Did U see? Will U Do?
A GLIMPSE INTO THE UNIVERSAL DESIGN (UD) HISTORY
Unlike the Green movement, the Universal Design movement took on evolving shapes and sizes. They sprouted out in pockets around the world after World War II. United Nations supported the efforts under the principle of “Equality for All”, which included anti-discriminations to persons with disabilities to affirm the dignity and worth of every human being, for the promotion of social justice.
In the early 60s, the definition of “disabilities” was given a twist, to include any form of disabilities that come with age and physique. At the same time, advancements in medicine and technologies allowed people to live past the age of 65 and still going strong. By the 70s, the barrier-free movement began a process of change in public policies and design practices. In the 80s, many ‘first world countries’ started legislating barrier-free accessibility through their laws and regulations. The requirements were further broadened to include children, families and women when human rights groups began canvassing for the rights in the 80s. The 90s saw the initiations of the Universal Design movements in the United States, the Design for ALL concepts in Europe and Inclusive Design in the UK.
Compared with these countries, Singapore is still at its early stage on Universal Design. There is much for us to learn.
THE LEARNING JOURNEYS
The Singapore Building and Construction Authority (BCA) went to Japan on the first UD learning journey in 2009
, led by our CEO, Dr John Keung. The delegation of 31 were very impressed with the efforts put in by the Shizuoka prefecture government, the attentions given by architects and developers to good detailing and user-friendly thoughts behind the facilities provided.
The meaningful journey prompted industry partners to ask for more. Deputy CEO of the Singapore Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Mr Ong See Ho, thus led a delegation of 26 representatives from both private and public sectors on a second UD learning journey to Copenhagen, Oslo and Kristiansand from 15 –23 October 2011
. The enthusiasm displayed by the Scandinavians in their search for UD solutions for the elderly, the visual and the hearing impaired persons left the delegates a lasting impression.
The third UD journey led by Group Director of the Building Plan and Management Group, Mr Chin Chi Leong, brought 20 delegates to Boston. This trip added another dimension to our views on UD, one of user-centric designs. We were quite taken-in with the innovative solutions that were results of the user-centric design approach.