Why build two doors when you can build one door? That is a question the Office of Disability Services hopes the participants in the 2006 Universal Design Project Competition can answer.
Universal Design, or inclusive design, is an approach to design which simplifies life for everyone by making products, communications and the built environment more usable to more people. According to The University of Tennessee Center for Universal Design, this benefits people of all ages and abilities and costs little more, if at all, than modern design.
“Universal Design is simply a new way of providing accessibility to people with disabilities. Instead of having separate facilities and products for people with disabilities, Universal Design tries to make everything accessible to all people,” said Matt Springer, a coordinator in the Office of Disability Services. “Why make a separate door for people who use wheelchairs when one can just as easily make a main entrance door that can accommodate everyone and do so with style and elegance?”
Some examples of Universal Design are the football huddle, originally created for players with hearing impairments, and foil seals on modern coffee cans, which replaced tops that were hard for people with arthritis to open with can openers.
As part of Disability Awareness Month, the Office of Disability Services organized a competition to make students more aware of what Universal Design is and get students involved with designing objects, tools and practices for everyone. Any group of no more than four full-time undergraduate students was eligible to participate, provided they had a faculty sponsor. About 100 students entered the competition, bringing the number of projects entered to 27, Springer said.
Most students heard about the project through classes.
“I think it was really good that they informed us about it because I think it’s a great project,” Sarah Keedy, sophomore in engineering, said. “You had to really think about the hardships that other people have to go through. You have to look past what you’re used to and think about other people’s needs.”
Springer emphasized the competition as more than a class project.
“This contest is most important because it educates the future leaders of the state of Tennessee on the importance of making all things accessible to all people,” he said. “When this group of hardworking students matriculates, and goes on to build the skyscrapers, bridges and products of the future, I am confident that they will apply the concepts that they have learned from this endeavor.”
A reception to announce the competition winners will be held Oct. 27 in the UC Ballroom and Crest Room. Students will set up their project displays at 2:30 p.m. Judging and student viewing will begin at 3 p.m. and awards will be announced at 4:30 p.m. Students are welcome to attend this event.
First place winners will take home $500 to split between group members. Second place will take home $300 and third place will take home $200.
The Universal Design Project competition is sponsored by the Office of Disability Services, the Disability Awareness Month committee, the College of Architecture and Design and the College of Engineering. For more information, visit the Disability Awareness Month Web site, http://www.utk.edu/ableandaware/.