RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment
Sponsor: U.S. Department of Education/NIDRR
PI: Molly Follette Story
Period: 09/01/99 through 08/30/04
The Center for Universal Design, College of Design at North Carolina State University, was funded by NIDRR as a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Universal Design and the Built Environment. The RERC's purpose was to 1) Improve the accessibility and usability of the built environment, and 2) Advance the field of universal design. Four goals for the RERC were defined:
- Increase knowledge of the complex and dynamic relationship between the individual and the environment, including knowledge of what design features, details and arrangements optimize the accessibility and usability of the built environment for the widest diversity of users.
- Increase adoption and improve the practice of universal design by the building and product manufacturing industries.
- Increase inclusion of the universal design approach in post-secondary design curricula and to increase the number of designers and researchers trained in universal design practices.
- Increase awareness of and stimulate demand for universal design among builders, manufacturers, designers, human service professionals, and individuals with disabilities and their families.
Research and Development Programs
Two research programs were undertaken: Environmental Evaluation Studies undertook a broad review to prioritize the most pressing problems experienced by people with disabilities across the built environment, and followed up with in-depth evaluations of the most critical areas of need. Industry Adoption Studies comprised interviewing industry leaders who demonstrated interest in universal design, as well as researching and documenting new case studies of industry adoption. Two development programs were pursued: In Model Plan Development and Model Product Development, the RERC developed universally designed plans and commercially viable products based on past experience and the results of RERC research.
The RERC's training initiatives were designed to align with its other activity areas, targeting key professions, using new technology and spanning local, national, and international audiences. The training programs focused on professionals (architecture, industrial design, interior design, the building professions, rehabilitation engineering, and allied health professions) at all stages of their training and practice, from undergraduate and graduate post-secondary activities to continuing education opportunities. The RERC worked closely with students, faculty, and staff at the College of Design and North Carolina State University and maintained frequent contact with faculty and professionals nationwide.
Dissemination and Utilization
The primary goal of The Center for Universal Design's outreach and dissemination program was to develop and promote effective communication channels for utilization of the Center's research results, development projects, training programs, and many other activities. The Center partnered with constituent stakeholders up front, including the disability community, to ensure utilization of new knowledge that ultimately impacts the built environment. A comprehensive dissemination program was pursued in the RERC, including a toll-free information and referral line, technical assistance services, an Internet Web site, a Publication Development and Sales Program, and promotion and marketing activities. These interrelated efforts helped the Center reach a variety of audiences with information resulting from research and development activities conducted by the RERC.