Sarve Bhavanti Sukhinah/ Sarve santu Niramayah
Sarve Bhadrani Pashyanti, Ma Kashchid Dukh Bhag Bhaveta

Let every one without distinction be happy. Let every one be without any ailment. Let every one look like Arya, noble and righteous. Let there be no one to have any share of sorrow or grief.

A Sanskrit shloka from a traditional Indian Inscription with a translation in English

.........."Welcome to the Blog".........

We need your inputs for this blog to build a body of knowledge that would help in strengthening the Universal Design concept in design education and design practice in the country. We would also like to share your related projects or experiences addressing different needs of the diverse population.

Thursday, November 25, 2010




by Rachna Khare (prepared when leaving NID in June 2010)

NID in collaboration with Dorabji Tata Trust, Mumbai, has constituted the ‘Jamsetji Tata Trust Chair for Universal Design at NID’. The instituted objective of the Chair is to address developmental gaps/requirements of the society for collective socio-economic-cultural development of the country. Ms Rachna Khare, Senior Research Fellow, Joined on 14th October, 2009 and commenced the Fellowship activities from Bhopal.

The work started with a goal to address the above objective, by preparation of an annual plan with a three year plan-projection, in consultation with experts working in the area of Universal Design. The plan intend to increase the Universal Design concentration at undergraduate, post graduate and faculty research level at NID first and then gradually take it to a larger scale, at national and international level.

Flow Chart: Universal Design Initiatives under Jamsetji Tata-NID Design Research Chair

Initial efforts concentrated on developing an overall understanding of the objects of the chair, projecting future picture and linking it with existing structure at NID. The two major areas under which the work progressed are:

I. Design Research Activity thru’ Universal Design Research Project

II. Other Activities to support Universal Design at NID

I. Design Research Activity:

To support design research activity a Universal Design Research Project is taken up by the Senior Research Fellow on ‘Universal Design Solutions for Pupils with Cognitive Disabilities in India’. The project is expected to generate interest amongst existing faculties and students, finally resulting in more projects in the area of Universal design.

This design research project proposal stands on the author’s experiences of children with brain based limitations and their unusual sense of space perception. The main purpose of this research study is to determine the enabling aspects of educational environments, for successful inclusive learning environment. The principal objectives are:

• Explore potential of design for children with cognitive disabilities and identify enabling features for them in educational spaces

• Develop simple universal design guidelines to help pupils with cognitive limitations, using space defining elements as teaching-learning instruments.

The study is based on her earlier research sponsored by AICTE-India and Fulbright Fellowship Program-USA, to define enabling learning environment for complex conditions in autism as lowest common disorder. Under Jamsetji Tata- NID design research fellowship, this research is extended to include children with other cognitive limitations as well and the data is projected to the Indian backdrop. A sixth step is added this five step study for this purpose and the identified Design Parameters are to be tested on children with all brain based limitations using earlier developed tools. Most of work in the previous study was conducted in USA, but during this stage of research data will be collected in India to understand cross cultural validity of identified Design issues.

Most of the early researches on educational space design for cognitive disabilities are limited to the segregated educational setups for children; With growing drive towards full inclusion in the world after Salamanca Statement (UNESCO 1994) , the present research becomes extremely relevant in providing suitable environment to children with cognitive limitations in inclusive settings. Moreover in India, where the Census 2001 reports that 1.67% of the total population in the age-group 0-19 years (7 million) are living with disabilities, out of which 23.02% have cognitive disabilities and only 1% of those have access to education , the target of Sarva Shikha Abhiyan (SSA) would never be achieved without including them. The present research emphasizes the absolute need for a fresh approach in designing educational spaces for a supportive, accessible and integrated universal environment, where the whole building indoors and outdoors is treated as a large teaching instrument. The study is expected to catch attention of multidisciplinary team of researchers and has direct application in the field for all stake holders. The developed enabling environmental aspects may prove valuable to the researches in the field of brain based limitations, design, education and environmental-behavior research. The design guidelines are expected to provide a framework that may be used by designers, architects, teachers, educators, experts, school administrators and all those who wish to provide a successful environment for children with cognitive limitations.

The Senior Research Fellow is working with organizations working with children with cognitive limitations for data collection and survey. She has obtained permission from following organizations to carry out survey for her study

• Composite Rehabilitation Center: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment

• SNAC Center, National Trust, Ahmedabad: BPA

• SNAC Center, National Trust, Bhopal: Digadarshika

Following publications and presentations are done by the Senior Research Fellow, at national and international level from October-May’ 2010, regarding her work.

1. ‘Incorporating Dimension of Behavior in Inclusive Learning Environment Design for autism’ published in International Journal for Architectural Research (IJAR), Vol.3 Issue 3, November 2009, published by Archnet- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

2. Universally Beneficial Educational Space Design for Children with Autism; the Research Progression’ presented in the international conference ‘Designing for Children’ with focus on 'Play + Learn', hosted by the Industrial Design Centre (IDC), at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, India in February 2010.

3. ‘Universal Design Solutions for Pupils with Cognitive Disabilities in India’ accepted for publication in Trellis, Issue March’ 2010, published by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India

4. ‘Using Evidence based Research Method to Design Inclusive Learning Environment for Autism’, accepted for publication as a Book Chapter scheduled for July, 2010 by CRC Press of Taylor & Francis, Ltd. London, UK

5. ‘Designing Inclusive Educational Spaces for Children with Autism’ (My doctoral dissertation completed in 2009), accepted for publication as a Book by Institute of Human Centered Design (IHCD), Boston, USA, scheduled to be released in November' 2010.

II. Other Activities to support Universal design at NID: The other activities that are supported by the chair are

A. Formation of Universal Design Resource Group:

To support Universal Design Initiatives under Jamsetji Tata-NID Universal Design Research chair, the objectives and proposals are discussed with different faculty members at NID. These interactions finally led to the formation of a Core-Group for Universal Design Initiatives. The Core-Group consists of the faculty members from all three campuses of NID Paldi, Gandhinagar, Bangalore, and visiting professors from Germany. Apart from the core-group a larger group of interested faculty and students at NID is also formed through a group mail. A blog is developed to provide a virtual interactive platform that may act as groundwork to a web resource for Universal Design.

B. Infusing Universal Design in regular design curriculum:

Universal Design is not a specialized approach but an orientation to any design process that starts with a responsibility to include people from all levels of the pyramid in design. Apart from the specialized programmes in Universal design, Universal design approach should be infused in regular design curriculum at all levels. The experts feel that it should be included in regular design teaching as a holistic thinking tool that adds value to existing design process. The Senior Research Fellow in consultation with other faculty members and students explored the possibilities to infuse Universal Design thinking in regular design education. With present curriculum of NID four possibilities emerged in the first phase of discussion, and supporting efforts are carried out under Jamsetji Tata-NID chair. These four possibilities are

• Open Elective on Universal Design for 2nd year of the Graduate Diploma Programme in Design (GDPD) and the 1st year of the Post Graduate Diploma Programme (PGDPD)

• Introduce a three day short module on Universal Design for students at Design Foundation level, in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at NID.

• Include Universal Design aspects in existing elective course on Design for Special Needs (DFSN) in Product Design and Furniture & Interior Design Disciplines.

• Sponsoring Student Diploma Projects

With this year theme of Open Elective–‘Responsibly Designed for India’ a ten day Open Elective on Universal Design was floated for design students on ‘Universal Design for Social Sustenance’ in January’ (11th-22nd) 2010 with the support of local NGO’s Unnati and Blind People Association. Though it could not be conducted due to low student registration but it was successful in spreading considerable awareness for ‘Universal Design’ in the NID community.

Relating to the objectives of the chair, guidelines to select student diploma projects at NID on Universal Design for sponsorship are prepared under Jamseji Tata Design research chair. Based on the guidelines, projects are evaluated for sponsorship. Two student projects are sponsored in 2009 and six diploma project proposals are received in 2010 short listing of those is in-progress.

Efforts are also in-progress relating to short module on Universal Design for students at Design Foundation level and elective course on Design for Special Needs

C. Post Graduate Programme in ‘Universal Design Thinking’

To support Universal Design Initiatives, the Senior Research Fellow, Jamsetji Tata Chair is involved in an effort to explore the possibilities to begin a Post-graduate programme in ‘Universal Design Thinking’ at NID at Bangalore Campus. This is done together with experts from University of Applied science and Arts, Hanover and University of Applied Science and Arts , Berlin. The concept proposal was prepared after intense discussions with Mr Ravi Shankar (NID-B’lore campus), Ms Marie Kuprat , Ms Katharina Kraemer and Prof. Birgit Weller from University of Applied Sciences and Arts and presented to the director on 7th April 2010. Incorporating his suggestions, the final proposal is under preparation with finer details. The 2 year PG program is proposed to start in November 2011.

Proposal for Competence Centre for Universal Design at NID is also being initiated at NID. This Center may be formed to co-ordinate the activities related with Universal Design in the long run. This core-group may have representatives of all design streams and would help the students to internalize the concept to produce more responsible designs. The center may organize student activities, workshops, exhibitions, publications, conferences, teach courses, guide senior students and may also take up research and design projects related with Universal Design.

D. In-house publication:

It is being observed during core group interactions that there are many past projects of student and faculties focusing on functional limitations. Under Jamsetji tata Universal Design Research Initiatives, efforts are done to map such past projects for publication. This is expected to generate a resource that will not only benefit a larger population but will also create a link between past and present efforts at NID. The resultant publication will also generate a pool of case-studies for the proposed PG programme at NID. The process of identifying such past projects and process of short listing has already started and the projects shorlisting is done under the subthemes of ‘Assistive Design’, ‘Adaptive Design’, ‘Life Span Design’, ‘Designing for Genders’ and ‘Designing for Special Needs and other disadvantaged groups’.

E. National Event:

‘Universal design’ philosophy though comes from the west, is deeply rooted in the Indian tradition. Today this spirit is lost in the process of industrialization making life difficult and complex for everyone, not to mention the elderly and the people with disabilities. Indians are not only more in number than most of the western countries but are also much diverse, socially, culturally and economically. Today there is a need to introspect and discover an approach for Universal Design that is contextually more appropriate. Three Successive Round Table Deliberations are proposed under Jamsetji tata Universal Design Research Initiatives in the year 2010-2011 (golden jubilee year of NID) on ‘Universal Design in India - a holistic approach for socially responsible design’. The main objective would be to discuss issues concerning ‘Universal Design thinking’ in the design education and design practice in the country. These round tables are proposed to be held in three different regional zones in the country, with an aim to establish universal Design in right Indian context. The Participants may include representatives from the field of design education (Deans or Principals + Faculty members in charge of the academic programs from design + others working in the field of accessibility or universal design), representatives from the industry.

Report by Rachna Khare, Senior Research Fellow,
Jamsetji Tata-NID Design Research Chair
National Institute of Design, Paldi, Ahmedabad
Phone: +91-9425010389,