Universal Design is a Mega Opportunity for the Space Industry
A (mostly) blank slate to create designs and infrastructure for inclusion
During the first On The Media episode of 2021, The World, Remade, Bob Garfield revisited a segment from earlier in the year on designing for access and inclusivity. The term, universal design, stems from programs, products and systems that were designed for a niche group, but find further useful applications and end up benefitting many people. Common examples are curb cuts and closed captioning.
Why is this particularly relevant today? The idea is that, with the restrictions in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, the world is participating in a universal design experiment. All people are experiencing a sudden lack of agency over their own lives, physical mobility and access to spaces. Meanwhile, the world around us is being rapidly redesigned to allow essential behaviors, such as grocery shopping and going to school, to continue. And we are all being asked to make small changes in our own behavior to ensure the protection and safety of those around us.
Through rapid prototyping, there is a system-wide effort to redesign our built environments.
As the interviewees in the OTM segment attest, (Vanessa Chang, lecturer at California College of the Arts, Mik Scarlet, an expert in the field of access and inclusion for disabled people, and Sara Hendren, professor at Olin College of Engineering), this is an opportunity to bring in groups that have advocated for inclusive design, which requires adapting the built environment systemically, at scale. The expertise in reimagining what our world could look like comes through lived experiences that requires creative hacks and continued confrontation of limited access to the world.
This is an unprecedented opportunity to consider universal design solutions that could make the world safer and healthier. To go beyond compliance with accessibility laws, companies and designers can instead aspire to design for the benefit of the greatest number of people.
Outer Space is a Design New Frontier
A major challenge of universal design is that it often requires retro-fitting existing infrastructure…