Architecture and Access, Cathryn Grant, senior access consultant and researcher in Universal design

Cathryn Grant awarded for Universal Design research

Cathryn Grant, senior access consultant at Architecture & Access, has been awarded the Yungaburra Foundation Award for her leadership potential in the disability field.

The award was presented by Professor Susan Balandin, the inaugural Chair in Disability and Inclusion, School of Health and Social Development at Deakin University.

The award recognised Cathryn’s research thesis, Universal Design and Consultation, undertaken to complete a Masters in Public Health, reviewing current knowledge of the process for consulting with clients and service users to create environments, products and services that are accessible to the widest range of people.

‘I found that the process for achieving universal design is still not clearly articulated despite the concept being around for more than twenty years,’ says Cathryn. ‘More research is needed to increase understanding of the best ways to promote user-centred designs through consultation with a wide range of potential users of the design.’

Cathryn concluded in her analysis of the literature that the most important considerations for consulting with user representatives include:

• Careful selection of people to ensure a representative sample of a wide range of users

• Utilisation of multiple methods to consult with people to enable the full participation and input of all users

• Maintaining consultation and providing feedback to the user representative group throughout design process.

Cathryn’s work was undertaken in partnership with State Recreation Victoria to inform their approach to the development of camp facilities and services.

‘State Recreation Victoria understands the utmost importance of enabling people to do more within the camp environment than just move around it. The activities and camp program are a significant part of the camp experience and should also be designed for participation by people of all abilities,’ says Cathryn.

To assist State Recreation Victoria and others to implement the findings of her report, Cathryn recommends that project managers, designers and service providers receive training on consultation techniques, and develop processes to clearly reference the decisions that are made in response to input from user representatives.

‘Ï believe it is also very important for designers to manage people’s expectations and make the most of the input of user representatives through ongoing consultation and feedback throughout the design process and beyond.’

Finally, Cathryn recommends that further research is conducted with the aim of developing a model or defined steps to guide designers in the process of universal design. ‘The study and implementation of universal design is still in its infancy and further research is required to develop sound methods to assist designers to consult with people and to integrate their input into designs.’

Cathryn’s thesis is available from the Universal Design Australia website.

IATA Access Institute 2016 Training Calendar offers training on Understanding Access Legislation and Universal Design in Buildings.

Architecture & Access consultants work with architects and designers, building certifiers and surveyors, government agencies and managers of buildings, to ensure the requirements of access and universal design are incorporated into proposed developments.

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