LESSON 6: TRADING PLACES GLOBALLY:
One's culture tends to be invisible to her/himself. So we'll discover ours by exploring UD in other cultures, becoming SpongeBobs to soak up international and multi-cultural similarities and differences. Our cultural exchange focuses on Universal Design for EVERYONE, (almost) EVERYWHERE! You may even take a virtual tour of a new airport in Japan!
|WORD BANK: Multi-cultural, diversity, housing and culture, international UD synonyms: Design for All, Inclusive Design,|
Credit: The New Pig Corporation; Walgreen Corporation.
Heads Up! Quiz: The safety cone and prescription bag note are signs that:
a. The “melting pot ethic” has homogenized the whole U. S. population.
b. Maybe the U. S. should be re-named the “Multi-cultural States of America” or the “Diverse States of America.”
c. Think up your own, better answer and explain it to yourself!
Across the globe and even in countries with mixed populations, many people view others unlike themselves through the lens of their own national origin, race, or cultural beliefs. For example, “OURS is better...because it's ours...,” or “That is SO-O-O-O WEIRD!!”
As television, international travel, and the Web mix us more and more, the world is becoming more interconnected. To study the status of Universal Design around the world, we need to adopt a curious and objective, “No better, no worse—just different” approach.
Despite existing inter-cultural misunderstandings and conflicts, multi-culturalism is a very important value. People of different racial and ethnic groups within the same country AND abroad need to keep their own unique identities while respecting and cooperating with others whose backgrounds differ.
Parade magazine, 2003;
Although Universal Design is still striving for recognition, accessibility (its core) remains a household word in many languages. Around the world, people understand the term, accessibility, to apply to wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
While other nations agree with the UD concept 'in spirit or principle,' many use Design for All, Inclusive Design, or accessibility as alternate terms for UD. You may search post-1990 U. S. literature using UD, and find much info. But for international sources, the other three terms may be necessary, depending on the country of interest.
Photo credit: Muslim family, Rupert van Wyk, Cricket magazine
A great place to start international research in English is a huge Universal Design Handbook (Preiser & Ostroff, 2001). Its almost 70 articles focus on UD in a global marketplace that is not only aging, but also rapidly shrinking via technology and e-commerce.
The handbook's Editors note that, given the high likelihood of experiencing disability some time during their lives, people need a range of human-centered products and facilities. The need for buildings, rooms, public spaces, and products that are designed for use by ALL people has never been greater. But so far, the demand for UD lags behind.
This UD Handbook is organized in ten sections: Introduction; Premises and perspectives in UD; UD guidelines and accessibility standards; Public policies, systems, and issues; Residential environments; UD practices; Education and research; Case studies; Information technology; and The future of UD. The guest authors include designers, urban planners, human factors engineers, gerontologists, rehabilitation professionals, educators, and government officials from around the world.
|Quotable Quote: The first barrier to Universal Design is the human mind. If we could put a ramp into the mind, the first thing down would be the understanding that all barriers are the result of narrow thinking (George A. Covington, 1989).|
Credit: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s World Hunger and Disaster Appeal.
For current and future UD international happenings, the Global Universal Design Educators Online News is another resource. Organized by country, many news items include related web sites for further information. After reading the UD Abroad section below, CLICK HERE to browse through a recent issue of UD Online News.
Lifetime Homes either have a ground floor bedroom and bath or allow enough ground floor space to install a shower later, and wide stairs designed to add a stair lift when needed. These features can benefit parents with young children through to frail, older people and those with temporary or permanent disabilities. To read more, CLICK HERE.
Another example, the UK Institute for Inclusive Design (UkiiD), has a website that highlights good, inclusive design that meets requirements of the 1995 UK Disability Discrimination Act. UKiiD design professionals and users with disabilities are committed to raising public awareness and the level of inclusive design in the built environment, transportation, products, and communication facilities. CLICK HERE to meet UKiiD advocates.
The new workplace designs result from a mindset TOWARD involving the “maximum possible number of naturally diverse human beings in the design and planning process from the outset” (HEAVY STUFF!). To reveal who IDIA is and their 'country of origin,' CLICK HERE.
This just in, just for the YOUTH UD Learn Site: At the International Child in the City Conference in London (2004), social scientists, policy makers, and planners joined to consider the challenges of meeting the play and recreational needs of children within the planning, design, and government OF THE MODERN CITY.
Wanna bet they talked about separating young 'peds' (pedestrians) from cars?! Why and how do you think that is an issue? Do you think it would be better or worse in developing countries (in Africa, for example) than in the U.S.?
|Quotable Quote: ...Urban environments and transit systems are not yet fully equipped to cope with seniors and disabled users….pregnant women and foreigners with different languages also face inconvenience and the risk of accidents. We should bring an end to designs aimed only at the young and ABLE-bodied (Un-named Yokohama UD conference speaker, 2002).|
Christoph (2005) concludes that the use of UD Principles in building and landscape projects is GOOD for EVERYONE--and NECESSARY for some. The more reduced the person's functional capability, the greater their challenges. CLICK HERE to review the beautifully illustrated book.
Photo Credit: Global Language Villages, 2005
Japan intends to put requirements on containers and wrappings of household goods (see U. S. “wrap rage” in Lesson 6). China plans to develop uniform signs for public facilities in time for the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing (Asahi Shimbun, 2003).
Those two countries, plus South Korea are working to develop a set of UD standards for all three nations. When completed, they may ask the International Standardization Organization (remember them from Lesson 3?) to adopt the standards. Previously (in 2001), the ISO presented guidelines for member nations to establish standards for elderly-friendly products.
A graying population and declining birth rate have made Japan the most rapidly aging country in the DEVELOPED world. In 2003, 24 million Japanese (19% of the population) were over 65 years old. Predictions suggest that by 2050, the 65+ group will reach almost 36% (Iritani, 2003).
Japanese business and industry adopted UD quicker than U.S. Whether the products are cars, household appliances, or bathroom fixtures, Japanese companies have taken the lead in developing products (often UD) and services aimed at the older adult market.
Japanese firms have learned that their seniors want products that allow them to continueactive, independent lifestyles. The following examples demonstrate the art and genius of Japanese UD--the most popular being UD products that retailed for less than $5.00 in 2003.
Design’s Handy Birdy, shown here, is an easy-grip pen that can ‘hang around’ your neck on a stretchy cord so you don’t lose it. Tripod's Handy Wormy, a colorful worm-like plastic handle, hooks onto a shopping bag and distributes weight evenly over shoppers' weak or arthritic hands.
Kokuya, Japan's leading stationery firm, has a line of 400 UD products, including scissors and staplers with lightweight handles for those whose grips aren't as strong as they were. The mobile Raku-raku-hom (Easy Phone) from NTT DoCoMo has fewer and easy-to-read buttons.
A Tripod-designed watch, to be exported to the U. S. by Citizen Watch Company, has a large display face and a pop-off band for easy removal. (Attention Teens: Think easily-usable gifts for G-parents!)
Land and air transportation a la UD.
The Toyota Motor Corporation unveiled the UD version of its Raum passenger van in 2003 (in German, 'raum' means room). The user-friendly van, with easy-to-read dashboard, swivel seats, and optional hand controls, zoomed out of Japanese showrooms! In the first month, Toyota sold 11,000, nearly three times the number predicted.
Just opened in 2005: Centrair, the Central Japan International Airport has an 'astonishingly user-friendly passenger terminal.' Beginning in the basic design stage, users, consultants, people with disabilities, and other interested parties were involved in the process of deciding what to include and where to pay special attention (UD Online News, May 2004).
Going beyond just a barrier-free building, the Centrair terminal is universally easy for everyone to use, regardless of age or disability. To take a VIRTUAL TOUR of the airport, CLICK HERE.
Furry caregiver robots?
Matsushita Electric Co, part of the Japanese electronics giant best known for Panasonic, is using a high-tech nursing home as a UD testing ground. Sincere Kourien, located in a small town outside Osaka, looks and feels like an upscale Japanese hotel with muted colors, wood floors and light, airy spaces for its older residents.
The lobby includes a waterfall that creates 'negative ion' energy, believed to improve people's health; and the community rooms open to restful Japanese gardens. Residents' beds have sensors that automatically lock the doors when they lie down and notify staff if they get out of bed during the night. In bathrooms, the toilet covers automatically raise when someone enters. Sit-down showers allow safe, independent bathing in spite of poor balance or lack of personal energy.
For several months in 2003, Ko-chan, a furry robot shaped like a cuddly bear, played games and made simple conversation with residents. His vocabulary included more than 300 words and 2,000 phrases. Ko-chan's internal microcomputer also could transmit health data to doctors' offices, and re-play phone messages from relatives. Later, 'lil Brer Robot' returned to the lab for further pre-market refinement.
Cultural barriers to UD housing.
Private corporations clearly lead the development and marketing of Japanese UD consumer products. But while the U. S. is moving slowly to no-step entries, Japanese UD housing advocates face strong cultural barriers. Steinfeld (2003) noted strong, culture-borne Japanese resistance to removal of the interior step at the entry.
Traditional Japanese houses have a step between the entry vestibule and the home itself, and another step into the bathing room. Structurally, entry steps would be fairly easy to eliminate. But that step traditionally marks the boundary between exterior, public space (where shoes are worn) and private interior space (where they are NOT).
Have FUN SURFING Japanese websites for UD. YOUth who diligently have completed the first half of the UD Learnsite deserve a break! In 2003, the Kumamoto Prefecture (similar to a state) launched a website to promote Universal Design through community education.
The Kumamoto Community UD Campaign (hint, hint...) web site is in Japanese, but originally had sections in English, including one UD product example not seen in America: Some public park restrooms have long benches that caregivers of frail older adults use to change their elders’ disposable underclothes during a long day of outdoor enjoyment.
Since the Japanese love cartoons, the site has several, as well as images that may be self-explanatory. Although captioned in Japanese, the ‘toons can be figured out through careful study of the comic figures and their actions (especially if you work together OR get someone who reads Japanese to translate...). To join the fun, CLICK HERE!
Credit: Maytag Corp.
Do these shows give accurate portraits of “average” U. S. families and homes, including culturally-specific examples? Think about how and in what ways their producers might change the shows to present more accurate pictures of typical American housing from YOUR community, with examples.
In the “Makeover” shows, look for UD examples among both the original AND redesigned houses’ furnishings, equipment, and yard. They may be highlighted by the host or client family, OR just filmed but NOT mentioned. In watching a few of these shows, we did NOT hear them introduce UD or see more than one or two examples as the camera swooped by. But we hope that YOU will!
2. A Multi-Lingual Awareness Test: Fill in the 7 blanks below (or on a separate scrap of paper) to identify the languages (other than English) that a major U. S. pharmacy will use (if you ask) to print your prescription label instructions. Although you may never have seen or heard most of the languages used below, study the lines below for clues.
You've been on a UNIVERSAL tour. We hope you soaked up a BUNCH of cultural awareness!