beyond that now.

But we don't always get it right. And I think it does require lateral thinking. And I always think that every building is a prototype. The development of a product or a car is always the one that comes to mind. Audi or BMW or whoever spent millions and millions of pounds developing prototypes to get everything right. With a building, we get one chance. So that is a challenge and it feels like that. So it's quite difficult to be perfect every time, but I think there's a journey there that we all go on.

It's not just about disability would be the other thing I would say. It's about ability, it's about gender, sexuality, age, size, et cetera. There's so many issues that come to play and I suppose architecture, many people will think of the image of the great architects of the past and even of today, you remember the image, you remember the excitement of seeing something conceptually. But good architecture is actually about the delivery of every aspect of that right down to the fine detail of furniture and products and how they're placed, signage, reception, counters, all of those things that the minutia, which really makes a difference to people's lives. The image, does it make a difference to your lives? It maybe makes you feel better, but how you use it I think is much more important. And that's really to me what universal design is around. Things just don't happen, everything needs to be thought about.

Joni (08:38):
I really love that. I really love also that you kind of dug in and talked a little bit about this word universal because I think that there is in some conversations maybe or in some contexts that has this meaning of, well, a one size fits all when that is not at all what we're talking about when we're talking about universal design. It really is about belonging and an individual experience. And I also love that you brought up this notion that it really is making environments work or making an experience or product work, it really isn't just about ability and disability that we're every human is highly variable in many ways. And so you bring up gender and sexuality and our belief systems and things like that, and all of those contribute to how incredibly variable we are in every environment and every experience.

And so I really love that because I actually have had conversations before, particularly with folks from different cultures, I'm from the US and having conversations with folks from different cultures who had a notion of, well, universal did not really pay a lot of attention to the individual, but they kind of thought to make a one size fits all, so I really love that you brought that up so that we can clarify what we mean by that.

And so you also brought up a little bit about not starting with the least common denominator and we are a disability inclusion podcast and we often hear a lot of talk about accessibility, but you said it's not just about accessibility or ability and inability, but the concept of universal design really goes beyond that to focus on what it means to be inclusive. So if I could just ask a quick follow up here while we're kind of digging into the vocabulary that we use to talk about design, what are some of the key differences between design that's accessible and design that's inclusive?

Paul  (10:52):
I think accessibility is largely around, I suppose movement, mobility. For example, the front door, the ramp, the steps, the barriers, avoiding those using lifts and the ability to maneuver but to do so in a dignified manner. It's quite often not so dignified because it can be an afterthought. So accessibility is maybe more of a practical consideration, might even come down to, well, it will down to things like accessible bathrooms and shower-rooms, et cetera, depending on the building types as well. But a lot of the accessibility aspects I think in architecture are covered by regulation, you must do this, you must do that, you must have level accesses, you must have a ramp at a certain gradient. And all of these things are very, very good and very helpful and it kind of force forces accessibility, which is a good thing. It's almost a mandatory type approach.

But I think the inclusive design is much more wide ranging, I suppose less dependent on regulation and more about careful design, consideration, expectation, client briefing, and the aspirations to do the best that you can in, I suppose I use the word product and cutting across Gordon in some ways, but a building's also a product. It's a product that many people collaborate on and I think we all need to be moving in the same direction. It can also account for diversity, literacy, language, et cetera through the use of graphics rather than words and so forth. So there's a lot of consideration and words that certainly words like intuitive and safe and dignified are the things that come to mind for me. And I know a number of those are in the seven principles that Mace developed in universal design, but they are the ones that really stick with me.

Joni (13:08):
So you've talked a little bit about a few things here, but could you give our listeners like a few more examples that they may come across? For instance, like in buildings or in a school or in an office?

Paul  (13:23):
Sure, yeah, I mean I think a lot of these things when they're well designed almost go unnoticed, they become habitual and you almost shouldn't be looking for them. And I think that's a good endgame to think to strive for. But a few examples, so say in an office or an office building when you arrive, there'll be a reception counter normally and someone to greet or meet. There should be an element of that which is lower, for instance, for a wheelchair user, somewhere to put your knees to get under. And you should find the same thing in kitchens and restaurants and dining halls in schools, et cetera as well. Not necessarily just for wheelchair users, but maybe people of different heights or children or whatever.

So you have to think about how people can see each other's eyes and lips and actually see a personality behind the counter. So that that's quite an important thing. I think some of our work, certainly we're involved in healthcare and in tourism for instance jump to mind where we use a lot of what we call supergraphics, big bold statements of colour or a large G for ground or big one for first, whatever the terminology might be. But that's really about clarity in assisting way finding and orientation of where you are in a building. So this is the purple floor, this is the green floor, those sorts of visual assistances, which I think go beyond regulations so you're trying to make people feel more comfortable and orientated.

I think one of the worst feelings is to feel lost and disorientated. So if you can relate back to something, one of the other devices we would use would be atriums and double height spaces. And you see that in a lot of buildings where there's slots right through where you can see right down to the ground floor. So you know where you've come from, you know how you can orientate yourself back to those sorts of spaces. I think even simple things that you probably don't even notice, like the contrast on the edge of a step, there should be a colour differential between the end of a step so that you don't trip. And also a textural difference as well, there's a little strip on there with little blisters or bubbles on it that you can feel it if you're visually impaired, that you're on the end of something and you get to know these things. And even a door frame when you're opening a door not to get your fingers caught, there should be a colour difference between the frame and the door. So lots of little things that you won't even notice but should assist in the day-to-day operation and usability of a project.

One that we are finding a lot now is particularly in office spaces in public buildings would be non-gender specific toilets. So you're not going into a female or a male bathroom, you're going into maybe an area which is a series of cubicles which have their own wash hand basins and they're self-contained so that you don't have this differentiation between male and female occupants and it's effectively gender neutral. Some people like it, some don't. It takes a little bit more space, but I actually think it's more dignified et cetera as well. So I think those sorts of things.

And then very basic principles about using natural environment, natural daylight, natural ventilation which help people feel more comfortable, that you have a little bit of control over that I can open a window or I have a view. One of the things we always talk about in healthcare in particular in schools to some point as well is that you can see something outside, you can see the sky, you can see something green, it makes you feel better, it makes you connected with the natural environment. So those are maybe subtle things, but we always try to incorporate into our design work certainly. So the small practical examples I guess. But I think very, very important and almost unnoticed.

Joni (17:37):
Gordon, I'd really like to also bring you in here and ask you the same question. From your role at RIDC, can you talk a little bit about what the terms accessibility and inclusion mean to you and how you look at those differences and kind of define those?

Gordon  (17:54):
Of course. I mean I think Paul pretty much covered the difference between accessibility and inclusion, but for me the difference is quite simple. One is about can and one is about want. Can somebody use something, is it accessible? So it's very pragmatic, very logical and very measurable. You can or you can't get on a train, you can or you can't enter a building. And the want is more around the inclusivity part of it all. So it's more subjective, it's more emotional and requires a greater degree of empathy. And it's about somebody wanting to use something.

And I think in terms of design and products and buildings and all the rest of it, I think what Paul has just talked about, and I could sit and listen to all that type of stuff all day, that happens because somebody's spoken to somebody who's a lived experience of disability. All those little small changes, all those little differences, those tweaks are because somebody's listened to and understood the needs of somebody with a disability. Because as a non-disabled person, you just don't live it, you don't feel it, you don't touch it every day. And so it's really important that there is that level of conversation and interaction with disabled people.

And we talk a lot in RIDC about disability being a resource for design, not a burden on design because I think Paul said it earlier, if you can design for disabled people you're designing something that's accessible and inclusive for everybody. And just I suppose students of universal design will know these examples, but it never ceases to amaze me the background of everyday products that we use. The fact that they actually were designed because they needed an accessible solution. So a typewriter that was designed by Pellegrino Turi, and that's a fantastic name, for his blind lover the countess Carolina, she couldn't use pen and paper, so he invented a typewriter. It wasn't put forward as a disability aid or a tool or something like that and it's just gone into mainstream. And not a lot of people really knew that. Same with the electric toothbrush was invented because somebody had poor motor skills, SMS texting deaf people to communicate with one another and bendy straws as well.

So that's to me a really lovely intersection between something that's accessible and something that's inclusive. People wanted to use those products because they were good and they solved a problem, but actually they were just really attractive. And to me that's what we think about and talk about in terms of the difference between accessibility and inclusion. It's very easy to design and make something, a building a product, whatever, that's sort of big, boring, gray and beige, very medicalized and really nobody else but somebody who is disabled and has to use it would really want to use that. But when you design something that starts from the point of view of the disabled person, you end up having a very innovative and very accessible and very inclusive solution.

And a lot of the work that we do is trying to... I like to think of it just prevention, preventing somebody having to go back later on and fix something. If you get it right from the beginning, you're preventing a lot of heartache later on and a lot of angry people on Twitter and a lot of business loss. So the words get used interchangeably, they mean slightly different things, but they compliment each other really well. And I think our conversations with people we work with are becoming much more about that joining of accessibility inclusion, not just how do we make this accessible, but how do we make people want to use this above and beyond the disabled community?

Joni (21:46):
So you've actually kind of led us right into the next part of this conversation, which I am excited to talk about a little bit here because it's a considerable piece of universal design for learning is that of being proactive. And so I would like to turn our conversation in that direction about what it means to be anticipatory and proactive about barriers that people might face when they're trying to access something, whether that would be a building or a product or an experience. And Gordon, I know that you carry a lot of customer research and testing at RIDC and how important is it that we understand and meet the needs of all consumers including those with disabilities?

Gordon  (22:37):
Well, I'm going to start with it is very important. But well, looking at what we do, we have a panel of over 3,500 disabled and older people right across the UK. And I like to think we have on any given day we have 3,500 researchers who are telling us what life is like and using a particular product or service. So we look at everything from cereal packets, shampoos, trains, cars, basically whatever we're asked to look at. But we ask our panel, what are their experiences like? What is it that act as a barrier? What has somebody done that puts a barrier in place for you to use that product or service well and in a way that you want to, so it's not a compromise, you've got choice about and you've got independence about your life?

If we didn't ask that, if we didn't go and try and uncover those insights, we would miss out so many aspects of what are those little small things that are put in somebody's way, not intentionally or not willfully, but they're actually just part of a product or a service, how can they be changed? And so we have these 3,500 researchers on one day and I think we have 3,500 designers on another day because what is evident every single time is that our panel members and disabled people in general are very innovative. They'll come and they'll get workarounds for a particular problem or a way to do something slightly differently that works for them. And if we can get designers and business and others involved in that conversation to really understand how that difference can be made, then it really makes the whole product more accessible for everybody.

And it's not, again, something that looks medicalized or it's something that's not attractive or something that's not ultimately really usable. The things that our panel come up with, and I hope in next year we'll see some products on the shelves that have actually been influenced by our panel members to make the whole process more accessible and inclusive. So it's absolutely imperative. I think that's where you start from, you start from the 20% of the population that face the 100% of the barriers and issues to try and access something. You get that bit right at the beginning then I think you really begin to have a product and service that everybody wants to use and is accessible for everyone.

So we have seen a lot actually through pandemic, through cost of living, through everything that when change happens fast, disabled people are often last in the conversation about it and how things are designed, how services are rolled out, and to be involved in those conversations. And that's what I spend most of my time doing is trying to convince businesses and government and others to really start from the point of a disabled person's perspective and build out from there. We'll talk about it later, but it seems like there's a shift change, the appreciation of universal design and the need to begin from that starting point is, I think things are starting to move a little bit.

Joni (25:51):
So we know that it's important to be able to be proactive and to anticipate barriers as much as possible on the front end when we're designing something. But we also know that quite often don't begin with a blank slate, that if you join a company you kind of already have products and services that you're probably working with, you may be designing new ones. And again, when I was a public educator, I stepped into my classroom and it was not an empty classroom, I had a space to work with. I had certain furniture that was given to me and materials and curriculum to work with. And there were a lot of times that I did find myself to be retrofitting things because we weren't starting from the very beginning.

We know though that if we can start from the beginning, if we can anticipate those barriers on the front end and build from the ground up thinking in that way, that certainly does benefit both designers and consumers. Can you guys talk a little bit about the benefit of a design that is kind of anticipatory and proactive versus one that has had to be retrofitted?

Paul  (27:05):
I'll go first Gordon, if you want to?

Gordon  (27:06):
Sure, go ahead.

Paul  (27:13):
Just briefly. I mean I think it's becoming a very prominent issue in the world that we operate in, in architecture. Retrofit can be very, very challenging. It can present, I suppose, challenges of a more technical nature. So maybe things that were built in the sixties, seventies, eighties would've had different expectations for their quality, their thermal quality, daylighting, et cetera. Some of them may not have even had a lift or thought about accessibility and so forth. And they may have had touch ups over the years and little bits and pieces may have happened.

I think what it can do though is inform innovative solutions because I think we have been a society that has become used to throwing away and I think the environmental agenda and the climatic agenda that we are living through is pushing us to look harder at retrofit solutions, which don't demolish buildings and throw things away in the way that we used to. It was easier to demolish and build new, probably is technically still the case. Is it cheaper? Maybe a little bit, but maybe not a lot. But it is that environmental conscious side of what we do. I think we have to consider these things. We can always improve something. There are challenges, but there's always a way. Things like lifts may be too small, stairs may not be wide enough, the ceilings might be very low, but you can be creative around these things by cutting holes in floors and moving the lift and different stairs and different windows and it can be done.

And I think adaptive reuse is quite a term I really like and I think it's something that is certainly in our organisation, we are starting to see one of our first moves might be to think about, well what can we keep rather than what we throw away? It has its technical challenges around universal design, but maybe it's more the accessibility aspects of that I think that are more difficult to deal with. And I think there's always a way, if there's a will, there's a way and the commerciality and the money comes into play. In our world, it comes into play through investors and funders and it is something that's more bankable and something that's old and those sort of conversations are starting to be had as well. But it's a really interesting area. I'm sure it's very similar for Gordon's side of things.

Gordon  (29:53):
Yeah, it is. And just as you're speaking and there are sometimes blank pieces of paper and sometimes those blank pieces of paper, the mistakes that have been made in the past.

And the one example I would use is around electric vehicles and the public charging infrastructure. And this is one where there could have been a conversation earlier on about the needs of disabled drivers who there were 1.6 million blue badge holders in the UK so there was a lot of disabled people who drive, but they weren't considered in the design of the public charging point. So in a bit like a sort of scenario from the wild west, the government made the big proclamations about electric vehicles will replace internal combustion engine cars by 2030, but hadn't considered the accessibility of the charging network. And so all these charging points were ruled out and nobody had looked at the needs of disabled drivers until, I'm very pleased to say that RIDC were funded to look at that issue and we went out and discovered that actually it was a myriad of problems for anybody who was driving with a disability in terms of getting close to the electric charge point, pulling the cables down, transferring out of the car because the space was too narrow. And so there were no accessible charging points at all in the UK being developed and so there was very little choice for disabled drivers to actually get an electric car.

Through our research, we then worked with Motorability, the charity, and they took the call to try and change that. And working with another charity, Designability, they managed to get a standard put in place by the the ESI to make sure that all future charging points are accessible and have their design principles about how those charge points are accessible. So a lot of the guard rails, the positioning of the payment screens and things like that have been changed, but you've got a charging infrastructure out there that has grown really quickly, but the majority of those charging points aren't accessible at all. The infrastructure that exists to tell people where those charging points are doesn't exist at all. So there's been so many missteps because there wasn't that conversation earlier on and it's going to cost a lot of money to retrofit a lot of those charging points in the future.

And so there are opportunities where you do have a blank piece of paper and so the new one will be around connected autonomous vehicles. But already we're saying that those mistakes are being made right now, particularly the sort of the bus and the taxi sort of world of autonomous vehicles, again, issues around accessibility and inclusion aren't being factored into the design stage. So it's really, really important that people understand the cost and the impact of not really thinking at the beginning about the needs of disabled people because it'll come back later on. And as Paul said, and as you've said, you have to go back and fix it and that costs money and it causes inconvenience and it's just something that can be quite easily avoided and prevented at the very beginning.

Joni (32:58):
You mentioned many times how much I've loved studying this and learning about what these things mean for my work in terms of reaching learners and really just doing a good job for the humans that we service every day. And so a lot of the elements of Ron Mace's philosophy have kind of pushed into other parts of society. We've talked about education and the universal design for learning framework and we are going to be looking at that in more depth in future episodes. So don't think that that's just we're glazing over that, this conversation with Paul and Gordon really is kind of laying the groundwork for the sort of thinking that it takes to move universal design into our systems of education, into our workplaces.

And one of the places I think that has become certainly impacted by universal design is not just physical spaces but also digital spaces. And that's something that I've kind of talked with educators a lot. We used to talk about, well it was really important to build things into your learning environment so that the things that felt inclusive were accessible to your learners wasn't specific to one lesson or specific to one assignment, that it was something that could be accessed anytime. And so now we talk about that in the digital realm, because those physical learning spaces have been expanded and now include digital space.

And so Gordon, what role does universal design play in product design? For instance, in something like website accessibility for example?

Gordon  (34:58):
I think what role does it play? It should play a central role in trying to design accessible websites that people can use and inclusive websites that people want to use. And I think I would like to say that it's the predominant approach in web design, but I'm afraid it's probably not.

Certainly when we are doing any of our digital work, we are often asked to carry out assessments of preexisting websites rather than doing more of the explorative work at the very early stages with our panel members to try and really understand why somebody would use that website, how could it be created in such a way that the language is right, that the imagery is right, that it makes it something that's attractive and somebody wants to use. I'm not saying it doesn't happen and there are a lot of really good websites, it's just in my world what we tend to be asked is to test the accessibilities of websites, less so the technical side of it, more around the user side and getting our panel members to test out a number of customer journeys through the site and then report back against accessibility heuristics as to whether or not those sites work for them and how they can be improved.

But I think that there's a much bigger challenge to try and move away from, "We'll just build a website, we'll test it out, we'll share it with somebody who we know, somebody who's disabled and we'll see if that's all right with them." But actually it's become so important now that websites are accessible and inclusive for everyone because it drives most of our lives in terms of how we access services, do things, connect with one another. And again, during the pandemic it was clearly it was like the fourth or fifth emergency service, being able to access things online. And again, we had lots of examples of our panel members, that was a huge barrier to them because of a whole range of issues about sites not being accessible.

So I'm sure there are listeners who will be throwing their arms up in the air as I've said all of that and say, "No, no, no, no. We build our websites using the universal design principles." It's just I can only base it on where we are brought in in any project and we do a lot around digital accessibility and it tends to be at the assessment end rather than at the creation thinking about explorative side of things. And again, that saves time and effort and money and a lot of headaches for people and I hope that that sort of emphasis changes and we can make a stronger argument about, again, putting the views and experiences and wants and needs of disabled people at the very beginning so that the website's accessible for everyone at the end.

Joni (37:55):
And Paul, what learnings do you think that organisations who are providing digital services and products, what can we take from building design?

Paul  (38:10):
Good question. I think before I answer that actually there was something you said there, Joni, about education and I've thought this for a while about architecture students and maybe other students of design in fashion or product or it might be, are they talking about universal design at university? Are they aware of Mace and those principles? Should there be a modular or a project based around that as part of architectural education? Because I think that probably not is the answer and it's very much more widely focused than that. And I think we need to embed these things in maybe earlier in our careers. But that's just a thought there.

I actually wonder in terms of buildings, I actually think it could be the other way around. I think maybe buildings and designers of buildings can learn quite a lot from the digital world and I think things like smart digital technologies are definitely going to impact on what we do and the future of architecture. But maybe in what will coming down from buildings, perhaps it's thinking about the impact on individuals. So ease of use, the journey from the front door, just the experiential aspects of that and the connection with the natural environment, which I talk about quite a lot because I think it's hugely important that we are not just living in Disney World all the time. And we use a lot of technology in our design for instance as well. So we talk about parametric design, which can be based around the climate and that might shape the form of a building or how much glass you put on the side facade and these sorts of things that have impact on comfort and usability.

So I think it's a very analytical tool for us in informing our approach. So there's a lot of commonality there and we're always experimenting, we're always experiencing new challenges, different regulations, new things happen. We had a major fire in the UK a few years ago in a disaster in a tower block. And what we've learned about fire since then and the regulation change that's coming up in relation to things like fire is going to have a huge impact on product, on building cladding, on window design, on smart technologies around early warnings and sprinklers and all these kind of things that we don't really think about an awful lot. It's a pity it takes a disaster for it to be recognised, but I think there's a lot of innovation, a lot of thinking all of the time and a lot of attention to detail.

And we always like to challenge the norm because the norm's dangerous. If you sit back and sit in what you think is the new norm, something will happen. But so changes, it's very fast paced and these days we just need to be constantly looking ahead at need, future need and how we can do things better, how we can use resources better and how we can improve quality. So we are looking at things like modern methods of construction, which is kind of a hybrid between the construction world and digital world of offsite manufacturing, which can improve quality, it's like prototypes and then you bring them all that building site and erect them. So those sorts of things are very much to the fore in the thinking and I think we'll see a lot more movement in that space in the next five to 10 years.

Joni (41:48):
Brilliant. I think that's all the time we have for today. It's been really great to have you share your thoughts and experiences with us, Paul and Gordon. So thank you so much.

And to our listeners, thanks for being with us and we promised you at the end, one thing to know, one thing to think about and one thing to do. So here we go. One thing to know: accessibility and inclusion mean different things. And yes, they are closely related, they do overlap, but there are important differences. Accessibility is making sure that the barriers people face when accessing a website, for example, are recognised and removed, like making sure a screen reader can interact with the website. But then inclusion is the gold standard. It's about diversity and ensuring everybody feels involved and everything is done in a way that includes everyone.

One thing to think about: universal means it's about everyone. Universal design wasn't created to support only certain groups of people. When you design for those with specific needs, means that we're designing for everyone. Many of design features and concepts that Paul and Gordon discussed today may be essential for some, but they're beneficial to all.

And one thing to do: practice being inclusive by design. We've heard today about the benefits for both organisations and the people they serve when inclusion is by design. Keep listening to this season of Texthelp Talks to get tips on how you can implement this in your setting, whether that's a place of work, a classroom, or a university lecture hall. And don't forget to subscribe to Texthelp Talks in your preferred podcast player or streaming service so that you can catch the next episode where I'll be joined by the creators of the universal design for learning framework, CAST. So thank you again, take care and goodbye.