Your source for current news and announcements about the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (I.D.E.A) in Buffalo, NY.
Jordana Maisel Editor
Heamchand Subryan Technical Assistant
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UB’S IDEA CENTER AWARDED FEDERAL GRANT
The Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Center)
at The University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, was
recently awarded the Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center on
Universal Design and the Built Environment (RERC-UD). The RERC-UD is a
multi-disciplinary collaboration involving faculty, staff and students
from the School of Architecture and Planning, the School of Engineering
& Applied Sciences, and the School of Public Health and Health
Professions. The five-year, five million dollar grant is sponsored by
the US Department of Education through the National Institute for
Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).
Universal Design is an approach to designing products and places to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible,
without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Universal designs are more useful, attractive and more marketable to all
members of a community or customer base.
The RERC-UD is partnership between the IDEA Center, the Ontario Rehabilitation Technology Consortium (ORTC)
and representatives from the design and disability communities nationwide. The Center will research and develop
critical tools for advancing the field of universal design and apply those tools to develop exemplar products and
places through industry partnerships. Education and dissemination activities will increase awareness of the RERC
activities and universal design in general as well as improve capacity in research and practice. All these activities
will be founded on and guided by a model of "evidence based practice."
One research project of the RERC-UD will be to evaluate the effectiveness of universally
designed environmental features and provide evidence to support universal design guidelines.
A second research project will provide new human factors information in areas in which there
are critical gaps in knowledge needed to practice universal design. It will include a set of
four studies that focus on different aspects of human performance and usability.
A key development project will produce evidence based guidelines for applying universal design
in practice. The guidelines will link research to design practice and help designers, builders
and manufacturers increase the value of their products and environments. A second development
project will produce a suite of evaluation tools for use in design development and evaluation.
A third project will develop a series of exemplary universally designed products and
environments with industry partners.
Training activities will: 1) increase capacity for professions in the
field of universal design through continuing education, 2) develop and
coordinate a consortium of emerging university programs on universal design,
3) provide a comprehensive source for educational resources in universal design,
and 4) provide opportunities for advanced study in this field.
The dissemination activities will: 1) support dissemination of findings and
publications and tools developed in the R&D activities to our target populations,
2) ensure timely and flexible delivery of data and information to all of our
stakeholder groups, 3) educate the general public through mass media publications,
communities of interest, model homes and an electronic newsletter, 4) organize
a conference program to improve networking and communications among stakeholders and 5) develop guidelines for smart products in the home.
The RERC-UD will further the University at Buffalo’s status as a national resource on
rehabilitation technology and universal design. Other centers with related missions
at the University at Buffalo are the RERC on Technology Transfer and the Center for
International Rehabilitation Research Information and Exchange, both based at the School
of Public Health and Health Related Professions. The new Center will also establish a
working cross border collaboration with rehabilitation researchers in Canada.
Participating Canadian organizations in the ORTC are the Toronto Rehabilitation
Institute, the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo and Sunnybrook
Health Sciences Center.
The Co-Directors of the RERC-UD are Edward Steinfeld, Arch.D., Professor of Architecture
and Director of the IDEA Center, and Geoff Fernie, Ph.D., Vice President for Research at
the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
For further information contact:
Jordana L. Maisel
Project R1 – The Effectiveness of Universal Design in Practice
Project Lead: Gary Scott Danford, Ph.D.
Abstract: This project will complete research to evaluate the
effectiveness of universally designed environmental features and provide evidence to support
universal design guidelines. Effectiveness is defined as the degree to which a feature facilitates
independence and social participation of end users. Ratings of simulated environments incorporating
the features will provide a simple and inexpensive method that can be adopted widely in research to
support improvements in design practice. Selected built elements will be studied to provide benchmark
data on current practices. The methods also will be used to evaluate new products developed with
industry partners as models of how they can be applied in product development activities.
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Project R2 – Targeted Human Factors Studies for Design Practice
Project Coordinator: Victor Paquet, Sc.D.
Abstract: This project will provide new human factors information in areas in which there are
critical gaps in knowledge needed for universal design. It includes a set of four studies that
focus on different aspects of human performance and usability. Subproject R2.1 will study consumer
product usability from a universal design perspective. Subproject R2.2 will investigate a key factor
in visual performance and Subproject R2.3 will study cognitive performance, both in the context of
universal design. Subproject R2.4 will examine human performance issues during extreme environmental
conditions. While the ultimate goal of universal design is to consider the abilities of all in the
development of products and environments, the subprojects emphasize understanding the performance
of older adults. This user group provides a reasonable reference for which to test product or
environmental designs, since age is associated with many different physical, sensory and cognitive
limitations, and this user population will expand rapidly in the near future.
In order to advance the practice of universal design, each of the subprojects is linked closely
with one or more development projects in DV2 to ensure that the results translate into useful tools
for designers, manufactures and builders to use in practicing universal design.
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Project DV1 – Evidence Based Guidelines for Universal Design
Project Lead: Edward Steinfeld, Arch.D
Abstract: This project will develop evidence based guidelines for applying universal design in
practice. An evaluation tool will also be developed to help implement the guidelines effectively
in planning, design and purchasing activities. The guidelines will link research to design practice
and help designers, builders and manufacturers increase the value of their products and environments.
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Project DV2 – Evaluation Tools
Project Coordinator: Jim Lenker, PhD., OTR/L, ATP
Abstract: A suite of evaluation tools for universal design practice will be developed based on the
research methods used in the R2 projects. The tools will address current gaps in the evaluation
methodologies available for universal design and give attention to critical mobility, sensory and
cognitive performance concerns. DV2.1 will provide designers and manufacturers with tools for
usability testing to systematically evaluate consumer products in terms of Principles of Universal
Design. The feasibility of consumer product universal design certification will also be explored.
DV2.2 will develop and test a method to monitor and record key visual performance behaviors of people
using products and environments. Such data will provide useful reference information for designers to
accommodate visual performance in their designs. DV2.3 will develop an automated assessment tool for
evaluating usability of products and environmental features. The first application will focus on issues
of cognitive performance in universal design. DV2.4 will develop an application of a full scale
environment simulator for designers, builders and manufacturers to test design features of outdoor
environments and outdoor products in winter conditions. DV2.5 will develop an innovative tool that
will provide a new way for designers and other to evaluate environments and products from the
perspective of people who use walkers.
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Project DV3 – Design with Industry Partnerships
Project Co-Leads: Edward Steinfeld, Arch.D and Geoff Fernie, PhD., P.Eng
Abstract: The Design with Industry Partnerships Project will develop a series of universally
designed products to be used in the built environment. The products will be designed with industry
partners to ensure their adoption and introduction into the marketplace and to leverage RERC funding
with corporate resources. Each product will introduce innovative solutions to design problems and
develop breakthrough products in a specific industry. The products will all have a user centered
focus that merges style, technology and value to maximize lifestyle impact, features, and ergonomics.
Subproject DV3.1: Intelligent Priority Parking Systems – an approach to priority parking that will increase
choices for people with disabilities, provide more flexibility for building owners and address needs of all
people who need or want convenient parking.
Subproject DV 3.2: Touch-Smart Navigation System – a new touch-based "smart modeling” technology
currently being developed by Touch Graphics to a prototype navigation aid.
Subproject DV3.3: Universal Lift – a new type of lift to support the building market
that can be easily installed, is less expensive, safe for ambulatory users, less visually
intrusive than traditional platform lifts and ideal for traditional neighborhood developments.
Subproject DV3.4: Integrated Grab Bar System – grab bars that can be integrated with fixtures and
cabinets to improve safety for all users, reduce the stigma of grab bars and lower the cost of
Subproject DV3.5: Future Partnerships – Winter Climate Interventions
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Project Lead: Beth Tauke
Activity T1: Continuing Education
The IDEA Center has had a high demand for traditional
CE programs and online certificate programs. Traditional CE courses fulfill the need for
professionals to maintain licenses. Many professionals seek to further establish their
credentials by obtaining certificates in specialization areas. A university-based certificate
program using distance learning can fulfill their needs for credentials at low cost and at
their own pace and schedule. The need for online distance education programs was highlighted
by the participants in the Envisioning Universal
Design workshop (NEA, 2004).
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Activity T2: The University Education Consortium
Initiated by faculty affiliated with the IDEA Center, the University at Buffalo/SUNY, is the only school
in the U.S. that offers formal concentrations
in universal design. Building on the IDEA Center experience, the Consortium will organize a program of
intensive mentoring, technical assistance and information sharing to member schools and outreach to other
schools to develop a new generation of academic leaders in this interdisciplinary field.
The initial Consortium members will include only professional design programs in the U.S, but will expand to other
disciplines and countries over time. Faculty from six other schools have been recruited as founding members.
The initial activity will be to jointly develop a continuing education program on universal design for other
faculty in the member departments and implement it at all member schools. This program will help to foster
support to the young faculty members at the host schools. The IDEA Center developed a successful program in
2003 which will be used as a model. Each program will be lead by the host school change agent and tailored
to the context and needs of the member school. A second set of initial activities will focus on developing
collaborative relationships between faculty within the host departments and in other disciplines at the host
schools who share similar teaching and research interests. Other disciplines that could be included are
rehabilitation sciences, human factors, planning and business. Future activities will be based on the
priorities of the member schools but could include mentorship on fundraising, advice on how to involve
people with disabilities, curriculum development, presentations to their peers, and joint travel programs.
As emerging programs become established, the initial members will become mentors themselves and recruit
a new wave of programs. Further activities will be developed by the Consortium as a whole and supported
through outside funding.
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Activity T4: Advanced Graduate Education
Graduate education for advanced students is a key
method for advancing capacity in universal design. The RERC will make use of three Master’s
programs and two PhD programs at the University at Buffalo to recruit and train researchers
in universal design. PhD students are particularly important to advance scholarship and research.
The RERC will help recruit graduate students to four departments: Architecture, Planning, Industrial Engineering
(Human Factors) and Rehabilitation Sciences. There are Master’s level concentrations established in the first
three departments and PhD programs in the latter two. We will coordinate advanced training opportunities with
the use of international scholar programs like the Fulbright Program and outreach to universities in other countries.
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Project Co-Leads: Beth Tauke and Danise Levine
D1: Online Information Clearinghouse
The Online Information Clearinghouse will include the RERC website, all digital RERC publications
and all information databases available for outside access. It will support and address the current
and future anticipated needs of all of our target populations. D1 will employ appropriate digital
technologies to provide all stakeholders with timely, easily accessible web-based information about
our activities. The Clearinghouse interface will provide links to resources that range in scope from
highly-scientific data required by other researchers to practical information requested by the public
and news requested by the media. It will also provide access to our publications when they appear on
full-text databases such as COS or JSTOR.
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D2: Print Media
A cascading system of publications will be used to reach the target
populations for dissemination. Research and Development projects will produce peer-reviewed journal articles,
conference papers and presentations as the prime means to chronicle the progress, findings and outcomes of
our research and development activities to academic audiences. From these scientific publications, or,
in preparation for writing them, we will produce shorter R&D Briefs and Powerpoint presentations of
interest to the professions and the public. These will be available in the Clearinghouse and also
marketed as the basis for articles in trade journals and popular magazines.
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D3: Special Interest Groups
Working together with our partners, we will continue
building a community of interest around universal design. Our Advisory Panel Chairpersons will
select Advisory Panel members who are particularly suited to act as change agents within
their existing social networks. RERC staff will support them to develop special interest
groups within their professional and consumer organizations and informal networks in which
they are already active. Support will include arranging teleconferences and discussion boards
to plan events and discuss strategy, preparing Powerpoint presentations, brochures, handouts
and other materials and travel scholarships to help reach a wider number of groups.
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D4: Model Homes
Providing all stakeholders, including consumers and consumer
advocates, with an opportunity to experience universal design directly is a key means toward
developing consumer demand. In a collaborative effort with local chapters of the National
Association of Home Builders, Rebuilding Together, local consumer groups and other builder
organizations, the RERC will provide technical assistance and design expertise to build universally
designed homes and home renovations for local homes shows. The RERC will participate in 8-10 new
model home demonstrations in the 5 year grant cycle distributed around the U.S. We will coordinate
with local community groups, Independent Living Centers, human service agencies, senior centers
and others to recruit consumers and professionals to participate in free guided tours and evaluation
of each completed project. The RERC will use the newly constructed model homes to educate builders
and consumers, as well as to gather data on costs, consumer perceptions, and successful and
unsuccessful applications of inclusive design.
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D5: State of the Science Conference
A major dissemination activity will be the required
State of the Science (SOS) conference to be held in Year 3. The SOS Conference will focus on
both research and the practice of universal design in community infrastructures, public buildings,
housing and products used in buildings. Research topics will include effectiveness research, human
factors research, methods development, evaluation research and theory. Practice topics will include
evidence based guidelines, evaluation tools and best practice examples of buildings, homes and products.
D6: Guidelines for Smart Products in the Home
This subproject will develop
a specific application of the Evidence Based Guidelines (DV1) targeted to
companies that sell services to consumers based on broadband access and smart
technologies. It will address the need for technology related industries to
adopt universal design in their new product initiatives. The growth of broadband
access to the home and smart technologies that take advantage of connectivity
are driving the development of many services and related products, e.g. home
monitoring services, security systems, and video recording devices. Most of
these service oriented companies use products developed by other manufacturers
to deliver their services. Thus, as major purchasers of products, they can be
a force for persuading manufacturers to incorporate universal design in
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